Valve Artifact launch tests the card game market waters

Is the world ready for yet another digital card game? Is it ready for one that is both closer to physical card games but also so different from them? But more importantly, are players ready to pay $20 for a game and more for additional cards? Those are the questions that are bound to be raised with Valve's launch of Artifact, its first major non-VR game since Dota 2. Naturally, Valve's answer to that is a resounding "yes!" but the jury will take a few days before it can make a verdict.

It's only too easy to draw parallels between Valve's Artifact and Blizzard's Hearthstone. The latter, after all, is the billion dollar game that everyone wants to be and everyone wants to beat. Few, even card game veterans Wizards of the Coast, have succeeded. Of course, Valve isn't content to simply do a rehash of that genre.

It isn't surprising that Artifact's gameplay takes more from Dota than from Magic the Gathering, even if the latter's creator is one of the hands behind Valve's turn. Artifact, instead, makes use three fields like the three lanes of MOBAs. It's bound throw even veteran card players off guard.

What will make or break Artifact, however, will be its business model. Unlike most digital card games, Hearthstone included, you need to buy Artifact for $20. And while that includes a starter pack, you will eventually have to buy more cards, either from stores or from players. You can also sell yours if you want. Players of physical card games might feel right at home in this economy but it is definitely a bold move in a still uncertain market.

Another thing that could hold Artifact back is availability. Right now, it's only available for PCs, via Steam, of course. Mobile might also be in the works but Valve has yet to give a timeline gamers can wait for.