Recently, we spoke about Hearthstone’s influence on the world of TCG/CCGs, where we closed off with the briefest of outlines on perhaps its biggest future rival, Artifact. Since then, Valve and, most importantly, their President Gabe Newell, managed to push through the angry mob of Half Life 3 fans protesting outside their office to make it to a press conference. What we know about Valve’s DOTA card game has been minimal. In fact, mining the internet for information has been as pointless as trying to surf in a paddling pool. But last week, Valve unleashed a tidal wave of information and, if you’re struggling to stay afloat, we’ve got you covered.
Firstly, it’s important to note the background of the game. While Artifact is sub-titled “The DOTA Card Game”, it won’t be as true to the lore as everyone initially thought. Valve clarified that it will use its hit MOBA as a base for “convenience” rather than to make it a mirror image. That said, Artifact will help produce new content for DOTA 2 such as “new heroes”, which will leave diehard fans happy.
Valve appear to be marketing Artifact on its originality and high production value. The teased screenshots are looking to introduce a multi lane system and, if that’s not enough, the game will also feature a “shopping phase”. This is something its competitors, like Hearthstone and Magic: the Gathering, are lacking and will help it stand out from the crowd. Additionally, being able to buy and sell weapons and upgrades in game is something we know MOBAs for, so it will be interesting to see it implemented into a TCG. But will the introduction of an economy system be enough to mask the elephant in the room?
In probably the most controversial announcement, Valve stated how Artifact will not be free to play. This is important to note for two reasons. Not only are almost all of its competitors free to play, but this could imply that it will be easier to obtain a viable card collection. After all, CCGs like Hearthstone might be F2P on the surface, but you can’t reach the top ranks without a decent collection. And to do that quickly, you need to purchase more cards.
Could this mean Artifact will require a direct, one off payment rather than constantly nudging you to buy “just one more loot box” every day? The press conference revealed their scepticism of F2P card games – Valve claimed they “create problems in the game economy” – and believe a price will create a “price floor on time.”
Alternatively, the decision to not make Artifact free to play could suggest a push for a more dedicated audience. We already know Valve have been in talks with various esports teams and the press conference revealed their desire to launch the first tournament in early 2019. Even retired Hearthstone professional Lifecoach is a part of the closed beta, who we’re sure would be interested in the promised $1million for first place. Either way, Valve are looking to make an impact on the competitive scene sooner rather than later. Its lack of single player content, similar to DOTA, would support that claim, as the developers continue to produce games focussed on defeating human opponents.
On top of promising a trading system that’s a “social and competitive experience”, there’s no denying Artifact’s potential. Valve were even confident in billing it “to trading card games what Half Life 2 was to single player games”. It’s due to launch in late 2018 with a mobile launch coming by 2019. Despite no initial price, Artifact could be really good or really bad. But only one thing is for certain – it doesn’t matter. Because, when this is released, it’s going to leave its mark no matter what.