Once upon a time, the game was a subscription-based game. Players paid a sub per month to play. CCP then added PLEX in 2008. From 2009 to 2012, EVE numbers grew to the highest they’ve ever been, averaging at one point 45k to 50k accounts online at once. However, as we all know, this isn’t actual PLAYERS playing the game. The average EVE player has at least two to three accounts; and it is common for some players to have 5 accounts or more. This is easy to do, as it’s easy for a veteran to make enough money in-game to PLEX their account. Get to Level 4/5 missions, get mining up to get a barge, work up industry to sell T2/faction Ammo and ships, explore, abyssals… There are a LOT of ways to make enough money, not even playing 2 hours a day, to pay off two to three accounts minimum.
As a result, though we don’t have the actual numbers(I’m sure CCP does), I would bet that at least half the accounts in the game are alts, and most of those are PLEX’d accounts. That is a lot of money in-game that CCP never sees in their wallets. So they started selling cosmetics in the Market. Then they started selling Skill Injectors, the big money maker for them. The problem is, they cost PLEX, which players can earn easily; and some industrialists created skill farming accounts to make and sell skill injectors. Every time CCP came up with a way to earn money through the PLEX store, keeping in the in-game economy, EVE players found a way to ■■■■ it up.
So now we’re at this: starter packs, and now the first mid-tier ship. Yes, part of this is to help newer players get into the mining industry; but it highlights the main issue; that it’s hard to make money in a game where money is easy to earn. EVE is becoming, due to the amount of cash you can earn in-game, free-to-play. Every free-to-play game ends up with two options: grind to play content, which we’ve had forever; and pay to advance in the cash shop. You can even join an alliance in nullsec and be able to PLEX your account with even greater ease in one of the big blocks. Run sites in nulsec and you’ll never sub with RMT again.
So CCP has to create a balance between earning a profit and getting new players; and not pissing off their player base, many of whom have been in this game for ten years or more. Eventually, they have to go down this road, not because they want to turn into a pay to win game; but because they have to earn money. The cosmetic shop won’t work when the only time you see your character is when you log in, and when the only time you see your ship is spinning in station, as you have to zoom out till your ship is a spec if you want to play right.
What is a solution that doesn’t go down the path? I don’t know. We all have to share the blame for why we’re in this situation, however. As soon as the first account was PLEX’d, the clock to P2W started ticking.