The news is significant for one major reason; this is the first time Blizzard has ‘failed’ with a released title. Games like Ghost and Warcraft Adventures, titles that likely weren’t going to succeed, never made it out the door. HotS did, and now its being put out to pasture. Regardless of ‘why’, that’s a bad look PR-wise.
Which isn’t to suggest that is unexpected. Again, the surprise from my side is it took until 2018 to happen. Unlike in the past, HotS was coming into a genre that had established titles run by competent developers. This wasn’t WoW coming in and facing the launch-state dumpster fire that was EQ2, run by clownshoes SoE. It wasn’t even Diablo 3 launching into a genre that didn’t have major players (though one could argue Path of Exile has now firmly eclipsed D3 for top ARPG, another dark spot on Blizzard). No, this was a poorly-executed game, lacking the usual Blizzard polish, running face first into the two-headed monster of LoL and DOTA2, run by Riot and Valve respectively, and got chewed up.
It’s hard for anyone to stay at the top forever. Blizzard had an incredibly impressive run, starting in 1994 with Warcraft (Rock and Roll Racing in 1993 for the SNES was solid btw) and going until WotLK started the decline of WoW and, really, Blizzard itself in 2008. SC2 was fine but really a reskin of SC1. Diablo 3 was a launch disaster with the auction house. Hearthstone was never a number one mobile title, though it has done well-enough for what it is. HotS came after that. The only big title of note since 2008 has been Overwatch, and that title is a rebrand of the long-rumored and ultimately unmade Titan MMO. Add all the dumpster expansions to WoW since 2008, and yea, a fall from grace compared to shipping WC1, WC2, WC3, D1, D2, SC. The studio that once only released massive hits has only struck gold (relatively even then, with OW) for basically a decade.
I’m sure their next title, Diablo Immortal, will turn it all around though…