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Blizzard Details the Road Ahead for ‘Hearthstone’ Esports

The Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT) is officially ending this spring and it’s being replaced with a new three-tiered competitive system, developer Blizzard Entertainment said in a lengthy blog post on Thursday, detailing its changes to “Hearthstoneesports in 2019.

The new system includes qualifiers, live global tournaments, and an exclusive top tier, Blizzard said, with more than $4 million in prizes up for grabs throughout the year.

The qualifiers will be primarily online. The first tournaments will happen in the spring and they won’t be region-locked, Blizzard said. People who win qualifiers will gain entry to the next competitive tier, the live global tournaments. There will be three of them in 2019 and they’re invite-only. More are planned for 2020.

“These live events will see our best and brightest ‘Hearthstone’ players — from household names to aspiring pros who spiked their first tourney — compete for $250,000 per event,” Blizzard said. “Best of all, success here will open the door to the ultimate level of competition.”

That “ultimate level of competition” is a seasonal online round-robin that’s split into regional divisions. It begins after the HCT World Championship and ends with a finale at year’s end, Blizzard said. Participants will get performance-based bonuses, along with automatic invites to all the live global events in the previous tier. Blizzard said it will share more details about this top tier soon.

Blizzard said it’s also retiring the Conquest format in 2019 so that “Hearthstone” esports can better reflect the in-game experience. Plus, it will be easier for new viewers to grasp. The developer will unveil a new format in the coming months.

“We want everyone to be accounted for in this long-term vision, from casual fans to the most dedicated pros,” Blizzard said. “This is the next evolution of our promise to make ‘Hearthstone’ esports sustainable — and enjoyable! — to all those who enter the tavern.”

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