Path of Exile is critically acclaimed and has slowly, over the years, built up an impressive playerbase; however, as a free-to-play game, there's inevitably been the question of whether or not the game's microtransactions make it pay-to-win. So, in this article, we're going to explain everything you need to know about the monetization of Path of Exile and whether or not Path of Exile is pay-to-win.
Is Path of Exile Pay-to-Win Because It's Free-to-Play?
What you need to know about Path of Exile, first and foremost, is that it's a free-to-play game. There are microtransactions that offer up cosmetics alongside storage, and there is something of a battle pass system but not really. Essentially, at endgame, you can pay to level up a pass that gives you skins you'd normally buy in the in-game shop. So, it's more or less a discounted skin bundle with a playtime requirement and less of a battle pass as we tend to think about them.
Extra storage isn't something you'll need until the endgame, even if you want to min/max as much as possible, and the same can be said for the 'battle pass', so both are only things you can realistically think about buying until after you've sunk many hours, for free, into the game. While the battle pass will unlock you cosmetics, storage does become important, eventually.
After anywhere somewhere in the range of 50 to 200 hours of free playtime, if you want to be as competitive as possible, you'll want to spend somewhere between $20 and $40 on storage. Technically, this will afford you an advantage, but for the vast and overwhelming majority of gamers, this won't be considered pay-to-win. Though, while your character can look cool without premium cosmetics, it's generally going to be a lot easier to buy premium cosmetics to make your build look really cool than it will be to find extremely cool-looking gear that goes well together visually and also works for your build.
It's also important to note that there's only one premium currency, simply named Points, that you can buy, and you buy Points at a flat rate: either $5 for 50, $10 for 100, or $20 for 200. The store doesn't try to incentivize you to buy more points by making the larger packs a better value, which is nice, but stuff in the shop is generally on the expensive side (things can regularly cost $20, $30, or more) compared to microtransactions prices in general.
In the shop, you will regularly find that stuff you want to buy costs a few more Points or a few less Points than you have, so you will be encouraged to spend extra Points (and top up your extra Points with enough Points to get something good) and buy more points if you have almost enough Points for something, as do all microtransaction shops. However, most aren't expected to buy Points from the shop anyways, as the core of the microtransaction element of Path of Exile comes down to Supporter Packs.
Path of Exile does have a lootbox system called Mystery Boxes, but the way they work currently is pretty limited compared to most lootboxes. So, you can buy a box for 50 Points or $5, and you'll randomly get one of 14 different cosmetics for your character that each come in 4 variations. There are no duplicates, but since every item you can get comes in 4 variations, you can get the same item as a different variation until you've gotten all four variations. Naturally, this means the odds of getting some specific item will go up with each one you buy. You can also find the chances of getting specific variations on the Path of Exile site, but these values will naturally change as the pool of possible items you can get goes down.
As a note, when you buy microtransaction gear, it's not tradeable, but importantly, it's tied to your account, not your character, so you'll be able to use your Path of Exile microtransactions on whichever character. Plus, Path of Exile 2 will be carrying over microtransaction purchases from Path of Exile, so whatever you buy you'll be able to use in the sequel.
Path of Exile's Supporter Packs: Pay-to-Win?
The main thrust of Path of Exile's microtransactions comes down to Supporter Packs. Supporter Packs are content bundles that come with cosmetics and Points for the shop alongside Packs that can even include physical goods. There are a ton of different Supporter Packs, and you'll see new ones added with each new League. The thing to know about Supporter Packs is that they're designed to be the best value of anything in the shop.
See, Supporter Packs usually cost between $30 and $90, though there are a bunch of packs at different (higher) prices, too. In most cases, for Packs tied to Leagues, there'll be different 'versions' of Packs: one at $30, one at $60, and one at $90 all with more goodies than the previous set. Each Supporter Pack comes with an equal amount of Points, meaning that as per Path of Exile's firm 10-Points-to-$1 ratio, a$30 Pack comes with 300 Points, $60 with 600, and so on.
You can buy Points in the shop for that same value, $5 for 50 Points, $10 for 100 Points, and $20 for 200 Points, but you can spend $30 on a Supporter Pack, get 300 Points, and get cosmetics, too. As mentioned above, cosmetics can be expensive, so you'll often see cosmetic bundles like those in Supporter Packs go for $20, $30, $40+ dollars themselves in the store.
Supporter Packs are by the far the best way to use the microtransaction shop in Path of Exile, and they don't have anything RNG-related, nor do they offer anything beyond cosmetics in terms of in-game rewards. While a great value, as per their design, there's nothing pay-to-win about them. Though, you will have to somewhat deal with the fact that as a new player you won't look cool unless you spend money for quite a while, and you'll probably never look as cool as the people who do spend money.
As a note, Supporter Packs are sold in dollars, directly. They aren't Points purchases, while they do give out points. If you've bought Points recently, you can put those towards a Supporter Pack (up to 80% of its cost), but you can't use Points from a Supporter Pack to buy other Supporter Packs.