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I feel most of you tend to get lost in semantics and argue if this is P2W or not, and, by extension of this, if the company lied to its playerbase or not. Most arguments saying this is not P2W revolve around the fact that you can just play the game and get the gear that someone can buy using the silver he can (probably get) by selling pearl items on the marketplace.
Now, this is indeed true. You can, if you grind long enough, get to that point. The problem is in how the game has been conceived. These types of games take advantage of the competitive nature of humans. Most people invested in life skills or scenery admiration wont pay PA much anyway. So if someone grinding 24/7 can reach the gear level of a whale in a couple months, then the developers will make sure that they put out an expansion or some new piece that is a "must have" by that time so the whales dont feel deceived out of their money, they keep the top spot and the player that thought he will reach whale status without being one is given another gap to close until he can get the feeling of achievement he needs. This will continuously happen until the game is milked dry and dies off.
The problem with getting a big chunk of money in a short amount of time by selling these pearl items makes it almost a certainty that if you dont pay you will never really have something to show for your play time. Heck, the whole game is designed just around bragging rights, with leaderboards everywhere. This is typical of asian markets, im not saying this is good or bad, its just how they have it there. It is really off putting to know that a developer is expecting you to give them money to not be a punching bag for the guys that do, and that s not even for a long time considering they have events and patches that make it easier for newer players to catch up, just because those newer players need to be given a chance to pay up and maybe become a new whale.
In the end this cycle of new content that makes the old obsolete by progression standards, and other small, almost invisible features that encourage competition are there to stimulate spending, quick spending so as to maximize your time in game and get a sense of achievement, before the game dies down. The problem that stems from this is that the life span of the game is severely shortened and that means players that are simply enjoying the content will do so for a much shorter time. That doesn't really concern the devs as this is a money making machine and not a piece of art. Everything is about money in their market, the hope that it has suddenly become all about the experience just because they are selling this in the west as well probably shouldn't have been there in the first place.
In recent years MMOs (heck, most games even) have been created as businesses not as games and that is more and more apparent as they have become more soulless and gray as time goes by. Just think about it.
TL/DR: Yes, the game is P2W because even though you can catch up without paying you will never realistically do so because if it takes you x amount of time to do so in that x amount of time the max paying customer has already progressed to y and so forth. No competitive reason in playing without ponying up the cash = P2W. Also, this type of dev thinking makes games boring and impersonal, like reading an excel sheet.