Blizzard said in September that plans for in-game tournament support in Hearthstone, announced earlier this year, had been put on hold "for the foreseeable future." Exactly why it would put the kibosh on an in-the-works feature that fans were clamoring for wasn't really clear. "We no longer felt that the end result would deliver on everyone’s expectations" is as close as it came to an explanation. Fair and reasonable, but not exactly specific.
Creative director Ben Thompson expanded on that in a recent interview with VentureBeat (opens in new tab), beginning by touching on a number of factors that weren't responsible for the halt. There were no issues with the Unity game engine, performance was fine, client size wasn't a problem, cross-platform implementation was working out, and the development team was sufficient to handle the task. The loss of Hearthstone honcho Ben Brode in April wasn't a factor either.
The real issue, Thompson said, is rooted in the simple fact that Blizzard dropped the dime too early. "We did something with tournament mode for the very first time that we’d never done before in the history of Hearthstone. What that was, was to announce a new mode to the game, a new feature to the game, so early that it started to take on a life of its own," he explained.
"That allowed for a lot of time for the community to form, in its collective head, what they believed tournament mode could be, or should be. The more time that happened, what we did in that case was allow for two paths of thought to be created. You had the devs working on what they believed tournament mode should be comprised of, and the community building up in their own heads what they hoped and thought it would be."
And as the process went on, Blizzard's plan and fan expectations diverged so much that it decided the only option was to hit the brakes. "We thought that the best case scenario for this would be to take a long, hard look at where we’re at and to reassess that and revisit it at a time we would be able to create something much more close to the hopes and expectations of not just our players, but even ourselves as well," Thompson said.
The good news for fans is that he also emphasized that even though there's no set timeline for in-game tournament support, Blizzard is not giving up on it. "We just don’t want the community to get the wrong idea," he said. "It’s on hold. We’re still talking about it."