Maybe it's all about what you mean by winning? It doesn't get you Gladiator or Herioc raid clears, but it does let you a serious leg up on anyone else.
Maybe we can have a discussion about whether or not it's more ethical to have P2W elements in a subscription-based game versus a F2P one.
How far we've come from stacking clams and server transfers. How far we've come... Smiley: disappointed
See, I don't think there's anything about P2W that demands you have to "be the best."
By nature, PVE is not competitive. Players might turn it into a competition of elitism, but it's about personal character progression. You aren't in competition with other players, but it's important to the value of personal accomplishment that all players be on the same page. You need a community characterized by a return-on-effort; the people walking around in the best epics stand to add context of what you stand to gain by putting in that effort, and the new players in their 40s characterize the path you've traveled (for many of us, through multiple endgame scenarios on top of that).
So in terms of definition, a PVE P2W scenario is any scenario that lets you significantly jump the mark on the progression scale. In essence, you "win" by bypassing the content that is integral to the actual contextualizing of progress for players overall.
It's not like a PVP scenario, where a player buying better gear than you is a problem because it actually impacts your ability to perform. It's about cheapening the value of your accomplishment by monetizing it.
Sure, there are ABSOLUTELY different levels of insult with the P2W model, and fast-tracking to cap is probably the least egregious of them (except selling rate boosters, which I'm still against outside of F2P games).
But paying for an entry-level gear set for raiding, paying for an entry-level gear set for hard mode raiding, paying for BiS gear (or BiS gear that's better than raiding potential) are still all examples of P2W scenarios.
They're paying to bypass the content in place to force subscribers to invest time and energy into an accomplishment.
Because that's the thing. Those subscribers ARE paying to hit the level cap. They're just paying with both time and money. The P2W model is removing the time component and adding more money.
That's realistically all ANY P2W model, with the sole exception of the "best gear" scenario, is.
I'm willing to accept limited P2W models (like exp boosters) in a F2P game. I'm absolutely not in a subscription game. That's crap.
If you think there needs to be a fast-track to cap for experienced players who don't want to level anymore, then you put in a quest line that unlocks that system, but requires them be at cap with one character already.
If you don't think that, YOU DON'T MAKE IT AN OPTION.
Making it an option and monetizing it is what's crap in a subscription model.