Last week, news broke that Valve had terminated a few contractor agreements and laid off thirteen full time employees. Most notably, it has come to light that of those affected, Richard Garfield, the creator of hit card game Magic: The Gathering and the lead designer of Valve’s digital card game Artifact, had his contract with the company terminated. In an email between Artifact fan site Artibuff and Garfield, Garfield confirmed that he and Skaff Elias, who make up Three Donkeys, had been let go from 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.
Garfield and Elias were brought in to develop Artifact over four years ago. The game finally released last November. However, since release, the game’s player count has plummeted, and the game fell out of Steam’s top 100 most played games by the end of last year. Due to these reasons, Garfield stated that, “The layoff makes sense for a number of reasons.”
Two of the main reasons Garfield cited were that, since the game released, “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.” Also, their expertise is less needed by Valve now after developing the game for so long. Though they have been let go by Valve, Garfield states that both he and Elias “remain optimistic about the quality of the game.” Garfield and Elias even went as far as to offer their continued feedback and advice on the game to hopefully see the game succeed.
With the recent lay offs and issues with Artifact, Valve hasn’t had the best of times recently. Along with this, the company is facing fierce new competition for the first time on the online digital storefront side with Epic Games and Discord opening new digital storefronts with a better revenue split for developers compared to Steam, exclusive games, and other services.