Over the last few days, there’s been a lot of discussion about adding the new henchmen heroes from The Great Dalaran Heist singleplayer mode as hero skins that can be unlocked in the adventure and played in other modes. There are a lot of points on either side of the debate, so I thought I’d compile some of the most poignant from each and present the key parts of each argument.
Against: Releasing nine skins at once is too many
The main argument against adding the henchmen heroes as skins lies within Blizzard’s design philosophy about hero skins: that they should be premium items with a certain degree of rarity that, in turn, gives them value. If nine hero skins were suddenly added to the game at once, it would arguably devalue existing hero skins overall, and tarnish their place within the game.
For: Unlockable skins are fun and make exclusive skins fairer
Recently, Blizzard have begun to shift towards releasing limited time hero skins tied to expansion pre-orders, such as Madame Lazul, King Rastakhan and Mecha Jaraxxus. While it is arguable that this fulfils the design philosophy of ensuring that hero skins retain their rarity, it also hinders player choice and has the effect of making many hero skins unobtainable for new players. And with Blizzard refraining from releasing a free hero for the new rotation, as has become custom for recent years, hero skins feel more unobtainable for new and free to play players than ever before.
Releasing the henchmen heroes as unlockable skins is a compromise for both sides, allowing Blizzard to continue releasing exclusive hero skins while providing players with one skin for each class that they can work towards earning for themselves. It is even arguable that this would increase the value of more ‘premium’ hero skins, such as Arthas and Khadgar, by providing them with counterparts that are easier to obtain and thus give them comparative value.
Against: They would make it harder for new players to learn the game
Everything about Hearthstone is designed to be simple and accommodating to new players: from the aesthetics of the game to the relaxing tavern atmosphere to gameplay elements such as standard rotation.
The class system is one of the core parts of the game, and one of the first the player learns about. The core nine heroes are staples of WoW (World of Warcraft) lore, and perfect representations of each class, allowing new players to first identify the class system through the different heroes that represent it.
Bombarding a new player with extra, contradictory information – such as each class suddenly having an additional hero – could confuse them and make it harder for them to learn the game.
For: Hero skins already exist: adding more won't make the game any more difficult to learn
This argument of new player confusion can also be applied to regular hero skins, as each class already has at least one hero skin, many of which are used in standard play. Moreover, Blizzard have been careful to ensure that classes are easily recognisable, from their identical hero power icons to the colour of their cards to their introduction at the start of each match as a certain class. In short, adding extra hero skins won’t suddenly turn off new players.
In fact, it is even arguable that adding the henchmen heroes as skins would improve the new player experience, introducing them to the concept of hero skins sooner and creating a more tangible goal to work towards other than cards they don’t yet understand. It could also be argued that adding an unlockable hero skin for each class would make the concept of hero skins easier to understand while giving some classes, such as priest, extra options outside of exclusive hero skins.
Against: They would kill incentive to purchase existing skins
The final key argument against adding the henchmen heroes as hero skins is one of value – why buy one of the store hero skins for ~£10 when you could buy an adventure with nine hero skins for ~£20, or gold? Adding nine unlockable skins might not affect aforementioned rarer skins, but they would destroy any reason to buy the trio of store skins (Alleria, Magni and Medivh) while throwing the perceived value of hero skins into chaos.
For: The new skins could be simpler, without the extra features of the store skins
An easy way to prevent this is to add the henchmen heroes as ‘basic’ hero skins, as they appear in the adventure – without unique card backs, alternate hero power animations or animated portraits. Moreover, the shop skins are all key WoW characters, and would retain their value by possessing these extra features along with their lore and sentimental value for veterans of Blizzard's other games: Alleria, Magni and Medivh are legendary figures in the Warcraft universe, while the henchmen heroes are unique to Hearthstone.
The added effort required to unlock each henchmen hero is also worth mentioning, as some players may prefer to simply pay money to unlock a more premium quality hero skin immediately for multiplayer, further ensuring the value of the shop skins.
In short, there are many points for and against releasing the henchmen heroes as their own skins – and while I believe that doing so would be beneficial to the developers, players and the game overall, it is important to view both sides of the argument before reaching a verdict.
And, of course, share your opinion! This new expansion and adventure have proved that Blizzard are willing to listen to their player base, resulting in some of the best content in Hearthstone’s five-year history. If player demand for the henchmen heroes as unlockable skins is high enough, then Blizzard will certainly consider adding them.
I hope I’ve helped you reach a decision on the matter. Thank you for reading, have a great day!
TL:DR: adding the henchmen heroes as skins would give players new and old extra content to work towards, increasing the value and playability of the adventure without compromising Blizz’s design philosophy or harming the value of existing hero skins.
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