The future of Artifact is looking bleaker than ever, as several key figures who worked on the development of the game are no longer associated with the project due to layoffs at Valve, which includes Richard Garfield, who designed the game.
Richard Garfield is best-known for creating Magic: The Gathering, but he also designed other popular games such as Netrunner and Vampire: The Eternal Struggle. Garfield's most recent claim to fame is as the creator of Artifact, which is a digital collectible card game that is based on Dota 2. Artifact has been criticized for being a full-price game that has worse monetization practices than those of its free-to-play competitors, which has caused a severe decline in the active player base since launch.
Valve has recently let go of several of their staff, which has also included the two members of the Three Donkeys game consultation & design company, consisting of Richard Garfield and Skaff Elias. Garfield was reached out to by the Artifact fan site called Artibuff, where he confirmed that he was no longer working on Artifact, though both he and Elias will continue to offer free advice concerning the future of the game going forward, as they still believe that it can do well.
The loss of Richard Garfield is a huge blow to Artifact and it casts doubts on the future of the game. If Valve had faith in Artifact as a product going forward, then now would be the time to show their support. The fact that the designer of Artifact is no longer working on the game suggests that Valve is winding things down or that it's planning on going in a different direction going forward.
The most obvious way to improve Artifact's performance is to move it to a free-to-play model, but this would alienate the fans who purchased the game at launch a few months ago. Valve could bite the bullet and give those fans an abundance of free items as an apology, but it seems that it may be more interested in letting Artifact fade away than trying to save the game, which is a shame, as there are those who have claimed that there is a great game buried beneath the monetization practices.