Valve announced a new game yesterday. No, it’s not Half-Life 3. Again. Instead, it’s a card game! Again.
Revealed last night at The International 7, Artifact is “The Dota Card Game,” and it sounds like it will share some elements of its parent MOBA. According to TI7 host Sean “Day9” Plotz, Artifact “has creatures and spells” from the Dota universe, with each player controlling five heroes across three boards (a.k.a. lanes). You’ll have to determine how to allocate your resources, i.e., your heroes, earning gold as you play that lets you upgrade them and become more powerful.
Does the world want a card game based on Dota 2? Judging by the ridiculous downvote-to-upvote ratio on the teaser trailer, you could say the answer is “no.” Then again, The Elder Scrolls Legends faced a similar issue with its initial teaser trailer, and that turned into a decent game. (Now that I look at it again, though, I see that it’s only about 55% downvotes, while Artifact currently has 84% downvotes. Yeesh.)
The bigger question might be whether Artifact will survive on its own merits as a game. When Magic: The Gathering rocketed into the stratosphere, plenty of CCGs followed in its wake, many of them trying to do increasingly complex things to break from the typical “summon monsters and attack” formula. Very few were successful, with the most successful ones — Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! — pretty much following a similar, and rather simplistic, template.
In its attempt to mirror MOBA mechanics very closely, Valve could be painting itself into a corner with Artifact. Overly complex CCGs have rarely been more than niche titles, and the ones that have been successful for any length of time eventually collapsed under the weight of their own rules systems. I know, because I worked on a couple of them.
While there have been some mild successes in the digital CCG realm, like Shadowverse and Duelyst, Hearthstone is still king, due in large part to its simple gameplay as well as its link to World of Warcraft. Artifact will have that connection to a very successful game — one that might be complex enough that players won’t shy away from its CCG version. Still, Hearthstone’s accessibility and casual style, while derided by many, is what help keeps it huge.
Valve likely isn’t going for “niche hit” with Artifact; it wants something that will rival Hearthstone. As with Blizzard trying to get into the MOBA game with Heroes of the Storm, however, Valve might be a little too late to try and grab a piece of the CCG pie.