Artifact Lead Designer and Magic: The Gathering Creator Richard Garfield Laid Off by Valve

Artifact continues to lose its player count and now has a reduced development team as its lead designer has been laid off.

Valve recently laid off a portion of its staff, and confirmation has now come that the layoffs included their contract with consulting firm Three Donkeys who played a major role in the development and promotion of Artifact.

Dr. Richard Garfield was contacted by Artibuff and responded, with his full statement as follows:

Yes, contractors included 3 donkeys, which is me and Skaff Elias. Thanks for the warning about publishing, and the offer to keep information private – that won’t be necessary.

We weren’t surprised by the layoff considering how rocky the launch was, 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.

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.

Peace –


Garfield is most known as the creator behind Magic: The Gathering, you know that card game that had twenty million players in 2015 and twenty billion cards produced from 2008-2016. His work as lead designer on Artifact reportedly began in late 2014 with the formal announcement of the game in late 2017. The game is based on the DOTA 2 heroes and world and presumably Artifact was to ride the waves of DOTA 2‘s success. Since launch, however, it has seen a very steep decline in active players. According to Steam Charts, Artifact has seen an average of 569 players in the past thirty days, peaking in the last 24 hours at 494 players concurrently. Compare this data to Valve’s other games: DOTA 2 (peaking at 942,503 today), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (peaking at 565,961) and Team Fortress 2 (51,152) and it shows just how small a base the latest Valve game has acquired.

Despite this Garfield doesn’t believe his departure is the next nail in the coffin for Artifact. In his statement he thinks that after four years of consultation and development Valve is okay with proceeding on their own and will be better not having to take in so many opinions on where to go next.

Artifact’s social media presence has been… lackluster. Their last tweet was December 21, 2018 and they didn’t even bother to tweet when a big new patch went out in late January. Set 2, the next big addition of cards into Artifact, is set to release sometime this summer though there isn’t much information yet about it. Artibuff also mentions a “Million Dollar Tournament” for Artifact that was only mentioned by Valve head Gabe Newell during an Artifact Press Conference and The International 2018, though given Artifact’s poor performance they speculate it is likely not going to happen. With lackluster communication and no large tournament to draw more eyes to the game, players are expecting the game to simply die off or become free to play.

Artifact launched on Steam on November 28, 2018 for $20.00 with iOS and Android versions planned for sometime this year. In January the game was averaging about 3,000 players per day but was losing them fast, barely hitting 1,000 in February and now not even reaching over 600 players concurrently.

Steven Santana

Born in Queens, raised in Vegas, living in Vancouver. 25, loves dogs, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and long form video critiques.

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