Valve doesn’t see its upcoming card game Artifact as a direct competitor with Blizzard's Hearthstone.
That’s according to programmer Jeep Barnett and Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield, who is working with Valve on the Dota card game.
While Blizzard’s card game kick-started the popularity of digital card games back in 2014, the pair sees plenty of space to carve a space for Artifact to find success.
"I don't look at Artifact as being a challenger [to Hearthstone]," said Barnett, speaking to GamesIndustry.biz. "We started Artifact years ago, and when Hearthstone came out, it proved that we weren't just crazy for thinking a card game is a good idea because clearly there's an audience for it.
“It's not a zero-sum game. All these different games interest people in other games that are of similar types. I'd definitely say that a lot of feedback from people on Reddit is saying things like 'I've never played a card game, but Valve is making one, so I'm really excited to see what they do with it.'
“I think that's going to make new types of players who play card games who will go play Hearthstone as well."
Artifact is aiming to provide a far more complex experience than its Warcraft competitor and is further differentiating itself by ditching the free-to-play model. A $20 starter set will give players access to the game and two starter decks, with all future cards acquired through purchase or trading. There are no in-game transactions, but also no earning new cards through play.
Garfield added: "Free play always comes along with suboptimal experiences because you have to sacrifice something for free play. What we were after was something where you could shift your collection around freely, but you felt you had an investment in a piece of the game."
While Artifact’s announcement may have attracted a muted response (Valve’s long-awaited return to game development is a card game?), Barnett claims he doesn’t recall a time in his 13-year career at the company where it wasn’t actively making games.
"Valve is a very interesting place," said Barnett. "We work in strange ways. We've always developed games. I'm a game programmer; I've been at Valve for thirteen years. With one exception I can think of, the entire time I've been at Valve, I've always worked on games and there have always been games in development.
“[Artifact] started over three years ago. It's been in development for a long time. It takes us a long time to be happy with the things that we're making, to show publicly in a place like this. We're our own harshest critics sometimes. We always have irons in the fire and as soon as they're ready, we push them out."
Artifact is due to launch this November, Valve-time notwithstanding.