Action role-playing games are an interesting genre of games, attracting and retaining a fan base that faces a recurring decision: whether or not to buy in. Those that do stick around for update after update, create a community of users who have a collective identity, and want the game to maintain a certain aesthetic. ARPGs come to be trapped in a culture of nostalgia and sentimentality, confounded by the games’ fan bases growing older, and newer games coming into their own. The original members Path of Exile community were drawn to the slower pace, hard content, and the game’s focus on decision-making. At this point in the game’s life cycle, the community was smaller, and the game was less accessible.
As we wait for the next update to roll out, we have been informed of new content, including Path of Exile items like new tile sets, bosses and maps. Upgrade or not, longtime players may feel that the material counts as lateral content, and does not improve upon the mechanics of the game. While some of the redundancy of the gameplay is alleviated, making it more immersive, such upgrades do not address long-standing issues such as build disparity or power creep, at least directly. These are areas for improvement identified by the gamers who have been around since the beginning.
Most Path of Exile players are long-term gamers, many of whom have invested their own money on in-game purchases or introduced their friends to the game. However, as consumers, they are relatively silent as compared to those who stream their sessions online, or create and publish video content related to Path of Exile. These producers are far more vocal, yet their passion for (and opinions about) the game may differ in part because they make a living by producing this content.
Action RPGs, as compared to Path of Exile, do suffer from having a low retention rate. After making a big splash with the core game, the vast majority of ARPGs do not stand the test of time, or age particularly well with their user base. With Path of Exile, however, so far the game has survived long enough to arrive at an interesting challenge: how to please multiple generations of gamers at the same time.
Gamers who have been around since the beginning may have once been able to grind for PoE items to exhaustion, but do they still have the energy or desire to do so every time they launch the game?
Recent updates to the game have suggested that Grinding Gears Games is looking to appeal to a different crowd, having made the challenges of finishing a map (or leveling up, for that matter) much easier to accomplish. Having ceiling effects or a low skill cap is what can mean the difference between a game having the ability to retain players or lose them to boredom. Reaching the endgame might feel like a sort of plateau, so with the advent of Atlas of Worlds, it will be interesting to see how gamers respond to the new features.