Valve doesn’t make a whole lot of original games, but its small library has always translated to quality over quantity in the past, from cult classic Portal and Team Fortress 2 to the Half-Life franchise, one of the most acclaimed series of all times. That being said, when Valve decided to unveil its card-based Hearthstone competitor Artifact at The International 2017, the fan reaction was a far cry from the success it has historically enjoyed.
From its launch, Valve has struggled to balance its first foray into the digital TCG realm. From the get-go, Artifact diverged from Hearthstone on the basis that the base game is $19.99. On top of that, the Seattle-based company’s initial attempt at designing a functioning monetization system was met with ire by fans, with a Redditor’s post outlining the absurdities of the revenue-oriented approach Valve chose for players to build their decks.
While Valve later on sought to address these issues, the negative connotations associated with both the card game and its balance have no doubt impacted the interests of the fan base, as at the end of 2018, GitHyp has reported that Artifact has dropped out of the top 100 most games played list for Steam. Initial interest launched the game to a strong start at 60k, but the results still paled compared to “Valve’s other top games on Steam in 2018 such as Dota 2 (845k players) and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (747k players).”
In fact, Artifact has taken such a hit that its player count flatlined to a measly 3k, hardly a number to be confident about for a game that launched late November. Steam is now entering an era marked by new competitors encroaching on its digital storefront, from Discord’s newest expansion to Epic Games marketing its platform with free games and exclusives. Given the lack of impact from Artifact, it’s unclear what Valve might do next to retain its market share.