It finally happened. After limping along nearly four years past its perceived death knell, Activision Blizzard has decided to put the company's fan-favorite MOBA into the dreaded maintenance mode. Just like T.S. Eliot wrote, "not with a bang, but a whimper," but it didn't have to be this way. Heroes of the Storm, or HotS as it's commonly referred to, deserved better than this.
On July 12th, Blizzard put in what would conceivably be the last content update. Players were awarded the Epic Chaos Lizard Mount, and a new Butcher skin was added to the shop for whatever reason. That's it. That was the ending. No balances, no grand event, just shortened patch notes. If you log in, you'll still be awarded Christmas-themed loot boxes for leveling characters. What little hope fans and professionals had surrounding the game has evaporated.
Once upon a time, newly added heroes received an introduction trailer, fully fleshed out, showing a high level of attention to detail. Patches were put in regularly to balance hero play. Players were regularly given updates about the game's development and what new events were around the corner. Creativity flowed as different seasonal games would take over and allow the casual player to have fun. There was a buzz about the game that would take over Blizzcon.
After Blizzcon 2018, the Heroes Grand Championship was abandoned. Blizzard didn't see the eSports scene for the game growing; thus, the more minor independent leagues were left in an incredibly uncomfortable situation. Players still wanted to play, but there was nowhere to go if you excelled. As a result, the Heroes team was downsized, and updates came less frequently. Before Blizzcon 2018, a total of 83 heroes were released, with Blizzard having a blistering pace of 1 per month. Since then, seven heroes were released over the next four years, with the last one being released in December 2020. That's almost two years without a new hero before pulling the plug.
The saddest part is that the game is still fun and still has a following. Admittedly, it's nowhere near the popularity of similar games such as DOTA 2, League of Legends, or even Smite, but when you queue up for a match, you'll get into a game within seconds. Heck, I'll queue up three nights a week and have a great time, but I know that this is it. The game will not change from here on out unless someone realizes the mistake that has been allowed to occur.
Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard offers a sliver of hope, albeit tiny. New management may see a game beloved by its fandom and reopen what should be the love letter to all Blizzard fans. However, it's a long shot. As the game grows staler and staler, queue times will increase. Without outside interference, the game will fade into obscurity, with just the question of what could have been.
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