Valve has failed to fully execute on many of its most popular IPs, but the biggest flop in company history is likely the short-lived Dota 2 card game Artifact.
There’s something to learn from a failure of that size, and Akshon Esports did a deep dive on the Artifact’s short life and sudden death. The 70-minute documentary looks at the entirety of Artifact’s existence, starting with its heavily maligned reveal at The International 2017 all the way through to the planned re-release of the game that never actually happened.
A long list of personalities within both the TCG and Dota 2 scenes contributed, as well as some of the early adopters to content creation for Artifact. The most familiar for Dota 2 fans is likely DotaCinema’s Shannon “SUNSfan” Scotten, who is joined by pro player Miguel “Mogwai” Guerrero, caster Rob “Reforge” Gonzales, and more.
The documentary starts with the initial build of the game, with its unceremonious reveal and Valve’s lofty promises of a $1 million tournament. The discussion then turns to the game’s notoriously ugly launch and swift player decline, which was followed by Valve’s apparent divorce from the game.
No news is broken within the documentary, but the quick run through Artifact’s lifespan highlights what a catastrophe the game was with lessons that can be applied to Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive as well.
Artifact launched in 2018 to generally negative reviews due to its steep learning curve and a rejection of the free-to-play monetization model that had been used by other popular digital card games like Hearthstone and The Elder Scrolls: Legends. The game instead used what was intended to be a more “realistic” model where players needed to purchase booster packs with real money or buy singles from the Steam Marketplace in order to expand their collections.
Though the game garnered some interest upon its initial release, its player count fell precipitously from there. Valve went silent on the game across all its social media channels, giving fans no clue as to whether the previously promised tournaments or expansions were ever going to come. Behind the scenes, this stemmed from a shift of development resources away from Artifact and into Valve’s other ill-fated Dota 2 spin-off, Dota Underlords.
Eventually, Valve announced that it was planning a re-release of Artifact before inviting players into a closed beta for an updated version of the game. Despite the game never actually exiting its closed beta, Valve announced that it was ceasing development of the game due to its inability to attract more players.
Yes, Artifact is functionally a dead game. Though Valve committed to remaking it and has two different versions of the game in the forms of Artifact Foundry and Artifact Classic, the game will not be receiving future updates or expansions.