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Depending on your point of view, Valve’s news this week is either one heckuva tease or a knife in your Half-Life-lovin’ soul.

Late Tuesday night, the publisher of worldwide hits such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Team Fortress 2 announced Artifact, a digital card game (think Magic: The Gathering, but as a video game). We don’t know much more about it, but we are aware of this: If it follows the path of Dota 2 (from which it’ll draw its lore), Blizzard’s Hearthstone will soon have a big-time competitor in its rear-view mirror.

The digital card game market is growing; market research firm SuperData estimates it could be worth $1.4 billion by 2017’s end. And Hearthstone is on top, making as much as $40 million a month off selling card packs, expansion bundles, and three hero skins. And Blizzard is going to see a surge in cash starting today when The Frozen Throne expansion launchesand players buy thousands of packs of new cards.

But Blizzard has nothing like Steam’s Community Market. This is where those who love games like Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 make and sell cosmetic items, like hats for player characters and guns skins for Counter-Strike. It’s Valve’s bread-and-butter, too. Imagine how a card game could plug into this marketplace — alternative art for cards and heroes, for example.


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Or even … trading collections? People already buy, sell, and swap Steam Trading Cards (which you unlock in your games on the platform). What if I could trade cards from the packs I get in Artifact? I see potential good and harm here — people selling premium cards at absurd prices, others giving away tons of valuable cards for nothing to their friends. Valve has already seen a controversy with skin-trading in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Washington state even investigated it for gambling. Blizzard and just about every other company making card games (like Bethesda and Elder Scrolls: Legends, which just hit mobile last month and I’m reviewing right now) don’t offer this — though those on Steam, like Elder Scrolls, could enable support if their publishers wanted to do so. Valve has the potential to turn the market upside-down with this, even if it doesn’t put Artifact on mobile and tap into an even more lucrative market.

Are players ready for that?

For PC gaming coverage, send news tips to Jeff Grubb (who’s on vacation this week) and guest post submissions to Rowan Kaiser. Please be sure to visit our PC Gaming Channel. You can also enter our Intel-sponsored contest for an iBuyPower Snowblind gaming rig here.

—Jason Wilson, GamesBeat managing editor

P.S. Is it madness … or mad genius? Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice skirts that line.

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