Blizzard's Hearthstone VR prototype could become reality

(Image credit: Blizzard)

What you need to know

  • The annual "Free Your Mind" event gives Blizzard developers the freedom to develop their own modifications and enhancements for popular games.
  • One notable result from the recent event showcases a virtual reality Hearthstone experience that pits players against each other in a tavern.
  • While this is just an experiment and has no release date, other experiments from this annual event have been brought to the consumer version of the game via updates.

If you're a CCG (collectible card game) player, you'll know there's nothing quite like sitting at a table with a group of friends when you're playing cards. When Blizzard moved its World of Warcraft Trading Card Game from a physical medium to a digital one in 2014, it gained the popularity that was missing from the physical decks but lost something valuable in the process. VR is the perfect medium to use to introduce a more personal touch to the Hearthstone experience, as it can create the one-of-a-kind feeling of sitting in a tavern and playing cards with the gnarliest of beasts.

Hearthstone, like most Blizzard games, has been a commercial success. As such, Blizzard is always looking for ways to keep players interested and coming back to its games, and the annual "Free Your Mind" event that Blizzard holds has given developers the perfect opportunity to explore something new and reintroduce what was once removed. In an interview with PowerUp!, Hearthstone Lead Effects Artist Hadidjah Chamberlain talked briefly about the possibility of enhancing the world of Hearthstone with a virtual reality component:

They actually prototyped a VR version of Hearthstone during that time. You could walk around The Tavern and sit down to play a game with someone. They only had two weeks, so they only got as far (allowing you to) throw cards at the table and you could flip the table over!

This event is only for Blizzard developers and isn't publicly held, so while it's a ton of fun for developers to experiment with anything they'd like, the public doesn't typically get to see all the ideas presented. But there is a precedent for some of these ideas making their way to the final game, like last June's patch, which included two features that were previously invented during this "Free Your Mind" event. Like those features, it's entirely possible that we could see a version of Hearthstone in virtual reality at some point in the future.

Since Hearthstone's launch on the PC and Mac in 2014, it has since expanded to tablets and smartphones. Touch gameplay made a ton of sense, given the game's relatively simple visual design of cards on a table. Virtual reality gameplay makes even more sense, again given the physical presence that VR can offer CCG players. Hearthstone wouldn't be the first VR game to offer tabletop gaming, but it would likely be the most popular one by a long shot given the series popularity and the Blizzard name behind the experience.

The Ultimate Hearthstone beginners guide

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu