Path Of Exile had a difficult week of expansion issues and PR struggles
It definitely wasn't a smooth launch weekend
Path Of Exile kicked off its latest expansion Ultimatum on Friday, a launch which was unfortunately part of a challenging week for the developers and players both. Server issues created a domino effect of troubles on launch day between Path Of Exile's developers, their players, and livestreamers. That was just the cap to a week which was already troubled by accusations of an unfair ban from what turned out to be an invented player. Most issues appear to be resolved now, but here's a look at what's been going on.
On Ultimatum's launch day, players were struggling to get through Path Of Exile's login queue off the bat. "At the rate that it was emptying, it'd be at least two hours to get everyone into the game," Grinding Gear explain in a post about the many issues they faced on launch day. Later on, they say "the realm freaked out and dumped most of the players out, then continued to do this roughly every ten minutes or so for the rest of the day." Grinding Gear's post gets into additional details on exactly what caused the instability on launch day.
Getting queues and servers fixed eventually required downtime for the game, though Grinding Gear have updated to say that stability issues appear to be resolved now.
Further complicating what was already a headache of a launch day, Grinding Gear say they had also arranged for some Path Of Exile livestreamers to play at launch as part of a paid marketing campaign. Those livestreamers were experiencing the same login queue issues as other players during the time they were being paid to play the game.
"This was about as close as you could get to literally setting a big pile of money on fire. So we made the hasty decision to allow those streamers to bypass the queue," Grinding Gear say.
"Instead of offering viewers something to watch while they waited, it offended all of our players who were eager to get into the game and weren't able to, while instead having to watch others enjoy that freedom. It's completely understandable that many players were unhappy about this. We tell people that Path of Exile league starts are a fair playing field for everyone, and we need to actually make sure that is the reality."
Grinding Gear say they won't allow streamers to jump the queue in the future and that they'll plan their marketing campaigns with contigencies for a situation like this.
Earlier in the week, Grinding Gear were already looking into a totally different issue. Attention had gathered around a player claiming to have been banned from Path Of Exile for using a macro that was neccessary for them to play the game due to a physical disability. The post was brought to the attention of Able Gamers COO Steven Spohn, to whom GGG responded saying they couldn't find record of the ban in question but had reached out to the original poster.
The post was later revealed to be a hoax, allegedly pulled off by an instructor attempting to teach their class a lesson about misinformation on social media. Media literacy is important, sure. If you're appropriating the genuine challenges of disabled gamers to use as your demonstration then I think your lesson plan belongs in the bin though.
"It's undermining the legitimacy of real issues and the Twitter thread caused us some pretty bad PR damage," Grinding Gear told PC Gamer. Spohn also expressed frustration with the situation, saying "[The poster] made the world a harder place for legitimately disabled people to get the attention of devs."
It's certainly been a hectic week for Path Of Exile. Based on GGG's account of the situation, it sounds like the server-side issues have resulted in improvements to their launch process. They've learned a valuable lesson about marketing campaigns. They did get it right by attempting to investigate and address the needs of a disabled player. Hopefully the fact that this player was made up won't keep them from being receptive to other disabled Path Of Exile players' concerns.