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Gwent as an Esport – Will Gwent: Homecoming Destroy Hearthstone?

By Alanna Garret in Sports
| September 30, 2018 12:00 am PDT
Gwent Homecoming Release

I’m a frequent gamer, and growing up, I was passionate about battling my friends in Pokémon TCG, Pog, and Mortal Kombat tournaments. As I got older, I really found my niche in RPG games.

I was gifted a copy of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and sank hundreds of hours into the game, including the in-game version of Gwent. I kept getting destroyed and did a Google search to get some tips to improve my strategy, and that was when I came across the official free-standing version of the game and immediately became a huge fan.

For those of you new to the game, Gwent: The Witcher Card Game has existed as a free-to-play public beta version since 2017, published by CD Projekt Red, and is scheduled to be officially released sometime in October 2018 as Gwent: Homecoming.

Throughout the beta launch, CD Projekt Red has generously revealed details and has taken player feedback all throughout the development process.

This has helped to build the game into a real esports hotspot, with several tournaments and qualifiers with prize pools that offered up to $250,000 and an estimated 200,000 players playing the game regularly.

The big question now is whether Gwent: Homecoming will bulk up the game into a real heavyweight champ against the likes of established contenders like Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Dota 2.

What We Know About Gwent: Homecoming

CD Projekt Red is an incredibly indulgent game developer and has replied regularly to players on Reddit to provide more details about what the full version of the game will be like, including modifications to game mechanics, deck building, and interface/design.

We already knew quite a bit and that some major components of the game were going to get a shake-up with Homecoming prior to a video reveal released earlier this month.

With the video release, we can see that some of the in-game mechanics have changed (different rules for the pre-match mulligan, for instance).The actual card playing field has undergone some hefty alterations, with animations and fraction leaders added and card preview sections removed.

It is clear that CD Projekt Red has been busy with a major overhaul of the existing features of Gwent and has really breathed new life into the game.

It looks very much like Gwent will be a step above other existing games like Hearthstone and will become a more blended RPG/card game.

The developer has done an outstanding job of making the card game into a more immersive world as compared to a vanilla, run-of-the-mill card game where your interaction with the characters, environment, and lore of the game is limited.

The preview we got makes it clear we’re going to be looking at a new major contender in the esports arena.

What Might Be Missing?

There are some features missing that players had been hoping for, such as card trading/bartering systems with other players, the retention of the third playable row, and new soundtracks/background themes.

Out of the three features that are probably not going to be included, the biggest hit to the game’s potential is the limited ability to trade cards with other players.

Currently the beta version only allows cards to be purchased in-game by earning ore to open card kegs (4 cards given, 3 additional cards offered to select from, for a total of 5 cards per keg) or by purchasing card kegs using real money.

It would be a welcome change to see the game allow card trading like PUBG and CS:GO skins trading, where players could bet and swap rare or uncommon cards between each other in a separate marketplace.

This could really stand to increase the competitive aspects of the game and could allow players to have a definite edge if they knew of a strategy or tactic utilizing a card they didn’t own and could sell existing cards in order to quickly get the card they needed.

Opening dozens of kegs or inefficiently milling lots of existing cards they had for scrap in order to build the rare card from scratch is far from ideal.

What Might Be Coming?

If you’ve played any games developed by CD Projekt Red, you will probably have seen all the language options for international players, and the same is true for Gwent as well.

By day, I am a localization manager and am always in awe of how this producer goes above and beyond to serve players around the world by subtitling and dubbing their games extensively.

Currently, Korean and Scandinavian players are underserved, even though their player base is huge. We might be able to look forward to the inclusion of additional languages with the roll-out of Homecoming.

Korean, including full dubbing, was originally planned to be released in May 2018, but as of now, it has still not been released, so it is likely the studio will release this with Homecoming.

Thronebreaker is another missing piece of the Gwent puzzle.

There have been several announcements surrounding Thronebreaker, which is rumored to be a stand-alone 30-hour RPG based on Gwent mechanics and has been delayed to allow for expanded development. It has been beefed up to allow for expanded gameplay and possible tie-ins with Homecoming, such as a rumored ability to play through Thronebreaker and new/exclusive cards to your Homecoming deck.

It also is likely that Thronebreaker will launch in tandem with Homecoming. The one positive here is that the developer said there may be an extra offering given to these players because of their wait (possibly extra card kegs?), so you might stand to start off a leg ahead in the race if you wait for the version on your console to launch.

It is also rumored that while Homecoming may be free to play, Thronebreaker will not be free.It has been rumored that the cost will be less than the Witcher 3, though.

CD Projekt Red has said that in the next few weeks, there will be more announcements as the game development is finalized, so a concrete number for pricing will likely be announced in the next few weeks.

So, this all sounds great, right? The one big missing piece of the puzzle is the exact launch date of Homecoming and Thronebreaker, as the release for both had previously been delayed over six months to October 2018.

CD Projekt Red officially announced a release date for Thronebreaker and Homecoming and stated the release date for both on PC would be in late October; unfortunately for PS4 and Xbox One players, the release for these consoles will be delayed until December 4th.

As It Stands

Judging by all the improvements made since the launch of the public beta version, it would be safe to assume that the number of players stands to skyrocket with the inclusion of expanded playable features, improvements in the UI and graphics, and expansion of available cards/decks.

Currently, the game feels a little limited, and you can easily predict certain card combinations from your opponent as soon as you can see their leader cards at the start of the battle since the scale of the beta of it isn’t huge.

More players and an improved/expanded official release of the game could absolutely launch Gwent into a whole new category as an esports superpower and lead to bigger prize pots, as well as more playoffs and tournaments.

You can also utilize your existing knowledge of the game to have a head start against other players, as based on the previews released by CD Projekt Red, many cards will remain in Homecoming.

If you are a PS4 or Xbox One player, you could also download the PC version of the game first and get early access – it may be difficult or impossible to port your cards/account information over from the PC version to your console, however.

Although the in-game trading functions are limited and likely will be with the Homecoming and Thronebreaker releases, there are still some other ways to carry your skills over onto the next front and make money.

Sites such as Ultraplay are now offering Gwent as an opportunity for esports betting, and as the game is developed, we can be certain it will grow to have the same payoff potential as games such as Dota 2 and Overwatch.

With the huge changes in UI, game mechanics, and the expansive parallel RPG game launched in tandem with tie-ins to Gwent: Homecoming, Gwent, already a major Hearthstone competitor, will absolutely rise to become the next big name in online card-playing games.

We are at a point in game development where the graphics and complexities needed to support blended RPG card-playing games are there, and CD Projekt Red has perfected what they do best to give us a fully immersive card-playing game with elements of both traditional RPGs as well as live card tournaments against players from around the world.

To date, no other card-playing game has been able to even come close to the depth of gameplay that the full release of Gwent will offer. It is certain that Gwent: Homecoming will rise to become the next major hit in the card-playing world.



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