The situation is extremely clear: as the definition of “win” is “reaching your goal”, if paying real world money gets you closer to your goals, you are paying to win. All the excuses are wrong. The pay-to-win people usually claim that their win is not guaranteed by the payment. It’s true, but irrelevant. Just because it’s possible to win a soccer game 10 vs 11, bribing the referee to ban one of the opposing team without reason is still cheating. Playing 11 vs 10 is a huge advantage. Just like having gold ammo or being able to spend all your game time on fighting because you bought dozens of replacement ships from $.
The “my real world income is higher than the $1-2/hour I can earn in the game” is wrong for three reasons:
Now the trick in EVE, compared to World of Tanks is that you don’t pay the developer to win. In WoT, you buy gold ammo and you can pop enemy tanks like they were tissue paper. In EVE, you buy a PLEX from CCP, but it doesn’t make you any stronger. However you can trade it to better players for their power. For example in every month I don’t use 9B for my purposes. From this money, I could send another highsec wardeccer after the major CFC alliances for nice kills. Instead, I give that ISK to bad players who pay my subscriptions in return.
The PLEX method – unlike the WoT method – isn’t obviously wrong. If Adam sells power to Bob, Cecilia isn’t worse off. She is now relatively weaker than Bob, but got equal relative strength compared to Adam. If we ignore the real-money part of the PLEX trade, we get the good old boosting: a good player helps a bad one because he is a friend. However we know that good players aren’t a few percent better than average ones but 10-100x. So Adam may have 100B, Cecilia has 1B and Bob has nothing. After paying $30 Bob can buy 1.6B ISK, becoming stronger than Cecilia, while Adam is still much stronger. Of course she could just become as good as the 100B guys, but he doesn’t even know where to start. The straightforward methods (mine, rat, mission more or better on her one account) are totally not competitive with PLEX purchases. So for the players who are unable/unwilling to make a jump into multiboxing and/or trading, the only way to win is to pay.