Quote from tronix »using a digital platform to reach a larger playerbase, and making gameplay more fluid and visually appealing isnt the same as 'esports'. sure it lends itself to being more attractive to watch in the event that it gets popular enough, but it isnt the point. its like saying blizzard designed hearthstone for esports, which makes zero sense. they simply made it as a more approachable game, capitalizing on one of their most profitable franchises (warcraft), that offered low investment/high replayability gameplay to the masses.
To be exact, Hearthstone was never meant to be a serious game. It originated as a marketing gimmick to promote and keep the hype for a new World of Warcraft expansion, in principle similar to Fallout Shelter which was developed as a promotion game for Fallout 4. Iirc the original dev team was about 2 guys not even working full time. Then they realized that they by accident had established the probably easiest to maintain cash-cow in the history of PC gaming and Blizzard are not idiots, they know how to run a healthy franchise and are not dependent on short term profit.
There are mainly 3 reasons why Hearthstone is so succesful and appealing to the masses.
Polished User Experience
This is something Blizzard absolutely excels at in all their games. It runs smoothly, relatively bug-free and everything looks gorgeous. More important, everything feels just right. Booster opening alone is a masterpiece design-wise. The tension building, animations, LEGENDARY!! - someone really did their homework on conditioning and which addiction-buttons to push. Nothing is "just a button". Compared to this, MTGO feels like MS Office 1.5. MTGA goes in the right direction but does not play in the same league.
Even Tron players can understand Hearthstone in 10 minutes. Rules are intuitive, it is not very complex and you can learn most of it just by watching some streamer for a bit. This plus the polished UX makes it fun to watch. Also very important, and this is another Blizzard-thing, everybody can at some point have their moment, no matter the skill. You can slam that Yog Soron, have mighty things happen for some seconds and maybe even win. Randomness is a great equalizer. Joe Average can win vs. Brian Kibler by winning the deciding coin flips. MTG has very little of this. Joe Average won't beat Kai Budde except when the stars align and Cthulhu rises from the depths. Rules are often unintuitive at best (Creatures are spells? I can't bolt the goyf? What is a "stack"?). Competitively, this is a boon for magic as it makes for a way deeper and fascinating game than hearthstone. But that comes at a cost.
I repeat myself but the prices for Magic are simply insane. There is no other way to put it and no way to justify. I can buy a modern deck from scratch or get a tailor made suit instead. There is no way in hell this business model will fly against free to play + pay to skip. This also effects how people can pick this up as a career. With hearthstone, anyone with a computer and halfway decent internet access can work their way up to become a popular streamer. This is a powerful thing and very important for the success of any esport.