Valve’s new card game launched on Nov. 28, and in just 100 days, it’s become a ghost town. The number of concurrent players recently dropped to just 500, and as a result, you can now buy every card in the game for a total of $60.
The game was criticized when it came out because everything in it required spending money. The game itself cost $20, and prior to a patch released a month later, the only way to get new packs and earn tickets to compete in gauntlet competitions for prizes was to spend additional cash. Now it’s possible for anyone to complete their collection for the standard retail price of a triple-A game, a far cry from the approximately $300 required back in November.
It’s the logical result as demand for new cards diminishes while the supply from new packs being opened slowly ticks upward. What’s surprising is just how far things have fallen in such a short period. A steady drip of negative Steam reviews still appears daily on the game’s Steam page, and even the positive ones aren’t exactly glowing endorsements. “This is my acquired taste, but I do not recommend you acquire this taste with me,” wrote one player who had put over 100 hours into the game.
In January, the player base had fallen by 97.5 percent, with the number of people playing at any one time peaking at around 1,500. Artifact then received two small updates. The first on Jan. 18 fixed some bugs and shortened animations to make the game run more quickly. The second on Jan. 28 lowered the amount of gold needed to play certain item cards and added a few more options to the game’s tournament mode, like an option for playing randomized decks. The patch notes for that update also included a section called “Unchanged: Still in it for the long haul.”
It was a reference to when Valve had told fans through the official Artifact Twitter account that it had more updates planned and wouldn’t stop working on the game anytime soon. That was back on Dec. 10. The Artifact Twitter account hasn’t tweeted anything new since Dec. 21, raising questions among the few remaining players as well as some of the ones eager to potentially jump back in.
One recent thread on the game’s forum is titled “Valve plz send a sign.” The person said they regretfully left the game because of how long it took to matchmake and the lack of encouragement from Valve that things might change anytime soon. Prior to the game’s release, Valve announced plans to hold a $1 million-prize Artifact tournament in early 2019. There’s been no further information about whether that will still happen, either.
Vale did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its future plans for the game.
Then there’s the question of whether Artifact will end up going free-to-play like competitors Hearthstone and Gwent. While not a popular possibility among many of the game’s most hardcore players, who have already financially invested in the existing version of the game, others feel it will be a necessary concession to make the game more popular. The latter group points to Dota 2, the free-to-play strategy game on which Artifact is based, as an example.
Of course, as the game continues to shrink and card prices plummet further, that reality is looming anyway.