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World of Warcraft maker Blizzard announces new digital card game Hearthstone

Free-to-play game aims to make Warcraft universe as open as possible to outsiders

Developers of the cult role-playing game World of Warcraft have unveiled their latest project within the franchise in the form of a 'free-to-play digital strategy card game' called Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.

Blizzard Entertainment made an announcement at gaming convention Pax East in Boston, Massachusetts, today that a small team had developed Hearthstone and an official website soon followed with further details, including screenshots, a trailer and even links letting gamers sign up to a beta version.

Among the site's FAQs, Blizzard explains what led to the development of the game: "We looooooove collectible card games and have been playing them since our Silicon & Synapse days. Creating a digital strategy card game felt like a natural next step for us, so we put together a small team and have been hammering away at Hearthstone for a while now. We’re excited to be working on something different from our other games, which we’ve wanted to do for a long time. Same goes for creating a game for iPad in addition to PC."

Hearthstone, available for users on Windows and Mac (with iPad expected later) is based around card trading, with players earning cards in-game or buying them for approximately a dollar each.

Blizzard says it has designed Hearthstone to be as accessible as possible for those not familiar with the Warcraft universe, but WoW devotees may find themselves feeling a little luke-warm about the latest announcement, perhaps expecting a new expansion or full game.

Leaving a comment on gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun, a user calling himself Shakermaker said: "This is – for me at least – the most underwhelming news of the year so far."