Artifact Is a Dead Game: Can Free to Play Save It

The digital trading card game developed by Valve recently went free to play. At the same time, Valve announced that all new development on Artifact would stop. Poor player numbers were cited as the reason behind this decision. It seems that not even the huge popularity of Dota 2 could save its spin-off game. Artifact was controversial from the moment it was launched. Poor reviews, difficult gameplay and an expensive pay model meant it never really stood a chance. Artifact is a dead game, here we take a look at the numbers and answer the question of if a free to play model can save it.

Artifact is a Dead Game

When it comes to examining player numbers, we are very lucky to have SteamDB at our disposal. This contains player data for all games on the Steam platform. Looking at the player numbers for Artifact, it is clear to see that they have been critically low for a while. One Chilled Gamer are almost surprised that anyone could find a game! However, it did not always look this bad for Artifact. Indeed, as can be seen below, the game actually got off to a good start.

Artifact is a dead game - a chart of the declining player numbers

Launched to Steam on 28 November 2018, the game saw an immediate spike to a max of over 60,000 concurrent steam players. However, this incredible launch day success did not last long. The fall began immediately. It took just over 3 months for player numbers to fall consistently below a maximum of 500 concurrent players. Contrast this with Gwent, which launched to Steam on 19 May 2020, and its player numbers still remain above a max of 2,500 concurrent players. Indeed, Gwent has players across several platforms so the player population will be even better than this. Clearly then Artifact was facing some serious issues unique to it and was unable to compete with the more established titles in a very competitive market.

Chart of Gwent player numbers on Steam

Going Free to Play

Valve made several attempts to get people back into the game since numbers began to fall critically low. However, nothing seemed to work and at the start of 2021 there were only a maximum of 63 concurrent players on Steam per day. On 4 March 2020 they gave up and confirmed that development on the game would now be stopped. On a positive note, the game would become free to play with all content now obtainable for free. This would give some hope to loyal players that this would bring people back to the game. Unfortunately this does not appear to have been the case.

Chart of Artifact Steam player numbers when free to play

In the above chart, the blue shaded area represents the time that the game has been free to play. There was an immediate spike to 1,127 concurrent players on the day this was implemented. However, the increase was short lived. Within days, it had declined again to 303 players. Although this is an improvement it is still nowhere near high enough to sustain an active community.

What Next for Artifact

It seems that Artifact is a dead game and not even a free to play model can save it now. With development stopped, player numbers will continue to dwindle, and One Chilled Gamer does not believe that Valve will keep the servers going for long. What has your experience of Artifact been? Are you disappointed with how it played out? Check out our list of the Best Free Cell Phone Card Games for Android and iOS for some better alternatives.