Things have not gone well for Valve's much-publicized CCG Artifact since its November 2018 release. The player count began tumbling almost immediately, from a peak of more than 60,000 players to a concurrent count, according to Steam Charts, of just over 200. It's a remarkable decline, particularly for Valve, which had positioned Artifact as the vanguard of its return to game development.
Today it acknowledged that things have gone very, very wrong, and said that it's effectively putting the game on hold while it figures out where to go from here.
"When we launched Artifact, we expected it would be the beginning of a long journey, that it would lay the foundation for years to come. Our plan was to immediately dive into our normal strategy of shipping a series of updates driven by the dialogue community members were having with each other and with us," Valve's Jeep Barnett wrote.
"Obviously, things didn't turn out how we hoped. Artifact represents the largest discrepancy between our expectations for how one of our games would be received and the actual outcome. But we don't think that players misunderstand our game, or that they're playing it wrong. Artifact now represents an opportunity for us to improve our craft and use that knowledge to build better games."
Barnett said that it's clear that there are "deep-rooted" issues with Artifact that can't be addressed through the original strategy of updating with new features and cards. Instead, Valve believes that it needs to re-examine everything about it, including "game design, the economy, the social experience of playing, and more." And that's going to take awhile.
"Moving forward, we'll be heads-down focusing on addressing these larger issues instead of shipping updates," Barnett wrote. "While we expect this process of experimentation and development to take a significant amount of time, we’re excited to tackle this challenge and will get back to you as soon as we are ready."