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Blizzard stirred up quite the controversy with its most recent patch to Hearthstone. Leading up to the Saviors of Uldum expansion, Blizzard released a standard housekeeping patch to ready Hearthstone for new content. The patch included some tweaks to the art and design of several classic cards, toning down the sexuality and violence, leading to Hearthstone censorship accusations from fans. Blizzard has now responded to the outcry.
The patch changed the art, and sometimes the name, of eight older cards. The new art removed blood from some cards and completely redesigned others, seemingly to tone down the scantily-clad women in the old art. On one end of the censorship spectrum, the art for Eviscerate remains mostly the same with just a bit of blood spatter taken out. On the more extreme end, the Succubus card, which used to show a lustful lady-demon with a whip, got rebranded to Felwalker, and the art changed to a standard beastly demon. Most card changes fell somewhere in the middle, with Mistress of Pain becoming Queen of Pain (a promotion, surely?) and others such as Deadly Shot and Headcrack getting less violent with their artwork.
After fan outcry and taunting posts mocking Blizzard for becoming a bit too PC, alongside speculation that the company had made the changes to conform to Chinese censorship laws, Blizzard released a statement to Kotaku explaining the reasoning behind the patch:
“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.”
Since Hearthstone celebrated its fifth birthday this year, it’s understandable that it has developed its own feel and style that Blizzard would want to stick to. With Hearthstone attracting a wide audience of all ages, some sensitivity rebranding may have come into play as well. Regardless, just reading about Hearthstone has me itching to return to the arena.