A surprise message from Valve hints at the return of Artifact

(Image credit: Valve)

Valve's Artifact "is an intricate and rewarding card game," we said in our 80/100 review at the end of 2018. "Not only is Artifact's depth remarkable, it also doesn't come at any great loss of accessibility." Despite that, and the fact that it came from Valve, which has a pretty good track record making games, it flopped badly. Two months after release, its player count had cratered; three months later and the Artifact category on Twitch had become a wasteland of porn and memes.

Despite the total flameout, Valve boss Gabe Newell sounded almost sanguine about the experience in an interview with Edge Magazine (via GamesRadar.) "Artifact was an interesting failure in its first go-round. We were surprised. We thought that it was a really strong product," he said.

Valve said a year ago it wanted another crack at Artifact, but has been effectively silent about the game since. Artifact designers Richard Garfield and Skaff Elias are also no longer working with Valve: They were let go shortly after Artifact came out. But Newell said that Valve is in fact still working on it, and according to Edge the changes are extensive enough that it's referred to as Artifact 2 internally.

"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."

It may be a coincidence (although I doubt it) but Valve's Artifact team also posted its first update since March 2019. 

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"First off, we wanted to say thanks for all of your tweets, emails and posts. The continued interest in Artifact has been encouraging, and we sincerely appreciate all of the feedback!" it said.

"You might notice some changes soon—we are starting tests on our systems and infrastructure. This shouldn’t impact live Artifact but we wanted to give you a heads up. Expect more news after the launch of Half-Life: Alyx!"

Half-Life: Alyx comes out on March 23, by the way. We'll keep you posted.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.