Editorial: A Casual Case Study of Heroes of the Storm’s Failure to Launch

Steven Hawke
By Steven Hawke, Collaborator February 27, 2017


Being a college student, the big rage is the extremely popular ULoL league, League of Legends' collegiate series. This collegiate series involves varsity or club teams of over 200 schools in North America, all competing for the prestigious championship title and prize. While all of this limelight and excitement has been forming for ULoL, Heroes of The Storm was actively trying to reach the goal of League's collegiate success in just a matter of months.

Blizzard has been pushing its equivalent counterpart, Heroes of The Dorm, since the release of the title. Even with all the time and money Blizzard spends on this endeavor, League just expands their collegiate reach and it’s an instant success, while Heroes of the Dorm arguably isn't. This dichotomy between the two games is a perfect example to use to justify the argument that Heroes of the Storm was a failure to launch title, a first for Blizzard Entertainment.


From a lifelong fan’s perspective, I think that Blizzard’s design philosophy can easily be watered down to the old analogy, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” Summing up Blizzard's Exec. VP of Game Design Rob Pardo’s GDC presentation in 2010, World of Warcraft was developed with the vision that the experience of the game must feel epic and overwhelming, but the actual design of the game needs to be as simple as possible.

This interview had great parts, but most importantly, at around 14 minutes, Pardo explains why Blizzard didn’t expect raid healers to have this clustered, complicated UI, but if the ability to play a more complicated role is there, players will create add-ons and make sure that it is possible. This flew right in the face of Blizzard’s attempts at a simplistic AI, and it serves as a perfect example as to why Heroes of the Storm failed. Players don’t always hate the ability to experience complexity.

The MOBA genre is full of different titles that fly at different levels of complexity. Although this isn’t the most important factor, since League is bigger than Dota 2 but immensely friendlier to casual players, there needs to be some sort of difference between a good player and a bad player.

Although Heroes of the Storm has this, it feels muddied. There was too much simplifying with the base mechanics, and although the different map styles bring the game up to speed, the heroes you play just feel like early-release League of Legends champions, which have almost all been reworked with evolved kits. At the baseline, Heroes of the Storm looks pretty and has interesting gimmicks, but the most important part of a MOBA is the mechanics of your champion, which was the part that Blizzard decided to cut back on.


Although I am a huge Blizzard fanboy, owning literally every game other than the Lost Vikings, and paying to get into HotS before the release, I can’t help but feel disappointed in how it turned out. I feel as though I am not alone when I look at the Twitch numbers and the game is currently sitting at #30 with no tournaments going on for any competitors. With the effort and resources that were put into its collegiate series just to be outdone in one fell swoop by a competitor, Heroes of the Storm is in a limbo between a competitive and casual title, and it isn’t pulling either player base successfully. As a Blizzard fanboy, I hope in a year or two, I can boot up Heroes of the Storm and it will be a great, polished title after it catches its stride. In the meantime, I'll have to keep an eye on it, looking for any big changes coming to increase the game's draw and fun factor.

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About the Author

Steven Hawke
Steven Hawke, Collaborator

Discussion (10)

rockthebleach 4 years ago
Kafe, if you going to talk about league at least play it. One you can't get 80 rune pages and you don't need that much 20 at most if you into ranked, less if you not. Also making rune pages aren't hard and you don't need to change them each patch. When hots is dead within a year or 2 at most then lets see who haves the laungh. Go troll else where you not wanted it.

rockthebleach 4 years ago
ASDF, I couldn't agree the game optimization is pretty dam bad. Blizzard must of forgot what their games are known for. Like how wow can run on almost anything. I feel like sense hots came out blizzard been trying to becoming mainstream in the sense their games can only be played on mid/high end pc's instead of most pc's. No thank you blizzard. If I could I would of never payed into alpha for hots. I render play league and enjoy it then this casual shit.

kafe 4 years ago
I'm a blizzard hater, but I have to say Hots its a masterpiece.
I don't see this post objective at all, just speak about success and failures without real data, and relates something anecdotic like Heros of the Dorm with the general success (or failure) of the game.

Just 2 reasons why for me this game is a main actor in the moba scene:
- F2p factor, you can play for free without feeling any disadvantage compared to the people that pay (that's something mandatory in competitive PVP at today)

-And Second and most important, you don't need to study a career toe play this game but at the same time game it's proof enough for professional players, honestly as a non-proffesional player I don't want to come home play the game and realize there is a new patch, and change runes builds for 80 characters, just sit and play. (Smite its another good example of this)

EVETS 4 years ago
here is my 2 satoshi's, i play more HotS than League of Legends, i find it more vibrant...only thing missing is cross team chat

NGoHT 4 years ago
Too casual, low customisation option besides the talents.... overly simple like the way they messed up with D3 and WoW recent expacs.
Even casual players enjoy variety and ways to outsmart the opponent. This can be barely achieved with a few talents. Gets boring way too fast.
No wonder players move towards Path of Exile or Grimdawn if they want a more Diablo feel,
go Dota/LoL instead of HOTS.
Even SC2 is would die if it wasnt the community arcade mods.
I used to love Blizzard back in the old WoW days, SC, WC and D1-2.
Nowadays, no thx.

Intunerikuss 4 years ago
You don't own The Lost Vikings??? How could you??? :)

View 1 reply
Jafarson 4 years ago
was playing League of Legends years, when i saw first gameplay video and aspects of this game, i uninstalled lol. get invited soon in HotS at first alpha wave, still playing, love almost everything about this game, design characters, but i would like to add some more modifications like menu talent system or some kind of perks, or character cuztomizations like weapons and armors... more customizable content - more i like the game.

View 1 reply
Asdf 4 years ago
Was nice game til they f* up with the optimization later on.First went smooth, second try after a while got huge fps drops on ether high and low.

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