Artifact and Valve’s issue with trying to please everyone

Artifact has been out officially for a month, and what a month it has been. Two major updates have revamped the game twice. Once for for the better and once for the worse, according to most players.

First major patch, 1.1, introduced social features, such as in-game quick chat and a Steam Chat integration, making the game feel more like something you play at the kitchen table. This was hailed as a great change, as it moved towards the vision of being a “real, physical Trading Card Game simulator”. This helped alleviate the worries about the marketing model around the game a little, but there were still critics that demanded more free cards.

So only a week later, patch 1.2 was released. This changed the game from the core. Released only 2 weeks after the official launch, it changed things around a lot. The game has two “premium” features you can purchase in the in-game store, “booster packs” containing 10 random cards and “tickets” which allows you to play any of the game modes that awards booster packs and tickets as rewards. Both these game modes are available as free modes as well, but don’t award any prizes. Before the patch you got 2 decks of 40 cards each along with 10 boosters and 5 tickets when you purchased the game. The rest you had to either win, trade or draw in boosters. The marketing model resembled that of physical TCG’s, which is near identical, where the buy-in for the game is low (around $20 for a beginner deck or two) and where you can trade with other players or buy boosters or compete in tournaments to win boosters.

The two major complaints people had was that certain cards were too powerful and that people didn’t get enough free cards. In the card game community there is one major rule you never, ever break: Don’t change an already established card. So of course, Valve changed a bunch of cards. They then offered to refund players who owned these cards, which gave those cards a minimum possible value on the marketplace, a cost it could no longer go under since Valve was now offering that price for the card already.

They also changed the amount of free booster packs and tickets people got, in a rather odd way. Instead of 10 boosters and 5 tickets right away, you now get 5 boosters and 3 tickets right away and they introduced a progression system where you can “unlock” up to 15 more boosters and 10 more tickets. This has caused a divide in the already fractured community, with some saying you’re getting half the boosters and some saying you get twice.

Regardless of which side you take, the impact on the marketplace was seen immediately, with most cards now seen sold for around 3 pence.

However, the impact on the game itself has not been that noticeable. Before the patch it took around 20 seconds to be matched against an opponent, after the patch it took around 20 seconds to be matched against an opponent. The actual number of players have remained about the same. People flaunt statistics showing both increase and decline, but spread over time it has remained pretty much the same. People have noted in the forums that there are a lot of complaints now, but there were a lot of complaints before, that’s why they implemented this major change in the first place. The only thing that has changed is the game itself and what people complain about.

So it would seem like Valve put a lot of effort into pleasing everyone, just to have status quo remain. Now they will have to find another way of monetizing the game, since they sacrificed their marketing model for the sake of brownie points. And that feeling of kitchen table trading card gaming? That is all gone now, replaced with the hunt for more arbitrary points to get those free packs, so you can trade for the cards you want rather than the cards you got.

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