New hero portrait promotion leads to Fireside farce
Blizzard's announcement of the new Warlock hero portrait should have been met with a positive reaction. Instead, it's led to big problems with the system for unlocking it.
The new Warlock portrait, Nemsy Necrofizzle, is only obtainable by competing at an established Fireside Gathering. The Firesides are Blizzard's way of encouraging players to hold events in their local area, bringing together Hearthstone players to play in person.
Fireside Gatherings launched in 2014, and have been a big part of Blizzard's promotion of the game ever since. Hearthstone as a social experience is a crucial part of of its strategy, and players who take part in their first Gathering receive an exclusive card back.
Now that content delivery has gone one step further with Nemsy. Except the conditions are a little more strict—brand new event organizers aren't eligible to award the hero.
Despite these rules, hundreds of players have been attempting to game the system. The Fireside Gathering listings have included some obviously fake listings, encouraging players to use location spoofers to "attend" the event. Although Blizzard is attempting to clean these up, and even took the listings page down for a while this morning, it's a constant battle.
It's very likely this is overwhelming the system, and leading to other problems. One user took to Reddit, angry that their legitimate Fireside had been seemingly cancelled by Blizzard the day of the event. Others have had applications to host events declined for confusing reasons. After some users attempted to coordinate location spoofing, the mods of r/Hearthstone had to crack down on it.
This isn't the first time users have attempted to game the system in order to access new items. When the Fireside cardback first came out many players created extra accounts and used multiple devices on the same network to be eligible. The Shaman skin, Morgl, required players to use the newly-released Recruit a Friend tool. When that friend got to level 20, the inviting player got the new skin—but there was nothing to stop players creating new accounts themselves.