In the second part of our interview with Joel “Heffaklumpen” Larsson, we discussed Artifact’s monetization mechanics, compare them to rival products and discuss how far it could take Valve’s card game.
You can read the first part of our interview, focusing on Heffaklumpen’s future in esports right here.
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You’ve been a card game veteran for close to a decade now, so I wanted to talk to you about two major topics that concern the genre. The first one is monetization and I want to start here:
It’s safe to say that Artifact wasn’t really met with with cheers when the initial monetization plans were revealed. What do you think of the whole set-up that Valve have created? Is it good? Can it be improved?
I honestly think their model and system and how cheap it is compared to Magic, which has a similar model, is kind of incredible. There isn’t really a card game that does the same thing. Valve literally incorporated the best things from Hearthstone and Magic, having a secondary market where you can liquidate your assets, while having the possibility to specify what cards you need.
I think the reason a lot of people are upset comes from different cross-genre audiences that are not used to this kind of economy model. They’re used to paying a set price for a game. But if you compare it to Call of Duty, it costs $60. Artifact costs $20. You can sell the cards from the packs for an estimate of $7-8, so that’s already almost a $10 game. And then you can play infinite casual modes.
And even if you want to go in depth into the game, it doesn’t cost much to buy a specific deck. Sure, Axe costs $15 and Drow costs $10, but the rest of the cards cost $0.5-1. Even if it’s a red/green deck, this costs $25-30 bucks.
I honestly think their model and system and how cheap it is compared to Magic which has a similar model is kind of incredible.
I decided to try Hoej’s black/red aggro and it cost me about $28, which I think anybody who’s played a card game before will say this is no money.
Yeah, compare that to Magic, where competitive decks cost $600. And that’s just one deck. I bought the entire Artifact collection for $125, and mind you that I also had to buy card packs for the tournament. You can specify which cards you want to buy and you will eventually get the rest from keeper drafts, which are more valuable than actually buying packs.
A lot of the negativity also comes from the misconception about when the beta was going to come out and being unfair. And then it spiraled.
You come from a game that has been notorious for its secondary card market, which often gets vastly inflated. Artifact devs and Richard Garfield in particular have expressed their intent to contain such market explosions. What do you think is the best way to control it?
Yeah, Richard Garfield hates that there’s such a big secondary market in Magic.
I don’t know, I am not sure. I am not sure you need to [control it]. It depends on how many players there are. There will always be more cards in rotation, depending on the number of players. There will be so many Axes at some point. The only way these things will be more expensive is if people buy a lot of cards, everybody needs Axes, then people stop playing, there’s a new set released and at some point a new format like Modern is created and everybody needs Axes again.
That’s a way that can inflate the price of a card, but I think this will take so much time before that happens. I feel that should be an easy way to control that. I also think that it’s harder to compare those kind of prices to Magic cards, because there’s another type of collecting value in paper Magic cards. People won’t be looking back at their photo album of Artifact cards. [laughs] The only reason why digital cards are worth so much is because they can be transferable to real, redeemable Magic cards, which have that kind of value.
I imagine you’ve tried to play around MTG Arena. It was actually one of the game that was brought up a lot around the monetization discussion about Artifact. What Wizards are trying to do there is a lot of the things that Artifact does: keeper drafts, constructed events with prizes, etc. In addition, MTG Arena is more flexible on its entry fees, provides both real and in-game currency options to enter these events, unlike Artifact.
At the same time, however, much like Hearthstone, MTG Arena’s card collection doesn’t have the same value as an Artifact one, as we mentioned. Do you think the two games can learn something from each other in terms of the monetization practices or is one strictly better than the other?
That’s a tough question. I feel Magic, for a long time, has been trying to become like an esport, like the others, trying to get into that market.
As long as the market value of cards isn’t insanely high — for example making so that playing Tier 1 decks in Magic online becomes a high entry barrier to get into the game — I feel being able to liquidate your collections will be better for the player most of the time. I feel there’s going to be more emotion in opening good cards and knowing they have real value.
As long as Steam dollars retain value, which is going to be helped by Artifact and they’re close to almost 1:1 value to real dollars, it’s going to help Valve and Steam in the long run.
I feel it’s super smart for Steam too, right? They basically made PayPal in game, you know? As long as Steam dollars retain value, which is going to be helped by Artifact and they’re close to almost 1:1 value to real dollars, it’s going to help Valve and Steam in the long run.
Let’s say you want to liquidate your cards in Artifact. You sell your cards for Steam dollars and then maybe you find somebody that wants to buy all your Steam dollars at 0.95 exchange rate. You can put up a useless item on the market for huge money and then that person buys that and you can transfer money that way. As long as that’s a possibility, that money will continue to circulate around the Steam market, which is good for them.
Or say somebody gets bored of Artifact. They’re like, “OK, I’m going to liquidate my assets” and then there’s high chance they’ll reenter the system. They’ll be like, “I’m thinking of buying this game. If I’ll sell all my cards, might as well buy this.”
The secondary market in Magic is different. When people sell their cards—
—They don’t go, “I’m going to buy D&D books”.
Exactly, they’re not going to buy a Hasbro Transformers toy. That’s not a thing. You get real money and then you do whatever you want with it. It’s different with Artifact and I think it’s genius, honestly. If it becomes genius for Steam and Valve, the game is only going to gain from it. They will invest more resources, the tournaments will be bigger. I think the players will notice if Artifact does well for the company, like Hearthstone has done for Blizzard.