Valve seems to be divesting from Artifact.
On March 7, Uploadvr.com discovered that the publisher had laid off 13 people from its staff. Though the initial report focused on the Valve hardware team getting hit, Artibuff discovered that Magic: The Gathering creator and Artifact designer Richard Garfield and Artifact co-designer Skaff Elias were among the casualties.
“We weren't surprised by the layoff considering how rocky the launch was,” Garfield said. “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 went on to note that he and Elias receiving their pink slips made sense with the game now fully released. He also added that Valve would be better served with a leaner crew on the game going forward and commended the publisher for its commitment to delivering a high quality product.
Regardless, this is another blow to a game that has already been struggling.
Despite being reasonably received by fans prior tp its release in 2018, Artifact launched in November to little fanfare. Though the digital card game received praise from gaming publications for its depth and unique qualities, it was widely panned by fans for its intense focus on microtransactions despite already carrying a $20 base price tag.
This led to a mass exodus of players from the game. After Artifact’s player count peaked at over 60,000, it dipped to an average of 11,000 in December, then to 2,700 in January, and finally under 800 in February. As of this writing, Steam Charts lists the peak player count in the last 48 hours at 646.
Coupled with this is full radio silence from Valve. Though other Valve titles like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive receive regular updates on their official blogs and Twitter, the official Artifact blog and Twitter account have been quiet since December 21. This had led some to wonder if Valve may have abandoned the game.
While Garfield indicated that he is freely offering his advice to Valve despite being laid off, it's likely an ill omen when it comes to the previously planned expansions and esports events.