The ridiculous reason Valve’s Artifact has regained Twitch popularity

It's a meme, folks.

Screengrab via PlayArtifact

Did you forget about Artifact, the Dota 2-based card game developed by Valve? Don’t feel bad, you are far from the only one.

The game lost virtually it’s entire playerbase just two months after launch. But if it’s such an ignored and unpopular game, why has it seen a spike in viewership on Twitch in the last few days?

According to Esports Observer’s Twitch analyzer tools, Artifact racked up a whopping zero total hours watched on Friday, May 17 across the platform. That’s not a typo. As far as the analyzer is concerned, not a single hour of combined viewership was tabulated for the card game the entire day.

It’s worth noting that the analyzer tool doesn’t always include viewership for broadcasts with very small audiences (1-5 viewers), so it was more than likely virtually zero hours watched, not literally.

For comparison, Valve’s 2004 blockbuster hit Half-Life 2 clocked in 50 hours watched in the same 24-hour period.

The trend continued on for the short-lived Artifact, receiving zero hours watched for the next four days. But then, as if the biblical tale of Lazarus of Bethany was being brought to fruition…a heartbeat.

On May 22, 2019, Artifact notched seven total hours watched. The downtrodden and exhausted doctors that had given up hope on reviving Artifact rushed to its bedside, fully recommitted to bringing the game back to its former self.

May 23, 2019, 356 total hours watched. The doctors began to cautiously celebrate. They didn’t quite understand why their patient was reanimating, but they were just glad it was.

What could be bringing such vibrant life back into this cold husk of a game? What were the people of Twitch doing to change the fate of history?

Well, as is the case for the majority of internet mysteries, the answer was simple: memes.

The Artifact Twitch meme appears to have started seven days ago when Twitch streamer NymN did his “daily Artifact check,” to marvel at the failure of the game.

While past checks had only turned up a handful of very small streams actually playing the game, this time, there was a gift waiting for NymN.

“Wait, what the fuck is this?” NymN said when he saw an unfamiliar stream in the category.

The entirety of the broadcast was an image of a man with text reading, “daily quest: get NymN to click this link twice.” in the background, with a meme remix of a song from Yoshi’s Island.

Several days later, NymN returned to inspect the Artifact Twitch category, this time seeing three meme streams, including one that was simply rebroadcasting a version of his live stream that was zoomed in on his forehead.

The next day, the biggest Artifact stream was a feed of a DrDisrespect clip being simultaneously looped 16 times with the same Yoshi’s Island meme remix in the background.

Finally, on Friday, Artifact hit the staggering total of nearly 300 concurrent viewers, all thanks to an exponential increase in meme streams. And yes, the Yoshi’s Island remix made an appearance.

Visiting the Artifact category now will reveal more DrDisrespect memes, someone watching The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift with their chatroom, Microsoft Paint showcases, a pianist playing classical music with a small window of someone else playing the game in the corner, and 91 streams looping the same anime clip.

Yes, I counted: 91 individual, unique, separate streams, all titled, “AYAYA,” nearly all with the same profile picture.

Maybe most impressively, a majority of them have zero viewers, meaning not even the person broadcasting it wants to witness the mayhem they’ve unleashed.

As is the cycle of life, memes rise to stardom, and they fall to the pit of irrelevance, sometimes in the blink of an eye. For how long the Artifact section will be plagued with AYAYAs and illegal movie streams, no one knows. But this is something that should be appreciated in the moment regardless, so even when it’s gone, we still have our memories.

It’s truly a beautiful meme—a rare one that both makes a statement by showing Valve how big of a disappointment this title was, and can make uninformed people laugh at how ridiculous the joke is. Memes like this must be appreciated.

If Artifact has any chance of being the true Lazarus of the gaming industry, Valve will need to do something to regain control of the category. Contract streamers to play the game again, overhaul the meta to please fans, make it free to play, all of the above, or anything else.

Or perhaps Valve has given up hope, in which case I recommend always turning your volume down when entering the Artifact category as a precaution for potential DrDisrespect loops or Yoshi’s Island remixes.