In February, Valve laid off 13 of its full-time employees and an unknown number of its contractors (opens in new tab). "It’s an unfortunate part of business, but does not represent any major changes at the company," Valve said in a statement.
Artifact fan blog Artibuff (opens in new tab) reached out to Richard Garfield, who served as that game's designer under contract, to see if he was one of those terminated. Garfield replied, and explained that both members of the 3 Donkeys design team—himself and Skaff Elias, former vice president of Wizards of the Coast—were no longer under contract at Valve.
"We weren't surprised by the layoff considering how rocky the launch was," he wrote, "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. To name a couple; now that the game is out there time is more critical, so more voices within the team that you have to navigate may not be as good as making less considered decisions faster. Another - the expertise that 3 donkeys brought is less critical after listening to us for 4+ years."
Garfield is positive about the future of Artifact, however. "Both Skaff and I remain optimistic about the quality of the game and have offered our feedback and advice in an ongoing gratis capacity simply because we would like to see the game do as well as we think it can. We enjoyed working with Valve and I was impressed with their relentless focus on the quality of the game and experience being offered to the player."
Artifact's player numbers have dropped drastically since its launch (opens in new tab), and it's hard to see how Valve could turn it around at this point.