Artifact is the collectible-card game (CCG) from Richard Garfield and Valve, bringing the world and characters of Dota 2 to life in a complex and challenging card game. It’s a quality CCG with a neat layer of Dota 2 art and concepts. Stay tuned for our review.

We had the opportunity to speak with Richard Garfield about Artifact at PAX West this year. Check it out here.

This is Monetization Report, where we look at the microtransactions, purchase options, and additional paid content for a game. Let’s take a deep dive into Artifact.

Purchase

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Artifact is that it’s not free-to-play. As much as you’d expect it to follow in Dota 2’s free-to-play footsteps, Artifact actually carries a $20 price point. There’s no ultimate edition or special edition. The entry fee for this game is a flat $20 for everyone. But what does that admission fee get you?

Well, your initial purchase is not too dissimilar from buying a starter pack for a TCG. You’ll get you two 40-card starter decks, 10 card packs, and 5 event tickets. From there, the only ways to get more cards are to buy more card packs (priced at $1.99 each), buy individual cards from other players on the Steam marketplace, or use your tickets to participate in buy-in events that can reward more tickets and card packs in prizes if you win enough games. Event tickets are sold in bundles of five for $4.95 if you find yourself out of them. The rest of Artifact’s revenue model is strikingly similar to traditional TCGs.

Buying And Selling Cards

Card packs contain one hero, one rare card, two item cards, and eight other random cards. This is the quickest way to amass a large collection of cards, but if you don’t want to buy random packs, you can purchase cards from other players on the Steam marketplace. You’ll be at the mercy of the market’s economy, however. The game’s “meta” will unavoidably shape the market and dictate the price of cards, making the most desired cards the most expensive. Currently, Axe is the priciest card, sitting at over $12. Save for a few exceptions, the rest of the cards are going for less than 50¢. Compared to games like Magic: The Gathering, which has a history of cards going for over $100 each even for recently released cards (we’re not getting into Mox or Black Lotus prices here), it’s not too bad. Unlike other digital TCGs, there’s no way to earn cards just from playing.

The marketplace integration allows players to avoid the random nature of card packs, but it also means you’re encouraged to spend money if you want a particular hero or spell. This allows you to directly purchase the cards you’re looking for. In most digital CCGs, you’d be at the mercy of luck if you wanted a certain card. You could potentially spend dozens or even hundreds of dollars in search of a handful of cards. Artifact’s marketplace allows you to get the cards you want immediately.

artifact card pack opening

Card packs guarantee at least one hero and one rare.

Events And Event Tickets (The Grind)

If you don’t want to spend an extra penny on the game, your options are a bit limited. You’ll have to get good at the game before you can start to see some returns. Here’s where things get a bit murky.

There are two main ways to play Artifact: ranked or unranked. Unranked “Casual” matches feature a normal mode, a gauntlet mode where you have to win five matches before losing two, and one draft mode that cycles every month. They don’t cost anything to play but also offer no reward for winning. Meanwhile, ranked “Expert” games cost you an event ticket to enter and offer lucrative winnings to a successful player. Going on a good win streak in Ranked will reward you with extra tickets and multiple card packs (if you do well enough). Ranked games feature the only draft mode where you keep the deck you’re given.

Currently, the ranked modes are Constructed deck and two draft modes. Phantom Draft gives you a random draft of 60 cards to play with, while Keeper Draft allows you to bring five packs of cards into a draft and keep the cards afterward. Keeper Draft costs an extra ticket to enter.

It’s a system that rewards skilled players that are capable of going on winning streaks, but you won’t be earning much if you’re new to the game. This is where the monetization may become problematic for some people. It encourages less experienced players to purchase better cards to create stronger decks. If you’re unsuccessful in Ranked and run out of tickets, you can recycle cards to forge new ones at a price point of 20 cards per ticket. Otherwise, you’ll have to purchase more for $4.95.

It’s undeniably difficult to get your foot-in-the-door in Artifact without buying some card packs or browsing the marketplace. Players who are skilled at the game may find lucrative rewards, but it’s difficult to get good without first buying some cards.

artifact tickets

Ranked game modes require tickets to enter

Microtransaction Pricing

  • Card Packs – $1.99. No discount for bulk purchase.
  • Event Tickets – $4.95. Pack of five tickets, no discount for bulk purchase.

Cards can also be purchased from other players on the Steam marketplace. The pricing for cards and heroes vary wildly depending on their demand.

Stay tuned for more on Artifact and its monetization.

What do you think? Have you been playing Artifact? What do you think of its monetization? Do you think it’s too pay-to-win? Let us know in the comments!


Dan Hodges

Staff Writer

Dan is a lover of games and music from the UK. He loves RPGs, shooters, roguelikes, and World of Warcraft, but he'll play anything he can get his hands on really.