Garfield, who directed “Artifact” and was laid off from Valve earlier this year after the digital collectible card game flopped, explained that there were a few problems that led to the game’s failure.
“My perspective was that there were three problems – the revenue model was poorly received, there weren’t enough community tools and short-term goals in place online like achievements or missions, and, perhaps because of these things, there was a rating bombing that made it hard to get the message out about what the game offered to the player who it was built for,” Garfield said.
The problem Garfield went into the most detail about was the revenue model of the game, which some have criticized as being “pay-to-win.”
Garfield explained that it’s too simplistic to call “Artifact” a pay-to-win game because having funds doesn’t mean you can be an “excellent player.”
“To me there are two important parts of pay-to-win,” Garfield said.” The first is whether buying something will make you a champion. This is not true for ‘Hearthstone,’ ‘Magic,’ or for that matter, golf. It also isn’t true for ‘Artifact.'”
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“I am an OK player and a mediocre deck constructor in Artifact,” Garfield continued,”and access to all of the cards won’t change that. I might be able to overcome the mediocre deck construction by copying someone else’s deck, but it won’t make me an excellent player. Likewise, I can spend thousands on golf clubs, but it won’t make me a golf champion.”
Garfield explained that there are plenty of games that this cannot apply to, because players can buy health or special abilities or whatever is needed to progress, thus “making it possible for you to overcome any problem by spending enough money.”
The other aspect to consider is how much money players can expect to spend in-game.
“The second part of pay-to-win is what the bottom line expenditure is,” Garfield said. “Top level decks in ‘Magic’ or ‘Hearthstone’ generally cost more than top level decks in ‘Artifact.’ And since there is a market, you can shift around your collection with relative ease.”
This monetary difference would be notable to players of “Magic” and “Hearthstone,” but for the average player it was disappointing to have to pay for cards instead of playing for them.
Garfield acknowledged the revenue model issues, which he said “appeared generous to ‘Magic’ players, but stingy to players who expected free-to-play with grinding for cards.”
The in-game cost being too steep was a point of concern in the Variety review of “Artifact”, though the mobile game itself was found to be an “immensely deep game with tons of replay value.”