When Valve release a game it’s generally a big deal. Creators of Steam, Half Life and DOTA, the firm tend to make hugely popular products. Valve’s latest game, Artifact, launched a week ago today, but has unfortunately already seen a drop in playerbase of almost 60%.
According to SteamCharts, the game peaked at 60,740 players on launch day, however that number is now sat at around 25,000 at the time of writing. With numbers dropping as low as 12,900 in the early hours of this morning.
The collectable card game seems to have struck a somewhat negative chord with many gamers due to the payment model used by the game. Players must pay a fee to access the game (£15.99) – that fee also includes 2 starter decks, 10 card packs, and 5 event tickets.
After this players must purchase card packs in order to build their decks and adapt to the game’s on-going meta. Cards can however be sold on the Steam Market for Steam Wallet Funds, which can then of course be used to purchase other cards.
Players can also gain packs by performing strongly in the game’s competitive modes, which require spending an ‘event ticket’ to access. After gaining a 4 or 5 win streak in these modes, such as Phantom Draft, the player is rewarded with a pack or two.
Understandably many players believe it’s almost impossible to play Artifact and remain competitive in the game’s constructed modes without spending real money on the game’s marketplace or by buying card packs directly (each card pack costs £1.59 / $2). It’s a model which severely punishes casual players of your game, and serves only to really work for hardcore fans.
The game has also witnessed a steep decline in Twitch.tv viewership numbers over the past week according to site TwitchMetrics – peaking at around 64,406 viewers with the average viewership count now sat at around 14,900.
Hearthstone, the most popular digital collectable card game, is completely free to play, offering numerous opportunities for players to earn card packs in-game. Whilst many argue that game also requires players to either invest huge amounts of time or money to stay competitive at a higher level, it’s potentially a more player-friendly payment model than the one seen in Artifact.
Artifact’s player numbers look to be reaching potentially concerning levels if things are to continue at the current rate, particularly considering the game’s DOTA pedigree and undoubtedly high production values.
Will Valve look to make major changes to the game such as adjusting their current approach to the payment model? Or perhaps the reason for the drop in players goes deeper than that? Only time will tell.