Hearthstone has this week laid out the changes that are going to be taking place in the upcoming season. Format changes are going to be mixing things up with qualification for tours, offering the highest level pros easier ways to get into the tournaments. That isn’t the only major change though, ESL is going to be partnering up with Blizzard to run the esports ecosystem for the game. This is a big change, and one that will impact the running of all tournaments. Hearthstone in 2021 is the latest Blizzard game to be partnered with ESL, this is what all the changes mean.
Hearthstone partnered up with ESL
ESL is partnering with Hearthstone to organize their 2021 esports season. The company is one of the largest esports organizers and producers around. They run and host competitions for a lot of different games, including Warcraft and Starcraft. They already have esports partnerships with Riot, Valve, and a great deal of fighting games.
Alongside that they’ve produced content for esports in general for Hulu and Twitch. Their tournaments have become a dominant force in a lot of different esports, and they are no strangers to HS either.
Today we’re thrilled to announce our partnership with @Blizzard_Ent as we will operate the Hearthstone esports ecosystem over the next two years.
— ESL (@ESL) January 22, 2021
Stepping in to take charge of the Hearthstone 2021 esports scene further consolidates esports organization in the hands of one company. Although, ESL is undoubtedly one of the most experienced high-level organizers, With the pandemic wrecking havoc on esports tournaments, ESL has been quite resilient. They’ve reacted quickly and kept events separately safely despite the hit to in-person gaming. This will likely be an overall positive for Hearthstone, even if the continued consolidation narrows the scope of high-level esports.
Hearthstone 2021 Format Change
While the big news for Hearthstone is the ESL deal, there are some other changes coming this year too. These are the major changes that we’re going to see in Hearthstone 2021. All three levels of competition are getting tweaked, as per Blizzard’s recent announcement.
Masters Qualifiers & Masters Tour
The Masters qualification program is going to be opening up this year. The qualifier events are going back to 120 for each season. The number of top-8 finishers that players need to earn an invite is going down two, only needing four placements this time around. The top 32 players at Masters Tours will be invited to the next Masters Tour too.
All of the changes make it a lot easier for higher skilled players to move straight into the Masters Tours. It doesn’t limit them to just the highest performing past players, but it significantly cuts down on grind times for the top players.
All six of Hearthstone 2021’s Masters Tours are going to be held online to keep things safe for the year. This doesn’t mean the events aren’t going to be as important though. They will still feature a $250,000 prize pool. The events will still be operating at different time zones to make it easier to run internationally.
The Grandmasters events are going to be changing a little bit for Hearthstone in 2021 too. A new points system is being introduced.
Invites won’t be coming from cash earnings but through points earned in the various Masters Tour throughout the year. Like the changes Masters Qualifiers themselves this model is going to be more skilled based than in the past.
📢 SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT 📢
We are thrilled to reveal the 2021 Hearthstone Masters Tour schedule, as well as Qualifiers for Masters Tour Ironforge!
— Hearthstone Esports (@HSesports) January 22, 2021
That’s all of the major changes for Hearthstone in 2021. The changes to format are going to help to expand the talent pool and make qualification a little more skills based in the future. The move to roll Hearthstone 2021 in with ESL further consolidates esports organization, but it will likely be an overall positive for fans of the game.