Last night at Seattle’s KeyArena, Valve revealed Artifact, a new digital trading card game based on the Dota lore, at The International, the premier Dota 2 tournament. In a venue packed with Dota fanatics, you might have expected a new way to interact with beloved Dota heroes would be greeted warmly, but the crowd reaction was decidedly deflated:
Beyond the immediate audible disappointment from the stands, the online backlash has been swift and severe. At the time of writing, the YouTube video posted to tease Artifact has the unenviable ratio of one thousand likes to nine thousand dislikes. The most upvoted comments on that video (yes, I’m wading into YouTube comments!) include “Half-Life 3 died for this,” “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” and “give us a new game stop with the cash grabbing methods.” Oh, and a couple of other keyboard drama queens declared this was the greatest disappointment of their lives.
What the hell?
I struggle to see many valid criticisms of Valve’s proposed entry into the card game genre, especially given how little is yet known about it. We don’t know what sort of game Valve is proposing, other than it being based on Dota and some of that game’s mechanics. We don’t know what the economics of Artifact would be, either, so we can’t (yet) accuse Valve of being a money-grubbing capitalist. And, of course, none of us are forced to play or in any other way care about this game, so there is zero rational reason to bash Valve for it. (Anyone that believes Half-Life 3 development or Team Fortress 2 updates have been undermined to produce a trading card game is just grasping for reasons to be outraged on the internet).
The primary reason for the immediate negative reaction in Seattle, I believe, is that everyone at the venue would have expected a new thing to do inside Dota 2 itself. In past years, Valve has used The International to announce new heroes, so there was a basic mismatch between what people were hoping for and what they got. So that part’s understandable. It’s also true that Hearthstone’s massive success has spawned a litany of digital card game clones, such as Gwent for fans of The Witcher and Elder Scrolls: Legends for residents of Skyrim, and Valve fans expect a bit more originality.
But honestly, we have to stop and think before we start bashing our favorite companies. If Dota wasn’t an amazingly addictive experience, nobody would be gasping with disappointment about it. This year, the game broke its own record for biggest prize pool in e-sports (as it has been doing every year since The International began) with more than $23 million – most of which has come from players buying in-game items and cosmetics. So people love this game, and Valve deserves credit for maintaining the competitive balance and sustaining that passion for its players.
Most of the annoyance with Valve seems to be about it not releasing games many people seem to feel entitled to. Where is my Half-Life 3? Why am I not getting Left 4 Dead 3? I want more! Well, as much as Valve has sought to cultivate an image of itself as a community-driven organization, the reality is that the decision makers reside within it, not outside it. And Valve owes no games to any of us. Just because a company has given you pleasure in the past doesn’t mean that it exists purely for your pleasure.
I can’t say I’m overflowing with anticipation for this Artifact card game, but neither is my cup running over with bile about Valve not dancing to my tune. There are bigger and better things to be outraged about in the world.