Our primary goal was to [recreate the experience of playing Diablo 2 online], rather than to make a game that everyone in the world could play. Grinding Gear Games CEO Chris Wilson, answering a fan question about the complex and somewhat casual gamer-unfriendly systems behind Path of Exile. Give a listen above.
I played PoE a bit in early beta, and while it's a well made game, I didn't really like it. I enjoy hardcore, difficult games, but it seems like PoE is going about it in all the wrong ways. I like games like Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament, Dark Souls, or Ninja Gaiden that make the game mechanics tough, and force you to learn them to succeed. Be brutally tough, that's fine.
But these games instead have really simple mechanics (no aRPG that I've played requires a lot of technical skill) and instead make them hardcore by focusing on punishing the player permanently for making the wrong choices, forcing abuse of the potions, etc. Making the game obtuse, punishing players for experimenting, and making players grind are not fun, or skill based gameplay. Making a game fairly simple, but with an extremely high skill ceiling is much more rewarding. That's why I've always had respect for competitive fighting games, even if they're not really my cup of tea.