In the absence of more information from the Dev team, I think we have to assume this game is in maintenance mode until the player base dwindles to the point that the matchmaker can no longer function. Maybe that takes six months or maybe it takes six years, but it is a virtual certainty given the explicit wording of the announcement from Blizzard.
Here's what we know:
HGC is gone, and with it go the pros who can't afford to queue up or create content for the game anymore. Some of them may successfully transition to HotS streamers, but future streaming of HotS is less likely to guarantee viewership for them. Streamers may have to transition to other games. The loss of HGC on Twitch and less content created for YouTube means a lot less advertising for HotS. I believe the playerbase was fairly static and hadn't grown significantly in a while, but we'll certainly see negative growth now.
Because HotS requires ten players to create a match, "maintenance mode" for HotS is not the same as maintenance mode for games like Diablo or War3. Queue times will get longer, which means everyone will be playing fewer games while they sit in queue, which means more people will lose interest and seek out other games. This is the death spiral that has already started, although the Devs may be able to take steps to address some of these issues.
GM and Masters players will most directly feel the impact of a lack of HGC. The matchmaking will get worse at the high end very quickly, as players leave and skills diminish. Players below diamond may not notice much of a difference at all in the short-term, although negative growth of the player base will eventually affect everyone.
We need to hear from the Devs what their plans are going forward. New skins and seasonal events and the occasional new hero won't maintain the player base, because people don't play for those things. Queue times need to continue to be looked at. Matchmaking needs to remain on the radar. Regular balance patches need to be maintained. If the Devs can commit to those things – I.E. actually improving the game, particularly on the issues that have long-plagued HotS – then our favorite MOBA has a chance to survive.
Final thought: Although I've been supportive of the improved team comps that have been implemented for Quickmatch, the HGC/development announcement makes me rethink whether this is a good idea going forward, since it seems likely that queue times will only increase regardless. If casual players are sitting in the queue for 10+ minutes just to get into a QM game, then casual players may start jumping ship as well. I think the QM changes probably need to be reverted.
© Post "We need an AMA from the remaining Devs so we can evaluate the future of HotS." for game Heroes of the Storm.
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