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Richard Garfield leaves Valve, puts Artifact’s future in question

Richard Garfield, the legendary game designer behind Magic: The Gathering, says he has been laid off from Valve as part of a recent modest downsizing effort at the company. The move comes as Artifact, Valve’s Dota 2-based card game which Garfield worked on closely, struggles to find a continuing audience.

“We weren’t surprised by the layoff considering how rocky the launch was,” Garfield told Artifact-focused site Artibuff. “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.”

Garfield goes on to suggest that a smaller Artifact team makes some sense now that the game has been launched and that Valve has probably already maximized the value to be gleaned from Garfield’s contract company, 3 Donkeys.

“The expertise that 3 Donkeys brought is less critical after listening to us for 4+ years,” he wrote. “Both [3 Donkeys co-founder] Skaff [Elias] 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.”

Garfield was a big part of Artifact‘s pre-release promotion, as the veteran game designer’s stamp of approval was put on Valve’s first new game in over five years. A year ago, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell touted Garfield’s four years of work on the project to that point and made the lofty promise that Artifact would be “to trading card games what Half-Life 2 was to single-player action.”

After launching with tens of thousands of simultaneous players in November, though, Artifact quickly declined in popularity, to the point that only about 500 players have been online at any time in the last week, according to stats collected by SteamDB. The game has faced widespread criticism for its monetization system, which requires paying real money for every card past a few starter decks and has led to a messy second-hand economy for digital card resellers. Artifact has also faced complaints that certain rare cards are overpowered, leading Valve to backtrack on a promise that cards would not be changed after their release.

As Artibuff points out, Artifact has not received an update since January 28, and Valve has not updated the community on its plans for the game since that update promised the company was “still in it for the long haul.” Garfield’s departure certainly doesn’t inspire confidence for the future of a game that, as of now, looks like one of Valve’s more spectacular failures.

Listing image by Valve Software

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