Last week it emerged Valve had laid off 13 employees and contractors, and we now know this includes Richard Garfield and his contracted Three Donkeys team who helped created Artifact.
Garfield is a legend in the CCG industry for his creation of Magic: The Gathering, and it was this that led to him and his team being contracted for Artifact some four years ago. Artifact’s launch has been troubled though, and it’s led to the Three Donkeys contracting team having their contracts terminated by Valve.
"We weren't surprised by the layoff considering how rocky the launch was, the team was enthusiastic about the game and were confident that they had a good product but it became clear it wasn't going to be easy to get the game to where we wanted it," said Garfield during an interview with Artibuff, an Artifact fan site.
“The layoff makes sense for a number of reasons. To name a couple; now that the game is out there time is more critical, so more voices within the team that you have to navigate may not be as good as making less considered decisions faster. Another - the expertise that 3 donkeys brought is less critical after listening to us for 4+ years.”
Historically, failures just aren’t something Valve even does. It would be difficult to categorise Artifact as anything but a catastrophic failure though. Having launched reasonably well with 60,000 concurrent players, with two weeks this had plummeted down to 10K concurrent. Now, three months later, Artifact has 345 players online at the time of writing. It’s a dead game, save for the addicts scratching around trying to find some worth in the hundreds of dollars they’ve invested in card packs.
I would say that Valve isn’t the sort to abandon a game either, but the truth is they probably are if there’s more money to be made elsewhere. Look no further than Half-Life 2: Episode 3, a game which almost certainly doesn’t exist because Counter-Strike, Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress, and Steam in general, made too much money for a Half-Life 2 expansion to be worth Valve’s time.
However, Garfield seems to believe Valve hasn’t given up on the game just yet. What can be done to rescue the DOTA 2 spin-off remains to be seen, but Garfield’s work here is done. To be fair to him, the actual card-playing portion of Artifact seems decent enough; it’s the troubling monetisation that’s been the biggest issue. Not only is the game itself £16 but you also have to pay for card packs to stay competitive, and even pay for event tickets to play matches in which cards can be earned if you win. It’s a bit of a horrific mess when it comes to monetisation, and we suspect the blame for that lies at the feet of Valve itself.
Do you think the future of Artifact is doomed? Or can it be rescued from the mire with some well-judged updates? Let us know your thoughts below!