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Valve’s abandoned card game suddenly experiences a surge in players

Valve hasn’t always churned out hits as dead card game Artifact attests, but now three years after development stopped it seems to be back.

Valve’s abandoned card game suddenly experiences a surge in players: A jaunty creature smiles at you.

Here’s a news story I didn’t expect to be writing today, or to be honest – any day. Artifact appears to be back. Valve’s forgotten card game was last updated in 2021 and despite being free to play like Hearthstone, its player numbers have sunk well below triple digits. That’s all just changed with a huge player surge putting the game in a far healthier state, but it may not be entirely real.

If you’re not familiar with Artifact I wouldn’t blame you – it’s not exactly one of gaming’s success stories. The card game launched in 2018 as a premium title which also contained lashings of microtransactions, which swiftly led to it being branded a pay-to-win game. As a result, players deserted it and eventually it was retooled into Artifact 2.0, otherwise known as Artifact Foundry. After a year of development, Valve announced in 2021 that the game would become free to play, all players would be given all cards, and development would cease.

In many worlds that would be the end of the story and until today, that would hold true in our reality too. Yesterday on Monday, July 8 Artifact had a 24-hour peak player concurrency of 59 people. Today on Tuesday July 9 – it’s 2,531.

The SteamDB chart for Artifact Classic.

What’s more baffling about this sudden rise is that there appears to be no particular cause for it. There has been no update. The game is not on sale – it can’t be as it’s free to play. There hasn’t been a recent YouTube video about it with any serious amount of views for almost a year. The Twitch category for the game is filled with people streaming Spongebob Squarepants, The Office, and Star Trek Discovery. There is a TikTok channel for the game – but it’s just a front for dubious financial advice. Even the subreddit and Steam forums are empty of life.

So either 2,500 players have suddenly decided to play Artifact out of nowhere, or this is the work of bots. It’s known that some games on Steam do have botting problems – we’ve recently reported on the widespread issues surrounding Team Fortress 2 – but to target Artifact feels a little out of place, especially since it doesn’t have Steam trading cards or anything else that could be used for monetary gain.

On the side of evidence for this being a botting wave, however, is that the version attracting large player numbers is Artifact Classic, not the updated and newer Artifact Foundry, which would presumably preclude this being the activity of real humans.

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At the time of writing this player surge is continuing, with 2,494 people apparently in-game in the card game. It’s entirely possible that this marks the start of an Artifact resurgence, though if that happens I will be tucking into my hat for dinner.

If this has convinced you to give it a go, you can take a look at our guide on how to play Artifact as well as our comprehensive list of every Artifact card.

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