Artifact designer describes launch as "rocky"

Artifact designer describes launch as "rocky"

The designer of Valve's new digital collectable card game Artifact Richard Garfield has said he is unsurprised bythe layoffs the firm made due to that project not having the best launch.

Speaking to fan blog Artibuff - who reached out to see if he was one of staff laid off last week, Garfield confirmed that he and former Wizards of the Coast VP Skaff Elias had their contracts terminated. He is, however, optimistic about the game's future.

"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," he said.

"The layoff makes sense for a number of reasons. To name a couple; now that the game is out there 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. Another - the expertise that 3 donkeys brought is less critical after listening to us for 4+ years."

He continued: "Both Skaff and I remain optimistic about the quality of the game and have offered our feedback and advice in an ongoing gratis capacity simply because we would like to see the game do as well as we think it can. We enjoyed working with Valve and I was impressed with their relentless focus on the quality of the game and experience being offered to the player."

Artifact launched in November 2018 and boasted 55,000 concurrent players in its first few days in the wild. That figure dropped dramatically following the game's release. At the time of writing, Artifact boasts a 30-day player peak of 1,384 users, according to SteamCharts.

The fact that Artifact - a Valve-made game - is struggling on Steam is perhaps an indication of how hard it is to be a success on the platform. Thanks to the company's open platform policy, there are more games than ever launching. Over half of the total releases available for purchase on Steam by the end of 2018 were launched in the last two years.

There's also the fact that fans of the collectable card game genre have a wide variety of options to choose from, including the free-to-play Hearthstone. That being said, this didn't stop Valve seeing success in the hugely crowded MOBA genre with its own Dota 2.

Aggressive monetisation didn't help the game, either. 

Some of the layoffs that Valve announced last week were involved in the company's VR business.

"Last month, 13 full-time employees were let go and a portion of our contractor agreements were terminated," Valve said in a statement to Variety.

"It's an unfortunate part of business, but does not represent any major changes at the company. We thank those affected for their contribution and wish them well in future endeavours."

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.