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Concern for Artifact as Magic: the Gathering creator leaves Valve amid layoffs

"We weren't surprised by the layoff considering how rocky the launch was."

Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic: the Gathering and designer of struggling digital collectible card game Artifact has left Valve.

Richard Garfield had worked with Valve on Artifact for over four years.

In a statement sent to Artifact fan website Artibuff, Garfield confirmed he, alongside colleague Skaff Elias, no longer work at the company.

The confirmation comes amid recent layoffs that saw 13 employees and contractors exit Valve in February. Garfield, via his company 3 Donkeys, was a contractor.

Artifact, which was heavily criticised for its business model, has haemorrhaged players since launch, and is now down to just a few hundred users. The dwindling player base has caused matchmaking issues and means it's now possible to buy all the cards available for the cost of a full-price video game. On Steam, Artifact has a "mixed" user review rating, but it's "mostly negative" when you consider recent reviews - an unprecedented reception for a Valve-developed game on Steam.

"We weren't surprised by the layoff considering how rocky the launch was," Garfield said, "the team was enthusiastic about the game and were confident that they had a good product but it became clear it wasn't going to be easy to get the game to where we wanted it."

Speaking of his own departure from Valve, Garfield said it "makes sense".

"... now that the game is out there time is more critical, so more voices within the team that you have to navigate may not be as good as making less considered decisions faster."

Garfield added the expertise his company 3 Donkeys brought to Valve is now less critical "after listening to us for 4+ years".

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Artifact players have been concerned about the future of the game for some time now, but recent developments suggest it needs a miracle to survive. The official Artifact Twitter page hasn't tweeted since 22nd December 2018, and the game itself hasn't seen an update since 28th January. In short, it's all gone quiet in the world of Artifact.

Garfield, though, sounds surprisingly upbeat about Artifact.

"Both Skaff and I remain optimistic about the quality of the game and have offered our feedback and advice in an ongoing gratis capacity simply because we would like to see the game do as well as we think it can.

"We enjoyed working with Valve and I was impressed with their relentless focus on the quality of the game and experience being offered to the player."

As for Valve, in a statement sent to Variety, the company said it was business as usual despite the layoffs.

"Last month, 13 full-time employees were let go and a portion of our contractor agreements were terminated. It's an unfortunate part of business, but does not represent any major changes at the company. We thank those affected for their contribution and wish them well in future endeavours."