A few days ago, Valve Software confirmed that it had laid off 13 employees and contractors. A number of those layoffs involved company's hardware and virtual reality teams. Now it appears that Valve is parting ways with designer Richard Garfield and fellow Magic: The Gathering veteran Skaff Elias, both of whom were key figures in the development of Artifact, Valve's entry into the CCG genre.
Both gentlemen created the consulting design firm Three Donkeys after leaving Wizards of the Coast, and they joined Valve four years ago to lead the Artifact team. With Artifact struggling out of the gate though, Valve appears ready to move on.
"We weren't surprised by the layoff considering how rocky the launch was, 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. The layoff makes sense for a number of reasons," Garfield told Artibuff.
Artifact launched in November to decent reviews, but soon found itself struggling to break out of its hardcore niche. Artifact's concurrent players dropped fast after launch, its weak numbers blamed on everything from its esoteric design to an oversaturated market. Whatever the reason, Artifact hasn't been able to match the success of Hearthstone, which has also seen its numbers drop of late.
In the wake of its rough launch, questions about Artifact's longevity remain. The official Artifact Twitter hasn't updated since December 21, 2018 and the last official statement on the game came on January 28, 2019. The latter is odd, as Artifact was actually updated after that with a patch on February 7.
The CCG isn't on the top 100 games according to Valve's Steam & Game Stats, forcing us to turn to services like Steam Charts to figure out current player numbers. Artifact's peak player count for the last 24 hours sits at 494 players, down from an all-time peak of 60,740. With its principal developers now departing, Artifact's future is very much in doubt.