Artifact - Analysis of the Monetization Scheme

Artifact – Analysis of the Monetization Scheme

This guide is to help potential purchasers and players fully understand Artifact’s monetization scheme so that they can make informed decisions on how they spend their money.

TL;DR at the bottom.

What your $20 Gets You (aka free modes)

  • Solo Play
    • Play against the computer
  • Access to Events
    • These will likely always be free
    • Current event is a pre-made deck gauntlet (pick 1 of 6 decks, play until 5 wins or 2 losses)
  • Social Play
    • Play with friends
    • Participate in and make Artifact tournaments
  • Global Matchmaking
    • The closest thing Artifact has to ladder. Matches based on skill but no explicit global rankings
  • Casual Constructed
    • Play a constructed deck until you get 5 wins or 2 losses (aka running a gauntlet)
  • Casual Draft
    • Draft 60 cards from 5 packs
    • Play until you get 5 wins or 2 losses
  • 2 Starter Decks, 5 Tickets, 10 Packs (~$35 value, this calculation uses pack prices to calculate starter deck value)

What you still have to pay for

  • Packs
    • $1.99 per pack, very slight discount for buying in bulk
    • 12 cards per pack, guaranteed 1 hero and 2 items per pack
  • Event Tickets
    • $4.99 for 5 tickets (minimal purchase amount), very slight discount for buying in bulk
    • You need these any time you play a mode where you can win prizes (see below)

Modes that Require Tickets

  • Expert Constructed
    • Cost: 1 Ticket
    • Play until 5 wins or 2 losses
    • Rewards: 3 wins: 1 Ticket, 4 wins: 1 Ticket 1 Pack, 5 wins: 1 Ticket 2 Packs
  • Expert Draft
    • Cost: 1 Ticket
    • Draft 60 cards from 5 packs
    • Play until you get 5 wins or 2 losses
    • Rewards: 3 wins: 1 Ticket, 4 wins: 1 Ticket 1 Pack, 5 wins: 1 Ticket 2 Packs
  • Keeper Draft
    • Cost: 2 Tickets and 5 Packs
    • Draft 60 cards from 5 packs
    • Play until you get 5 wins or 2 losses
    • KEEP all of the cards you draft
    • Rewards: 3 wins: 2 Tickets 1 Pack, 4 wins: 2 Tickets 2 Packs, 5 wins: 2 Tickets 3 Packs

Card Economy

  • Cards can be bought, sold, or traded with other players. They can also be traded in/recycled for points toward a ticket. There is no ‘dust’ system for unwanted cards.
    • 20 cards traded in = 1 ticket, rarity does not matter for trade in points (1pt/card)
  • The current system works exactly like a stock market, prices for buying and selling are automatically assigned based on the current market value
    • You can specify your own buying and selling price if you want.
    • Interactive graphs of the changes in price over time as well as buying and selling volume are available for each card
  • Valve currently charges a 15% tax on every transaction. For super small transactions under $0.10 this tax can fluctuate from as low as 13% to as high as 66%
    • When selling you see how much tax Valve will charge you (and the net cost to the buyer) before posting a sell offer.
  • As of writing (11/30/2018), it currently costs $347.05 to buy ALL COPIES OF ALL CARDS IN THE GAME 
    • This takes into account the free starter decks you are given, but does NOT count the 10 packs you are given

Putting It All Together

  • The ‘fairness’ of this monetization scheme depends largely on two factors: 1. How hard it is to get to 3 wins in a gauntlet 2. How the card economy changes over time
  • 1. Currently it is fairly reasonable to grind for cards. As long as you can get 3 wins and 1 loss consistently then you can play expert constructed and expert draft infinitely. Get 4 or 5 wins and then you are starting to rack up packs.
    • This seems like a fairly easy task for an experienced player
    • However, this largely depends on how match making is handled for expert gauntlets (ie all expert modes)
      • If match making is based on your current score only (you match with players with a similar record in the current gauntlet), then this should be a fairly easy task
      • If match making is based on overall performance (like global matchmaking), then this could be a lot harder
      • This could result in a situation where you are evenly matched every single time, meaning your win rate would be ~50% no matter how good you are
      • This would make hitting that 3 win mark substantially harder, meaning you should expect to need to pay for tickets much more often
    • Currently it is unclear which of these matchmaking schemes Artifact is using for it’s gauntlet style modes.
  • 2. Being able to directly buy cards from other players seems like an improvement over past game models
    • This means you can make money without even playing the game (one user made $20 in an hour just flipping large volumes of cards). This money could then be reinvested in the game to buy tickets or more packs/cards.
      • If you want something you can just buy it instead of opening a ton of packs and hoping you get lucky. To me this seems more fair as it gives the player more agency/certainty over what they are getting for their money.
      • However, much of the benefit of this scheme depends on the card economy. If things settle into a MTG like economy where all the ‘good’/meta cards cost several dollars a pop then keeping up with the game is going to be very expensive.
      • The current price of $347.05 to buy all necessary copies of all cards in the game from a completely fresh account (not even counting the 10 free packs they give you) is pretty fair compared to other currently popular card games.
      • Since the card economy functions exactly like a stock market it is pretty much impossible to accurately predict where it will head in the near to far future.
  • Valve’s monetization of this game seems reasonable
    • They give you ~$35 of value right out of the gate with the 2 free starter decks, 5 tickets, and 10 packs you receive after finishing the tutorial.
    • If it weren’t for the fact all the starter deck cards are worth next to nothing because everyone gets them, you actually might be able to make $ by purchasing multiple accounts and just selling off all of the cards (you still might be able to, I haven’t done the math yet…)
    • Since Valve has tied their cards directly to real world $ they need to charge you money every time you receive cards or they are literally printing and handing out $ for FREE
      • If they did make any aspect of the game completely free (say free to download and 1 starter deck), you are going to get bots farming the free cards and selling them, crashing the card economy and costing valve a lot of money. Thus the cover charge of $20 and (potential) $1 charge every time you play a mode that could net you cards seems reasonable.
    • There is actually an exciting possibility of making money just by playing the game if you are good.
      • Imagine a Friday night magic you can play any time of the day, as many times as you want, where there is an entire world of buyers lined up to instantly purchase whatever you happen to win.
      • AFAIK this is a world first, as MTGO had no mechanism for earning sell-able cards just by playing. You are literally being paid $ directly by Valve every time you can hit 4+ wins in expert mode.

Taken all together, I think there is potential here for things to be pretty awesome as long as 1 and 2 go in a positive direction. I am not going to hold my breath though…


The monetization scheme seems fair, as you pay $20 up front for ~$35 of in game value. You have access to the entire game for free after paying the initial $20. The only time you potentially need to pay money is when you play one of the free modes but want to potentially grind packs/tickets. If you are good enough to get 3 wins before 2 loses you can infinitely grind for packs/tickets. Whenever you win a pack, Valve is LITERALLY paying you real world $ (although not a lot). Thus, if you are good enough to get 4+ wins frequently, Valve is literally paying you to play their game.

How affordable/fair Artifact remains depends on:

1. how easy it is to get 3 wins before 2 loses and
2. how expensive the card economy gets.

Currently, without opening a single pack (even the 10 free ones) it costs $347.05 to buy all necessary copies of all the cards in the game (ie a totally complete collection). This seems fairly reasonable compared to other games currently on the market. Since it is an entirely player driven economy, however, it is hard to know how expensive/cheap things will be in the future.

I think this game has the potential to not be a bottomless money pit, but based on all past tcgs I am not going to hold my breath. I really hope it can though, as that is the only thing keeping me away from continuing to play competitive tcgs at the moment.

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Written by Wunderforce

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