This Tobold post contains a lot of straw, and while I don’t think he believes some of the things he wrote, I do wonder if others might look at things in such a way. Before I get to that however, let’s cover some basics.
There is a huge difference between victory conditions and personal goals. For something to be a victory condition, it must be acknowledged by those who participate in the competition; be it game-wide or a sub-culture. A personal goal is just that; something that you aim to accomplish that has little to no impact on anyone else.
For a simple example, let’s look at any team sporting event; everyone involved understands that whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins. You didn’t ‘win’ because you created the personal goal of never touching the ball and stood in the corner all game.
World firsts in raiding are a victory condition, because amongst top-tier raiding guilds it’s accepted that being ‘first’ is the goal. This victory condition is not diminished because there are also some casual raiding guilds that don’t aim for world firsts; the world-first crowd is a subset, but everyone in that subset knows the rules to the game.
In that subset, things like gearing up matter, so when a game sells raid-quality gear in its cash shop, for that subset the game is now P2W. That a different subset exists only to collect raid dresses to look pretty doesn’t matter to top guilds or how they view a game.
Tobold brings up LoL and buying champs/XP as a form of P2W, but there is no victory condition in LoL for reaching lvl 30 (end of tutorial) or collecting all the champs. Those can be personal goals, but winning games is the accepted victory condition (with an accompanying Victory/Defeat announcement at the end of the game). If Riot started selling ‘gold ammo’, or anything else that increased your chance to win a ranked game, LoL would be P2W. But Riot is smart, and knows very well that to the millions and millions playing, the game NOT being P2W is a massive draw.
When Wargaming.net announced WoT was no longer P2W, they did so because the accepted victory condition in that game was winning matches, and the cash-only gold ammo helped you win matches. Declaring that your personal goal is to just drive around in a tank looking at trees does not change WoT from a former P2W game; it just means you set a personal goal (that is likely to get you banned for not playing as intended and ruining the game for others) that was not effected by gold ammo. Neat, but irrelevant.
As to why Wargaming would make such an announcement? Look above; WoT is doing well, but it’s not at the level of LoL. Wargaming is also smart (and likely has plenty of data to back it up), and sees that being a P2W game hurts the bottom line more than it helps, hence the change and announcement.
There are plenty of games out that are blatant P2W (Atlantica Online is one example, along with dozens of iPhone games). One glance at what money gets you vs what the victory conditions are makes that clear. And for some, that is exactly what they are looking for. P2W is not a problem to be fixed; it’s just a different approach to gaming. For whatever reasons, some people enjoy competing in an environment where your wallet is a factor (note that even in something like AO, your wallet is not the ONLY factor, and player skill/decisions still matter).
Non-P2W subscription games in some ways are the opposite; here the factors are the amount of time you can play and your skill level. If you are something who is heavily time restricted but still wants to ‘win’, you will be annoyed by this model and find it ‘unfair’, much like someone who has time but isn’t willing or able to spend money in a P2W game will find that model ‘unfair’. And for some, playing in an unfair environment is an added challenge/bonus rather than a flaw; there are plenty of players who seek to make the most of their limited time in a sub-based game, or those who will push a P2W game as far as they can without spending a dime.
In summary, P2W exists and is just as valid a game/business model as non-P2W games. Much of the rage around the topic comes when a former non-P2W game changes its model, which IMO is very understandable, especially if you have invested a lot of time/effort into something. I do however find it silly that people will complain about P2W in a title that started out like that; you should have known what you were signing up for. The Oakland Athletics might bitch about the New York Yankees payroll, but at the end of the day the MLB rules are what they are, and both teams/owners know it. Don’t like it? Buy an NFL team and play in a league with a hard salary cap (subscription).