I’ll save you the introduction by just pointing that Artifact was a disappointment from the very announcement, and was kept a disappointment until its death.
Nobody asked for card game being announced with so much fanfare, and to be forced as the next “big” thing for Valve. To add insult to injury, the pricing scheme also proved that nobody wanted Artifact either.
Whoever thought that Artifact was gonna be a success was tone deaf with the gaming industry, specially the players. Not only the game was complex from the start, altering the very principle of a board game, but also pricey.
When you have the almighty Hearthstone in the market already topping charts of popularity and net income, and other well established TCG like Magic: The Gathering, Gwent, and even Pokémon in some extent, you have to offer something that is different but approachable.
Artifact did not, in any way.
The elephant in the room: pricing
Everything started with the wrong foot when Valve announced before launch it would cost USD $19.99, while other games were free-to-play. The price was only to get the game and a “starter pack”, along some other digital goodies. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. Getting cards to play was the other culprit for the low reception of the game.
Cards could only be obtained with real money: buying USD $2 card packs, buying specific cards via the Steam Marketplace, or winning draft modes. The latter costed tickets to apply, which were sold at the ridiculous price of USD $5 — yes, more than the card packs.
Not only that, duplicate cards from card packs were not recyclable either, so a flood on the Marketplace would only return a small fraction of the money invested to get them in the first place.
Talking about the Marketplace, the economics became quickly awful for both buyers and sellers. Rare cards started to cost around USD $20, the same price of the game itself, and the whole collection for USD $350. Months later, after the community abandoned the game, it crashed to only USD $40. The outrageous pricing was maintained, and Valve did nothing to make the game economically approachable.
Now that the game has been practically assassinated by their own creators, cards are being sold for dimes, crashing every player investment in the game.
A F2P model was the obvious choice from the start, at least, to delete the entry barrier and allow more players to, at least, be interested in the game, but they never did that not any worthwhile change to the game itself. The community tossed around some ideas to keep the game monetarily friendly, but Valve never listened, or cared at all. Artifact never recouped any of the initial traction.
Too little, too late
The biggest problem of Artifact players now is that the game has been declared dead. The “old” Artifact, with all of its problems and the main reason why its popularity declined so fast, was meant to be replaced by a new 2.0 version, called “Artifact Foundry”. The latter will cease to be worked on. As explained by this post, the team behind it has ceased development on that.
The announcement wasn’t a change of strategy, it was an abandonment.
What it means to cease development? Well, basically, people no longer work on the game. The responsibles may have shifted their attention to other projects or games, or leave the company, so any improvement or fixes are out of the window because the lack of manpower or time.
In the case of Artifact, both old and new versions of the game are left as “they are”, and will be kept on life support until the servers that maintain the game, like the players profiles, library information and matchmaking, are retired or reconditioned for other needs.
Is there hope? No.
There is little hope for the Artifact community, if there is any left of it, for a renaissance. There was an influx of 1,000 players who started to play Artifact now that it has become free, but is so little that it it will probably dip once the heat of the announcement is gone. That’s because the announcement wasn’t a change of strategy, it was an abandonment.
By now, Artifact has become like an abandoned water park. It was fun for the 60,000 people who had the opportunity and resources to play when it launched, but the numbers quickly dip to less than 400 in the span of four months and never took off. The people behind Artifact denied any change of strategy to keep it alive. Staying was a pricey endeavour, and there was better places that offered more fun for less money.
Games like Artifact will pass into history as those interesting games that were dead on arrival, not because gameplay or development hell, but rather, because someone wrongly decided to add zeros to some price tags.