Have you ever wondered why we aren’t allowed to trade cards in Hearthstone? After all, I have Rexxar’s Death Knight that I don’t want, and you have Jaina’s. It would be pretty nice if we could just pass them back and forth and both be happy, right? Unfortunately, you can’t trade Hearthstone cards. Part of this has to do with Blizzard’s model for keeping the game profitable, but it’s a little bit more complicated than that.
Blizzard’s Profit Margins
By not allowing us to trade, Blizzard makes boatloads of cash off of Hearthstone players. This is largely due to the horrible return rate from dust. You open a legendary you don’t want? You’re forced to dust it for a mere quarter of the value. By making epics and legendaries so rare and so unrewarding, it forces the player to open a lot more packs before they actually get the cards they want.
Each Hearthstone expansion usually introduces 130 new cards. With five cards in each pack, players end up with 250 cards from buying the 50 pack preorder, but they won’t get all the cards in the expansion. The “no duplicates” restriction only applies to legendaries, so your 50 packs from the preorder will only give you a taste of what the expansion has to offer. Of course, you can easily get over 100 packs per expansion just by completing your daily quests, but this still won’t get you anywhere near a full set. Imagine if you could trade to get the cards you want. The incentive for putting money into the game would be much lower, and Blizzard’s profit margins would take a significant hit.
Trading Hearthstone Cards Between Friends
Even worse for Blizzard, we could reasonably expect trading between friends to run rampant if it were allowed. You want to try a deck that includes a legendary you don’t have. Your buddy trades it to you for a day, then you trade it back. You want to try out a deck, but you don’t actually want to buy packs (or waste dust) to get Mayor Noggenfogger. Not a problem.
Blizzard has other reasons to be concerned about trading, at least from a financial perspective. If you and a group of friends got together, you could easily craft every legendary by disenchanting the ones that the others have, and agreeing to share the one copy you keep. Of course, you’d end up having to message a buddy for a trade if you wanted to play certain classes or decks, but it’s much cheaper than trying to get a full set yourself.
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This kind of back-and-forth trading could be limited by adding in trading cooldowns or restrictions. Perhaps Blizzard could prevent you from being able to trade cards with the same player more than once a week, or limit the number of trades each player can conduct in each seven day period. Blizzard does have options to prevent players tossing cards back and forth.
Still, gamers are geniuses when it comes to breaking rules and systems, and it would take some serious work on Blizzard’s end to prevent “unfair” trading without ruining the process entirely.
Longevity, Player Retention, and Card Collecting
For many players, the draw of CCGs is just that – building a full collection of cards. But if it’s too easy to complete your collection when a new expansion drops, players may get bored and move on.
Should Blizzard publish more cards to keep diehard collectors invested in the game? Perhaps. But at the end of the day, it is what it is: we get 130 new cards every four months. If that’s a constant, it’s easy to see why trading would, in Blizzard’s eyes, hurt the game’s longevity. If you were allowed to trade Hearthstone cards freely, the collecting process would happen much faster. You’d certainly have a lot more fun at the start of a new expansion, but the excitement of getting new cards would be over quickly. Hearthstone’s in-game gold would become largely irrelevant, since all the cards you need would only be a trade or two away. For Hearthstone players who enjoy the “thrill of the hunt” for new cards, trading would be awful.
Hearthstone Trading and Botting/Scamming
Hearthstone already has botting problems. Players open up the Hearthstone, run a bot program to play games for them while they’re AFK, and they’ll earn 100 gold a day. It sucks, but it’s fairly uncommon.
But imagine if you can trade cards. Imagine how many people would sell cards on third-party sites for real money. Of course, trading cards for cash would be against the terms of service, but when has that stopped anyone? Bots would be absolutely everywhere, just like they were in Diablo 3, World of Warcraft, and every MMO.
If you make a game where players can make a buck from botting, you’ll inevitably have a botting problem on your hands.
Scams would also be a problem if Blizzard decided to implement Hearthstone trading. One of the biggest issues with free market economies in MMOs is that people are always keen to steal from other players. You’ve probably seen these scams before. Someone sends you a trade offer with an amazing deal, hit cancel, quickly replace the good item with a crappy one, then hit accept, hoping that the other player will hit accept before realizing the offer has changed. Real money trades where the item gets transferred, but the cash never arrives. It’s fair to assume that scamming (and real money trading) would be common if Hearthstone introduced trading. You wouldn’t even have a reason to disenchant cards for dust anymore, since you get a quarter of their value in dust, whereas you’d receive the full value from trading with other players. These are the kinds of hypotheticals that give Blizzard nightmares.
Do We Even Want Trading in Hearthstone?
Would trading be nice in Hearthstone? To be honest, probably not. When we say we want trading, we’re really saying that want Blizzard’s card distribution model to be less greedy. And that’s fair. But trading would introduce more problems than it’s worth – the game’s longevity would suffer, botting and scamming would increase, and real money trading is a headache for companies (and players) to deal with. It wouldn’t end well, even for casual players. And Blizzard would never implement it anyway, because it would also cost them a buttload in pack sales.