Just a year ago Blizzard signed a rich exclusive agreement with YouTube to broadcast all its esports events on the Google platform. The main dish of the deal was obviously the Overwatch League, but it ended up in the middle too competitive Hearthstone scene.
A bad start
Already during the first season of the Grandmasters, the regional tournament where the best Hearthstone players in the world compete, the move to YouTube seemed to have hurt the tournament's audience. A loss of 90% compared to the previous year, when broadcasts were held on Twitch.
The negative trend continued throughout the year, despite the format changes at the tournament and the quieting of the controversy that involved a Grandmaster, Blitzchung. But even considering this crisis, no one could predict what would happen with the world championships.
A disaster announced
As noted by many players, specifically on Reddit, the marketing of the Hearthstone World Finals was so subdued that practically no one noticed that they were taking place.
The result was an audience loss compared to the previous year of 95%, an average of 14.000 viewers against 264.000 registered on Twitch in 2019. Numbers suitable more for one of the daily live shows of the game's top streamers than for an annual global event.
The reasons for the disaster
Understanding the reasons for this disaster is not easy in reality, because many forces have contributed to the failure of this world championship. First of all the marketing side was completely missing from Blizzard. Even the most dedicated and committed gamers in the community woke up this morning amazed that their favorite game had a new world champion.
A total lack of communication that has no excuses and not even a clear motivation. Sure it's not an easy time for Activision Blizzard, in the storm several reasons. But a modicum of marketing for the event that crowns a year of competitive tournaments doesn't seem like a big deal to accomplish.
Youtube didn't help. The platform isn't highly regarded when it comes to live broadcasts, and audiences from Twitch have never quite adapted to the lack of features and emotes they're used to.
To add to all this there is also a boycott attempt by the community itself. Gamers have been battling Blizzard for weeks now, since the company radically changed Hearthstone's rewards system by introducing the Tavern Pass. This move, which promised to help free to play, turned out to be a clumsy monetization operation that practically nobody liked.
Just to know…
The sum of these three factors has therefore led to what is in fact the lowest moment in the history of Hearthstone competitive. Just to know, the Japanese won the championship Kenta "Glory" Sato, who beat Jaromír “Jarla” Vyskočil in the final.
Sato's victory brought the Asia-Pacific region to the top of the world for the second time, after Tom2017's 60229 victory.