Hearthstone esports is getting a massive upgrade for 2018, as Blizzard seeks to create sustainability for its top players.
As before, players will obtain Hearthstone Championship Tour points through the ladder and approved tournaments. Those points will qualify players for the seasonal playoffs, with the top players from each region advancing to the seasonal championship. The best performers in those international events will meet in the $1 million World Championship in early 2019.
But qualifying for the HCT playoffs is not the only incentive for finishing high in the standings. Players can now attain one, two, and three-star master rankings based on obtaining 150, 175, and 200 HCT points across the preceding three seasons.
Three-star masters will be given a direct invite to the seasonal playoffs, invites to monthly online cups with cash prizes, and a $2,500 appearance fee for each approved HCT tournament they appear in per season, for up to three events per season. That means that without factoring in prize money, or team salary, or any other income, three star masters can earn $22,500 per year just for participating in events.
Two-star masters will get a $1,000 appearance bonus for the first tournament they compete in each season, and the monthly cup invite. One-star masters get the monthly cup invite too, while all tiers get exclusive “commemorative swag” at the end of the year.
This isn’t the only way players can earn money through HCT this year. To encourage organizations to stay invested, teams can now register three players as their unit for a season, and those players’ HCT points will be combined. The top ten teams each season will receive a prize of up to $7,500 per player.
Aside from the compensation changes, other improvements are being made. Seasons will now have a fixed target of points for playoff qualification, rather than that being determined by how well the players in a region do.
The number of international events outside of seasonal championships will also increase. These HCT tour stops will take place across the world, with “increased competitive points [and] prizing.”