Is Hearthstone Pay to Win?

Put your money where your clout is.

Image via Blizzard

Hearthstone is one of the biggest Collect Card Games in the world, with millions of players each month. Unlike the more traditional games like Magic: The Gathering, there are no physical cards involved, and everything is done and owned via computer.

This makes buying decks a risky venture, as should the game ever stop being profitable for developers Blizzard, players might see all their expensive cards disappear when the servers get turned off. A common question asked about Hearthstone since it launched is where or not the game is pay to win. While people might be looking for a simple yes or no answer, this is actually a complicated issue.

The debate is often phrased as “free to play” versus “pay to win,” but this implies that the two are mutually exclusive, which is simply untrue. A game can be free to play, meaning players can indeed engage with all the mechanics, play the game, earn rewards and resources, and generally progress through the content. It might just be at a very slow and grinding pace. Hearthstone is indeed free to play in this case, as you can jump in without spending any cash.

However, the reputation that has dogged the game is that the grind for cards and decks is now so brutal that players are giving no choice but to part with money if they want to be competitive. If you want to compete at a top level, you will need to shell out cash until you get cards that are deemed essential to the meta. This is then compounded by the meta changing and all those former high-value cards becoming useless.

One of the biggest considerations which people who refer to Hearthstone as a pay-to-win game often don’t want to admit is that money cannot buy skill. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend getting the best cards if you have no idea how to read the meta, deck build, and then play that deck into all the other decks that you might run into.

As such, Hearthstone exists in a very complicated place because in many ways it does replicate the expensive of the real world CCG that it mimics. As such, whether the game is pay to win is largely up for debate, but there are not many people out there that would argue against the fact that it can get expensive.