Blizzard is overhauling its Hearthstone esports program for the 2019 season. The card game’s esports structure will be centered on a three-tiered competitive structure: online, open qualifiers, live tournaments, and premier competition.
The baseline of the structure is a system for online qualifying events that are put on with the help of a third-party platform partner. Hundreds of qualifying events will run throughout the year, most of them online. The tournaments aren’t region-locked and will begin in the spring. To reach the next level of competition, players must win a qualifier. The qualifiers feed into the next tier, live global tournaments, of which there will be three invite-only events. (More will be held in 2020, Blizzard said in a press release.) Each live event will have a $250,000 prize pool—but winning the event will allow a player into the highest tier of competition, the premier level.
The premier competition is a “seasonal round-robin online competition” that’s split into regional divisions with the best players in the world. The event will begin after the Hearthstone Championship Tour World Championship concludes in the spring. Players will get “performance-based bonuses” and invitations to the live global events. More details will be revealed “soon,” Blizzard said.
Blizzard’s Conquest format for Hearthstone will be retired in 2019 to better reflect the in-game experience. The new format will be “unveiled in the coming months” and will be played across the ecosystem, according to the press release. Blizzard will continue on with the Hearthstone Masters System and players who would have earned Masters status in 2018 will earn rewards “of equal or greater value.” A bonus transitional season will run from Dec. 1 to March 31, 2019 for players to earn points at Tour stops, the HTC Winter playoffs, and the HTC Winter Championship.