UPDATE: Blizzard has issued a statement, received by Kotaku, addressing the recent changes to card art:
The recent changes were applied to make those cards more visually cohesive and consistent with the art style of Hearthstone today. When Hearthstone first launched, we brought in a lot of artwork from the physical World of Warcraft trading card game. In the years since, Hearthstone has developed a look, feel, and personality of its own that distinguishes it from that of Warcraft—though we still love being a part of that universe. We’ll always be looking for ways to deliver on the game’s unique style, charm, and personality.
The problem with that reasoning is that there are still quite a few cards in Hearthstone that use the art from the World of Warcraft TCG, like Leeroy Jenkins, Edwin VanCleef, Tundra Rhino (which uses art from Woolly White Rhino), and Spellbender (which uses art from Siaranna the Fickle). Toss in the fact that Eviscerate received only the barest of changes, and it’s clear that if Blizzard’s intent was to change art to better reflect its artistic vision for Hearthstone and distance itself from the TCG — as opposed to changing a few cards that might have been offensive — it could have done a lot more.
ORIGINAL STORY: Yesterday, Blizzard announced the next expansion for Hearthstone, titled Saviors of Uldum. It also pushed out a patch that shifted some cards to the Hall of Fame and added new cards to the Classic and Basic sets.
But what has people talking today are the alterations that have been made to eight cards, which have seen their arts change to be less sexy or bloody.
Four of the cards — Succubus, Mistress of Pain, Windfury Harpy, and Secretkeeper — featured female characters and have been altered to make them less sexual. Succubus has been wholly replaced in name and art (to Felstalker), while Mistress of Pain was renamed Queen of Pain. Meanwhile, the other four cards — Eviscerate, Bite, Deadly Shot, and Headcrack — have been altered to remove blood (in Eviscerate’s case) or had their art completely replaced (for the other three) to less-violent images.
A Redditor compiled the changes, which you can view below. The original cards are on the right of each pairing.
Blizzard hasn’t given any official word on why the changes have been made, but most eyes are pointing toward China and its typically restrictive stance on sexual content and depictions of blood in video games. While Hearthstone has more recently been available in the country since launch, the Chinese government has been taking a harder stance on such depictions, including a long freeze on approving new games and more recent regulations regarding blood in general or proposed laws that would restrict female dress.