Once upon a time, chat rooms hosted by AOL and Compuserve served as forums for any number of subjects. Now, Microsoft’s Skype is bringing that concept back for Blizzard’s free-to-play PC game, Hearthstone, with some of its leading lights available to provide coaching and even head-to-head matches.
The Skype Hearthstone Academy is a rather grandiose name for a group chat channel hosted by Microsoft, which kicks off today in conjunction with e-sports provider One Nation of Gamers (ONOG), which hosts Hearthstone tournaments throughout the year.
Formally named Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, Blizzard’s hit is a duel between spellcasters, where the two players each select digital cards to play. Hearthstone is a big deal: In April, Blizzard claimed Hearthstone’s players numbered 50 million, though it’s not known how many are active at any one time.
Why this matters: Microsoft has tried to carve out a chunk of the PC gaming market owned by Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube, with little success. Microsoft's recent efforts include its purchase of Beam, a livestreaming service, in August. The Skype partnership will include ONOG’s existing relationships with Twitch, however, and Twitch’s frenetic livestreamed chats rarely contribute anything worthwhile. It'll be interesting to see if Skype’s experience can be a venue for Hearthstone fans and provide useful information.
Hearthstone big names including Kolento, StrifeCro, Zalae and Fr0zen will participate in the group chats, according to Skype. The players will both coach and square off against fans on Twitch, according to a Microsoft blog post. At the end of the Academy, Microsoft will host a round-robin tournament pitting the coaches against the players. At stake is one of four Windows laptops, as well as gift cards for Blizzard’s Battle.net.
To sign up, obviously you’ll need Skype, Microsoft’s free chat app. To join the chat, you’ll need to add “GamingWithSkype” as a contact, then send a instant message to join the chat.