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Failed Dota 2 card game Artifact is preparing for a massive comeback

Valve are on something of a roll right now. Half-Life: Alyx is looking absolutely stunning ahead of next week’s release. While Dota Underlords (and auto-battlers generally) might be on a bit of a downturn, it’s hard to say it hasn’t done well for itself. Now that they’re back in full swing, it might be time for Valve to bring their dustiest skeleton out of the closet. Gabe Newell reckons it might be time for another shot at Artifact.

An attempt to translate Dota 2 into a collectable card game, Artifact was put on indefinite hold this time last year after player numbers took a near-immediate nosedive. Besides that one time folks used Artifact’s Twitch category to stream porn, pirated movies and actual real-life murders, there’s been nary a peep from the three-lane card battler.

Like everyone else, I’d sort of imagined Valve had quietly swept their failed card game under the carpet. Not so, it seems. According to Valve head honcho Gabe Newell, there’s a concerted effort to “reboot” the Dota-themed card game

“Artifact was an interesting failure in its first go-round.” Newell told Edge Magazine (via GamesRadar, “We were surprised. We thought that it was a really strong product.”

“We ran an experiment, we got a negative result, and now we need to see if we’ve learned anything from that, so let’s try again. And that’s what [the Artifact team] have been doing and that’s what they’re getting ready to release. Based on the reaction to it, what was wrong with the product? How did we get there? Let’s fix those things and take another run at it.”

Edge reports that this reboot is being described internally as Artifact 2 – but aren’t specific on whether this’d be a full-blown sequel or a complete do-over. I can’t say a sequel to a flop would go down too well. Newell’s right in saying, though, that this would need to be a significant reboot “to justify its existence to customers and to markets.”

Our Matt quite liked Artifact, hanging on ’til the very end for the game’s comfortable strategic multitudes. Even as someone who usually hates card games, I’m with him. A bad draw winds me up like nothing else, but Artifact’s three-lane plays and cross-board options gave its fights a broader, turn-based tactics feel that made the RNG nature of the deck felt easier to stomach.

Besides, Artifact’s soundtrack slapped hard.

More than anything, though, Artifact was a marketplace. Artifact wasn’t free – but on top of the cost-of-entry, you had folks selling top-tier cards like Axe for 30 bloody quid. Artifact designer and Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield downplayed monetisation complaints, decrying “pay-to-win” comments as “a sloppy term levelled at any game where you can buy components” in his own look at Artifact’s collapse.

I’d still love to see it make a comeback, someday. And with Valve on something of a roll right now, I’m holding out that they could pull it off

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Natalie Clayton

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Writes news when everyone else is asleep, sometimes

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