The game is becoming stale and drastically losing popularity. What used to consistently be in the top 5 most watched games on Twitch has now plummeted in viewers over the last several months because people are tired of the same old sh*t. Most major streamers no longer even play the actual game mode, opting to play Battlegrounds instead. IMO, this is a pretty big problem. A large expansion every 4 months is fine, but after the first 4-6 weeks, the meta settles and starts to stagnate, becoming predictable, if not boring. Even in this current meta, which I believe is statistically the most balanced meta Hearthstone has ever seen, it's still extremely repetitive.
It wasn't always this way though. We used to get mini-expansions that slowly introduced new cards to the pool a week at a time over the course of 4-5 weeks. Naxxramas, the very first expansion for Hearthstone was this way. And while I don't believe Blizzard necessarily needs to go back to that exact formula, something needs to change to prevent the atrophy that occurs once the freshness of the new, big expansion wears off.
What I suggest is extremely simple. A mini-xpac that releases 2 months after the major ones, to help break up the 4 month monotony we currently experience between expansions. Something as simple as a 2 cards per class and 6ish neutral cards would be enough. And while not necessary, perhaps a simple solo mission similar to the Book of Heroes scenario for Jaina that was recently introduced could accompany these mini-xpacs. This way the release schedule would work as such. Major expansion with approx 120-130 cards, followed 2 months later by a mini expansion with about 25-30 cards, then another 2 months for the next major expansion and the next influx of 130ish cards, rinse and repeat.
Not only would this keep the game feeling fresh, along with an ever evolving, fluidic meta, I think it is an obvious avenue for Blizzard to make more money and bring in new players. Back in the day when expansions like Naxxramas were introduced, you either unlocked the various wings (and cards) with either gold or real cash and I know for certain there were plenty of people dropping a few bucks to unlock a fair bit of the content. Of course, it would remain important for these mini-xpacs to be available via gold for the F2P players, but ultimately, Blizzard would end up making more money while the game would feel fresher by reinvigorating the card pool every couple of months, and while I have no data to back up this claim, I feel this change would likely increase the popularity of Twitch viewers, which would by extension bring in more new players as well as older ones that want to experience the new content, deck creations and shifting meta.
These are my thoughts on the current state of the game. I feel if something doesn't change and soon, Hearthstone is going to fall into obscurity with developers and designers that no longer care about making the game entertaining and fun, eventually losing most, if not all support in favor of Blizzard's next project that can claim the mantle of being Blizzard's primary 'Pay to Win' game. (Because let's be honest, HS is currently Blizzard's primary micro-transaction based game). And that's not a game archetype Blizzard and mainly Activision is going to allow to remain vacant. Me personally? I'd prefer it if it stays Hearthstone. Just my 2 cents.
I think galakrond's awakening is a perfect example of this. It introduced new cards mid expansion that shifted the meta.
Alternatively, they can tie it to events to make it more exciting. Maybe something like limited event packs that can only be obtained within the event containing only the new mid-season cards. Once the event ends, these cards get added to the pool of the existing expansion.
As a side note, I hope the new game mode gives more life to the game.
In my opinion, the real problem is that with virtually every expansion Blizzard takes some classes very seriously (giving them new archetypes and strong support cards for existing ones), while treating others like garbage. For example, how can they print cards with huge potential but without any support, making them virtually useless (e.g. Archwitch Willow)? Yes, these cards may be playable in a few months (along with subsequent extensions), but they might as well never be playable (which actually has happened couple times in the past, because Blizzard simply abandoned previous ideas, leaving some classes with dead cards until the next rotation...
This usually leads to situation, where some classes become more powerful and diverse with successive expansions, while others remain weak and have virtually no representation in the meta (some classes wait even several months for their turn to shine, which is sick!). This in turn, makes the meta stabilize faster and the game faster becomes boring and repetitive. Fewer playable classes in the pool simply means less choice, less variety and less fun.
I think galakrond's awakening is a perfect example of this. It introduced new cards mid expansion that shifted the meta.
I agree with this point. A mini-expac or something along the lines seems like a great way to shake things up.
Of course, Galakrond's Awakening also brought a lot of criticism, especially for F2P players that didn't want to spend more for the adventure wings to get cards they needed to stay relevant. I still see people that ask about card replacements in deck builds because they didn't get this adventure.
I don’t feel the urge to spend more, so I would only be ok with this if the mini-expansion was simply free. It won’t happen but hat would alleviate some of the greed associated with this game (and rightly so).
I don't know what world you've lived in but it was never any different or even better than now. Naxxramas was not a "mini-expansion" or even "mid-expansion", it was the first expansion ever, and it was released in the exact same way as new expansions these days, 4 months after the official launch, and 4 months before GvG (as the first "big" expansion) came out. Ever since, it was always 4 months until the next release of new cards. But unlike today, balance patches were rare and took much longer.
The main difference was that adventures were released in wings, while expansion come out as a whole (and have roughly 3 times as many cards). And as I recall, a lot of people specifically didn't like adventures because the cards slowly came out, which also meant that you had to buy all wings, even if you only wanted the cards of a specific one.
As for the monotony, I already mentioned that balance patches are a LOT more frequent and impactful these days. We currently can expact 2 or 3 balance changes during the 4 month period, with some decks dying entirely or matchup spreads changing drastically. That's a whole lot more changes than what followed the release of Karazhan, for example. And unlike in the old days, things like Fire Festival or Hollow's End at least provide a small amount of variety. It's not much, but I remember the days when precisiely zilch happened between expansions.
In other words, the "monotony" you speak of is mostly your perception. Of course you can feel this way, and suggest for things to improve, but it's not like today is any worse than 2 or 3 years ago, and in some regards objectively better.
The game isn't "dying" (if it really is at all) only because the developers don't care anymore as much as they used to. It's simply a 6 year old game that fails to be as appealing as other formats, specifically for the young/adolescent audience, like League of Legends or Fortnite are. And some other card games also take some of the spotlight that Hearthstone used to have.
There was a time where Hearthstone was more popular, but it's hard to say why. Maybe because it was new, maybe because the previous associated players/streamers were more popular (quite a few have quit, some even died), maybe because the game was perceived as better. But if the game was better, you can only vaguely point out why. The differences between the game back then and now are mostly subtle. The deck costs have gone up significantly (with several playing in the league of former "Wallet Warrior"), but few people seem to bother. Some people like to complain about "powercreep", but it really only matters within a specific metagame. And as far as I remember, Secret Paladin (for instance) wasn't exactly seen as a fair and fun deck to play against at the time either. Or Freeze Mage, for that matter, which also was the prime example for the game not changing enough, because Ice Block kept that deck alive, regardless of the original Standard rotations. Then people started complaining that Evergreen sets were way too influential, and no other set has been trashed as much as Classic and Basic since.
Likewise, it's difficult to say exactly why the player- and viewerbase is dwindling, but it's not a new thing either. It's on a decline at least since 2017/2018, with Blizzard's MAUs going from roughtly 40-45m to something around 30 right now (not entirely sure, since I haven't checked reports in a while). This is for all of Blizzard, but it's reasonable to assume that Hearthstone's playerbase isn't unaffected by these developments. Again, you can say that HS could do more to remain popular, but it would be unfair to say that it's not doing as much as it used to, because really, the devs were never as productive and pushing for change than they are now. And it's a different question what policy could help with that. Just my personal opinion, but I think anything making the game more expensive (like increasing the number of expansions) is not going to help with that.
A large part of Hearthstone's current popularity comes from Battlegrounds. Many streamers switched to Battlegrounds, partially because they like it more, and I have to assume that a sufficient part of their audience likes it better as well. The mere introduction of Battlegrounds happened last year and came out of the blue. Nobody uninvolved really expected that Hearthstone would even introduce a new game mode, much less one that is gaining this kind of attention. And it is, even more shocking, the least expensive mode to properly participate in (but also the least rewarding, save for PvE stuff).
Of course, it's possible that Hearthstone will eventually fall into obscurity, or that Blizzard pulls the plug out of the competitive scene like they did with Heroes of the Storm. But for the time being, at least, it doesn't look that way. Not that we'd know, but Blizzard moving on to another pet project doesn't seem too likely right now, given some of the controversies surrounding both Blizzard itself and live service games (and lootboxes in particular) in general. When it comes to cash cows, even Hearthstone is (and was always) far behind other mobile titles in Activision's possession, particularly the King games.
There's no golden halcyon days where the game was updating weekly. At the height of its popularity Hearthstone was even more static than it is now, with expansions coming at the same rate, but with every other expansion being an adventure with a much lesser meta impact (so the gaps between "full" expansions were twice as long), and with balance changes being drastically less common than they are now. While I would love more content, linking the game's fall in popularity to the pace of its releases is nonsense.
I think complaining about the quality of the content is a lot more sensical (even if I disagree there's been a drop - I think the game's loss in popularity is due to the simple passage of time and the increase in competition), but if anything the meta shifts more often than ever.
The new solo adventure is killing hearthstone also. One new hero every MONTH? that's ridiculous. They are trying to drag the adventure out over almost a year. Talk about bore-fest, nobody wants to stay around for that. It should be a new hero every week or two weeks. I know a lot of people who have told me they are just gonna log in every month to see if the new hero for the adventure is out or not. Way to go blizz, small indie company.