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According to Gamasutra, World of Tanks used to give an edge to paying players, but fortunately the developer Wargaming.net promised to "remove all "pay-to-win" purchase options from all of its current and upcoming titles."

Do all players now have an equal chance to win, or do paying customers still have an advantage over free players? For example, do paying customers have more garage space or unlock new items and vehicles at faster rate?

A definition for a pay-to-win game:

A common suggestion for avoiding pay-to-win is that payments should only be used to broaden the experience without affecting gameplay. For example, Dota 2 only allows the purchase of cosmetic items, meaning that a "free-to-play player" will be on the same level as a player who has spent money on the game.

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  • that depends on what you define as pay to win. exclusive tanks and items only available to paying customers? fast unlocking of things like crew training and such? the ability to buy in-game tanks with money instead of in game credits?
    – Rapitor
    Jul 22 '16 at 12:55
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    @Rapitor P2W means that paying players have a higher chance to win. If exclusive tanks have different stats and items unlock faster by paying the game falls to that category.
    – user598527
    Jul 22 '16 at 14:58
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    Your quote does nothing to explain the definition of P2W. If anything it explains cosmetic-only payments whatever you would call that. Jul 22 '16 at 17:01
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    @user598527 How would tanks unlocking faster increase your chance to win? High tier tanks face high tier tanks, there is no benefit in getting a high tier tank sooner. Arguably it will provide a disadvantage, as you would be facing opponents with more experience quicker than you would have without.
    – Xenox
    Aug 24 '16 at 10:10
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The features like extra garage space, higher earnings and easier access to higher tiers are not the "P2W" problem - that's all a metagame, paying players have it easier there, but it doesn't give them competitive edge because they are still matched with players of the same level (paying or not). The actual game is played during battles, and these elements don't provide advantages over players you're pitted against. It doesn't matter how many different tanks you have, what matters is what percentage of battles you win and how many enemies you damage.

This is unfortunately, where WoT doesn't shine. Yes, you can excuse the "gold ammo" - special ammunition that while possible to purchase for the "free" currency, makes gameplay completely unsustainable (even massive victories will create a big budget defficit). So, if you want to "spam gold" (shoot copious amounts of the premium ammo) you'll need to pay - and you'll get a significant edge over players who just can't afford it.

But that's not the end of it. What matters a lot is performance of tanks. The game inherently has some imbalance making some tanks better and some worse; but never before had the imbalance been shifted so much towards Premium tanks - obtainable for gold.

The paradigm used to be "Premium tanks are meant to be middle ground, somewhat inferior to maximally upgraded standard tanks." This is no longer the case. The most blatant example is Object 252U Defender, a relatively recent addition; a premium tank that is supposed to be quite similar to IS-3.

Well, it isn't. The "free" IS-3, while similar, has inferior gun penetration, vulnerable frontal plate, and some more protruding cupola (weak spot on top). Generally, Defender is objectively far superior. But Defender can be purchased for 10,950 gold, that's around $42. IS-3 requires a lengthy grind.

And as for earning gold in-game - that's a fallacious argument that crashes in contact with reality. You can obtain a little gold here and there in various rewards for events etc, but you'd need literal decades to accumulate 10,000 of it that way. Any considerable amounts of gold to be earned can be only earned through winning high-level battles with advanced, high-level clans; in particular not any clans, only GOOD ones. And to join such a clan, you need exceptional skill, time, dedication - and GOOD tanks. Like Defender. It's a Catch-22: to start earning gold, you need to first have, and spend a lot of gold - to obtain superior - "pay to win" - tanks. Never mind some of the best premium tanks can't even be bought with in-game gold (earnable in game); you can only purchase them at the premium shop for real money.

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WoT is P2W because it provides in-game tools for it. But not playing the game instead of payers.

To have it clear, WoT offers further available tanks, ammunition, and quality of game experience for those who are willing to spend "gold" in-game currency for it.

Gold can be obtained via high in-game performance (contests, missions), events, special offers, and direct purchase based on real world money. Theoretically every player has the chance to obtain gold, but it is easy to see that, with allocated money, better options are possible to keep up for extended period of time, like weeks, months, or so. A not paying user in general will not have this available for long time.
For instance, I'm a not payer, playing WoT for 3 years or so, I have been in 8000 battles and accumulated approx. 1200 gold. I have spent some of it on garage slots, camouflage and decals, so now I have 900.

  • Ammunition is having the biggest part in pay to win, as it has penetration of Armor-Piercing shells, and damage of High-Explosive shells. But still the player needs aiming skill to be effective.

  • Premium Tanks are big advantage in general, but not for a player who does not adapt to WoT game style. You can buy any big tank, in normal matchmaker tier range it will not grant "invincibility", because these tanks have specific attribute advantages, and not all-but-me features. Some prove to be balanced, some really not. Still it takes the player to use them, an unskilled player will not perform good with any tank.

  • Premium account provides +50% experience and credits extra to the battle rewards. This is important in the aspect that you can cover repair and ammunition costs of Tier8-10 easier with this extra. If not using this, calculating with good player win rate (60%) and survival rate (45%), battle rewards are not enough to pay the above. What more, to progress. So you will need to play lower tiers to cover these expenses.

So as WoT has never suspended these advantages, the answer to question "Did World of Tanks entirely abandon its former “pay-to-win” business strategy?" is No, however I can't separately identify different instance of this concept to call any of it "former".

Do all players now have an equal chance to win...

Yes. Based on skills.

...do paying customers still have an advantage over free players, for example by having more garage space or unlocking new items and vehicles at faster rate?

Yes. Extra garage slots are available to be purchased by gold, and turning gold into free experience, they can faster get to research required parts. As a note, premium tanks are not part of tech-tree sequence, so there is no pre-requirement to obtain them.

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  • Yes, they are Available just not in the same fraction. I didn't see any advantage which is not possible to get on other fractions and the same type of tank :) at first I thought it was so but the Community-Manager of Wargaming could prove me that this is not the case. Yes but i wouldn't say this is Pay2Win cause you can achieve this on your own. The question is too opinion based... And you won't have a better skill if you are buying this or have a much bigger advantage cause you shouldn't get in a lower Tier game with a Tier-10 Tank, etc...
    – CentrixDE
    Oct 21 '16 at 11:48
  • I just voted up the Answer by @Lysarion cause this topic is really much to opinion based. The Answer by him had two downvotes but yeah... I gonna remove my comments cause this will not help(it's just a irrelevant discussion under a answer)
    – CentrixDE
    Oct 21 '16 at 13:18
  • I don't understand what "But not playing the game instead of payers." means.
    – user598527
    Oct 21 '16 at 18:45
  • @user598527: It is a sarcastic expression for practical P2W. Most P2W features in general in gaming are not "slight" changes to gameplay, but actually major and trivial advantages. At some games only relying on raw stat difference of premium items will simply put the p(l)ayer above the rest. Practical gaming pay-to-win begins somewhere here: it is literally meant "Pay to win" - requires no deep knowledge of the game, just paying will grant so much advantage that they don't need to master the game itself. Therefore they don't need to play the game to own skills to overwhelm enemies.
    – Sonic
    Oct 22 '16 at 16:02
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While i do believe that this question is bad, because almost all answers will be based on personal opinions, I'll try to not fall into that and answer in a way that you'll choose yourself the way you want to consider it.

  • If you consider than something available through both in-game and out-of-game currency is still pay2win, then WoT is.

  • If you consider than content exclusively accessible through
    out-of-game currency, with preferential matchmaking (and usually,
    better stats until nerfed) is P2W, then WoT is.

  • If you consider the fact that premium users (throught premium
    subscription with out-of-game currency) get more rewards (experience & in-game currency) is P2W, then WoT.

If you responded no to all previous question, then it is not.

NB: I haven't played WoT for a while (1+ year) but they've got the same marketing strategy on WoWS, and it hasn't changed much on that one...

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    Cosmetic items can't be pay-to-win. I should have elaborated the term.
    – user598527
    Jul 22 '16 at 14:49
  • This question isn't about opinions, there's exact definition for pay-to-win games. I added a link to my post: " A common suggestion for avoiding pay-to-win is that payments should only be used to broaden the experience without affecting gameplay".
    – user598527
    Jul 22 '16 at 15:08
  • Well, most of what is available through payments is also available through IG-currency related means, payments only helps you going there faster. Do you consider faster access as just "broadening the experience"? I don't, and that's my opinion. That's why i told earlier that the question was subjective.
    – Lysarion
    Jul 25 '16 at 11:30
  • Faster access to game changing items is P2W.
    – user598527
    Jul 25 '16 at 12:31
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    Some people does consider that non-paying users having access (regardless with access-speed) to the same content as paying users is not P2W. (That's not my own opinion.)
    – Lysarion
    Jul 26 '16 at 9:13

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