Blizzard has finally provided a statement as to why eight Hearthstone cards received new art, and in some cases new names, during the July 1st update. The absolute avalanche of news and content dumped on our heads Monday may have caused you to miss the changes, but suffice to say these cards were all categorically "toned down" of their violence and sexuality.
The statement, provided to Kotaku, is fairly standard corporate-speak that doesn't provide specifics into why these specific cards were updated and others were not. It does, however, explain that Hearthstone is striving for a unique visual identity independent of World of Warcraft:
"The recent changes were applied to make those cards more visually cohesive and consistent with the art style of Hearthstone today. When Hearthstone first launched, we brought in a lot of artwork from the physical World of Warcraft trading card game. In the years since, Hearthstone has developed a look, feel, and personality of its own that distinguishes it from that of Warcraft—though we still love being a part of that universe. We’ll always be looking for ways to deliver on the game’s unique style, charm, and personality."
This isn't the first time that Hearthstone has received modesty updates to the art. In February the hero portrait for Jaina, the default Mage character, was changed only enough to add a camisole under her armor.
Many players believe these recent changes are being made to appease Chinese censorship laws and help the game become more successful around the world, but lead designer David Kosak says that that simply is not the case.
Speaking to PCGamer, Kosak said "It wasn't because we were looking at ratings, or international [regulations], or anything like that. We really just wanted our artists to feel good about everything in the set."
Kosak went onto explain that the art of the changed cards simply didn't meet their standards and that they "wouldn't have been printed today." The more subtle changes, such as the removal of a very small amount of blood from Eviscerate, has lead many to believe this isn't the whole story.
The Hearthstone subreddit has been having a field day with these "art nerfs," pointing out all of the remaining cards that feature gore and/or scantily-clad characters and editing the images to comical effect.
The card changes in the July 1st patch came with 10 new cards, including 2 legendary minions, Brightwing and High Inquisitor Whitemane. We also were officially introduced to the next expansion, Saviors of Uldum, which will continue the Year of the Dragon plot line and reintroduce the League of Explorers to Hearthstone. The expansion will release August 6th and is available for pre-order now.