Valve responds after Artifact community slams 'pay for everything' model

Update: Valve has addressed some (but not all) of the complaints in a blog post. The next beta update, coming today, will include the option to play Call to Arms Phantom Draft events in user-created tournaments, as well as a Casual Phantom Draft gauntlet to practice drafting without spending a ticket. Before the beta ends, Valve will also add "a system that allows extra, unwanted cards to be recycled into event tickets," so that low value cards aren't a total waste. The developer hasn't commented on requests for card trading or the difficulty of winning card packs. The original story follows.

Original story: Artifact's public beta launches tomorrow, but many would-be players have lost their appetite for Valve's digital card game because of its monetisation model. A Reddit post from yesterday that encourages players to cancel their pre-orders is now the top post of all-time on the Artifact subreddit, while numerous other popular threads are slamming the payment model, described as "pay for everything you do".

Here's the deal: You have to pay $20 for the Artifact base game, which gets you some starter cards. The only way to get new cards on top of that is to spend money. You can buy booster packs packs for $2, you can buy and sell specific cards through the marketplace (for which Valve takes a small cut), or you can win cards by playing game modes that require paid-for tickets to enter. Currently, you cannot trade for cards.

The community is also upset at the contents of the 12-card booster packs: one of them is guaranteed to be a hero card, but many of the others could well be starter cards, which are likely to be close to worthless on the marketplace, because other players will have acquired them as part of the base game. "I'm just so saddened by the greed Valve is showing," said Reddit user filipanton then he started this thread. "I was actually changing my mind a bit about the game after seeing some gameplay as it seems quite complex and interesting, but the 'pay for everything you do' model, and now this, just forces me to not support the game."

You can win card packs by playing either Expert Constructed/Phantom Draft Gauntlets, which cost one ticket to enter, or Keeper Draft Gauntlets, which costs two tickets and five packs to play. To get packs, and to win back your tickets, you'll have to win a series of games against progressively harder opponents. The exact numbers are in Tim's post here, but basically it's going to be hard—and once you lose two games, your time in the gauntlet is up and you have to buy more tickets to play again.

It's not just Reddit users that are annoyed about the model: Team Liquid pro player Savjz tweeted that the "paywall is huge fucking mistake", while popular Hearthstone streamer Disguised Toast said that while Artifact had a "high skill ceiling" and "lots of strategy", the fact you have to pay for more cards counts against it

It's worth pointing out that, away from the paid-for events, players be able to create their own tournaments, but these won't support prizes at launch.

Valve's recent FAQ on the game seemed to suggest that the developer was open to changing its monetisation policy based on player feedback, so let's see what happens.

Artifact is due out on November 28.

Samuel Horti

Samuel Horti is a long-time freelance writer for PC Gamer based in the UK, who loves RPGs and making long lists of games he'll never have time to play.