I think it mainly has to do with the game being at least half a decade old (DWU), or close to a decade old for the original. I think it still is the best space 4X around, but those who loved it probably play it rarely now (me, maybe once a year) and those who couldn't get past the UI/GFX/learning curve will probably not revisit it now. There is only a very small sliver of people who may never have heard of it and would also be willing to try. I don't think that's unusual, just the life cycle of even the best of games.
For mods, I think the main issue is active player base. Modders often come from within the player base, so the smaller one is the smaller the other will be. Some modders want to specifically target games with active communities, even if they don't play much themselves - again, small player base hurts. Finally, I think the lack of Steam Workshop integration hurts the distribution of mods for the common player, which again may weigh on a modders willingness to invest in the game. Despite these issues there have been some amazing mods come out over the years.
I do strongly agree that the game could use a better learning curve. While there are suggestions instead of automation already, and a (weak) tutorial, the game is pretty tough to learn. That must have been even worse before the pre-warp, 1 planet start option (which is the only way to learn, I think). I also think the game design makes a mistake of encouraging full automation to start, then shifting to manual - I would suggest the opposite at least through the early warp phase to get to know some of the mechanics, rather than keeping them as just a black box.
Hopefully the devs will include a better in-game "adviser" function as in most other modern 4X - it doesn't have to be perfect, but it should be pleasant for a new player to rely on (instead of full automation) at least through the end of their first war. I love the Galactopedia, but it is pretty daunting if its your only way to learn how to play.
< Message edited by AKicebear -- 12/14/2018 1:31:37 AM >