Valve announced this week it had officially ended development on Artifact and its rework, and both games are now free to play on Steam (with the original Artifact being rebranded as Artifact Classic). This marks a soft end for Valve’s biggest failure of a game, and the company’s internal attempts to course-correct.
Originally released in 2018, Artifact is a digital card game based on the Dota 2 universe. While it had a decent player count at launch, interest in it dipped precipitously right after. Even Gabe Newell referred to it as “an interesting failure” and said Valve was surprised that it was such a big flop. User complaints at launch centered around such things as the pricing — the initial price for the game got you a handful of cards, while you’d have to purchase the rest of your deck individually, in packs, or with tickets (which also cost money).
Valve announced last year that it was working on a revamp of the game, Anthem-style. This reboot was apparently so large it was referred to in-house as Artifact 2. And now, sadly, that revamp has gone the way of Anthem — meaning, it’s been abandoned. The unfinished revamped version of Artifact has been put on Steam as Artifact Foundry (which almost sounds like some kind of ironworking sim — and I’d much rather play that). The game is unfinished, but Valve assures that all it’s missing is “polish,” and the gameplay itself is finished.
As for why it scrapped everything, Valve was refreshingly upfront about it: No one was interested, or at least not enough people were interested to make the endeavor worthwhile. The announcement reads: “While we’re reasonably satisfied we accomplished most of our game-side goals, we haven’t managed to get the active player numbers to a level that justifies further development at this time… While both games will remain playable, we don’t plan to ship any further gameplay updates.”