Artifact - Turns out Valve's still making video games


i’m extraordinarily fascinated with how this impacts the typical Hearthstone-style pack-opening business plan. One of the problems from the standpoint of the developer with systems like Hearthstone packs or Battlefront 2 boxes and so on is how easy the math of the exploitation of the player is to figure out because there’s only one transaction. The player buys a pack rather than grind, and drop-rates of rarer cards as well as time saved the amount of money needed for certain levels of collection completion are easy systems to quantify. It’s harder to abandon reason as a player/consumer when the value proposition, such as it is, is easy to understand and see through from the jump.

What has my head spinning about Artifact is that it does not substitute a direct marketplace for the loot/pack system, it combines them together. This vastly complicates any attempt to understand details about how the systems work. For example, the Japan-style mandatory gatcha drop probability disclosure wouldn’t be enough here, as changing the ratio at which certain cards within a certain rarity drop could change prices, move the secondary market, increase transactions, and improve Valve’s take. Maybe somebody figures it out, maybe they don’t, the point is that these two systems together give Valve a million more levers to pull to manipulate money from whales.

Like, at least a few players will make a ton of money off this game. A few people will crack whatever the equivalent to Magic’s Alpha Black Lotus ends up being and basically win a lotto scratcher, a few more will anticipate a change in the metagame and buy thousands of a card that triples in value overnight, and others will get lucky when a balance patch upends the meta and by chance they have thousands of a newly overpowered card. This type of “investment” angle opens up a subset of people who might usually balk at spending a ton of money on a simpler, linear, entertainment-only type of micro-transaction model.


And the official note from Valve (if you don’t go via some of the dodgy ways of cashing out that Valve say are not allowed) is that all the money never leaves the system. You may get rich in Steam bux but you can only (officially) spend them on buying games and so on in Steam.


I interpret that as meaning that they are going to control the supply side, so if a card is being used more it’s chances of being pulled go up. I doubt they are going to control the actual pricing by adding limits.


That’s always been the official line, but it’s also completely untrue.


There’s also the really unscrupulous parts that crop up from trading markets like this, such as gambling sites, as well as sharks (people who track when ultra-rare items get found and then try to dupe the person out of it for nothing). Valve has never cared about either of these until it affects their financial bottom line, or becomes legally impossible to ignore.

That’s not even getting into the more structural frustrations that will be inevitable to this game, with Valve’s habit of introducing brand new progression and crafting systems into games like Dota/TF2, then never iterating on them and having an entirely new system be introduced in the next major update.

For as bad as Blizzard is about drop rates in Overwatch and Hearthstone, at least there’s a universal consistency to its systems. You’re not going to worry about having 5 different competing inventory systems, or some prick randomly messaging you offering 50 trash cards for your 1 super-legendary worth $500.

god I hate valve