Last week, as you may be aware, Valve announced that their DOTA card game Artifact will have development stopped. This came just days after a similar announcement from Bioware regarding Anthem. But why were these games allowed to die when something like No Man’s Sky did not? And is it something that we expect or want in the future?
Well, first up. No. We definitely don’t want it happening in the future. In an ideal world, a 2.0 release just won’t be a thing as the game was perfect at release…but developers make mistakes as do we all. That being said it’s not like a single person green-lit a game, but that’s an argument for another day…
Released back in 2018, Artifact is actually a pretty good game. However, unlike its other card-based counterparts it took pay-to-win to the next level. In Hearthstone you can play for free, you get in-game currency to the point where you can buy a few new cards every other day. And even if you get duplicates you can still craft cards with these, albeit slowly. Artifact however cost £20 straight up and for each hero card you wanted you’d have to dish out some additional money. These could range from a few pence to the highest I saw being £7-£8 depending on what cards were ruling the meta at the time. There were no ways to earn in-game currencies or cards and to use your cards (outside of a fantasy draft) you’d have to use a ticket, which cost money to buy…
Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a pay-to-win element in Hearthstone because there is, but, at the end of the day, it’s a free game. There were just so many extra money grabbing schemes in Artifact that the player-base understandably deserted it despite how good the game actually was.
Valve realised this and started work on Artifact 2.0…16 months after the initial release…There had been updates and fixes in the interim, but is it any surprise that the playerbase abandoned the game and chose not to jump back aboard?
For those curious, you can play Artifact for free now as Artifact Classic.
Anthem is a different beast entirely. Unlike Artifact it was the game itself that was the problem. With no meaningful progression or end game to play. It did seem like a ‘games as a service’ game without the game part. But, to their credit Bioware realised if they wanted to keep Anthem going they’d need a more drastic re-vamp and so eight months after release Anthem NEXT became a thing. Until it wasn’t.
Up until a few months ago Bioware were producing details on what to expect from Anthem NEXT. New loot systems, gear, weapons. All of which should probably have been in the base game, but still, at least it was coming. But, citing Covid-19 as the contributing factor, it too was shelved.
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky was hyped up by Playstation to extreme levels. To the point where the final product just could not live up to those expectations. So, on it’s release in 2016 it was met with a resounding ‘meh’. However, where other studios could have called it quits Hello Games stuck with it. and within three months were already releasing major content changes to the game.
No Man’s Sky has been getting content updates regularly since then with the biggest one to date coming in 2019, three years after launch. And each time this content is dropped there is an understandable jump in player-base. And to pour more salt into that Anthem shaped wound, their NEXT update was a resounding success. Bringing a large influx of players back to the game.
Should Games be Allowed to Die?
So, why a game fails can be up to a number of reasons. And there is no sure-fire way to ‘fix’ a game, No Man’s Sky gradually improved. But Final Fantasy IX had a massive content drop that dramatically changed the game – three years after initial release! So, with an eye to games like Cyberpunk 2077 that are hoping to improve in the future.
It’s not a question of if a game can be improved, it’s always been a question of do the companies involved think the cost (either monetary or time) balances the loss of reputation.
Hello Games are a smaller company, any loss in reputation could really damage any future projects. Bioware however have years worth of good-will from much loved titles they could cash in on…they’re also owned by EA, but hey…
So will Cyberpunk fold? CD Projekt Red have the years of good-will and a track record of improving broken games. But if they, or any future titles don’t, are we happy for a game to die and not have it limp along like Anthem, only to be disappointed in the end? That’s for us all to decide, ultimately with our wallets.