Linsey Murdock (and thus ANET) is flat-out lying to us.
After having time to reflect, I don't see any other viable, logical conclusion.
ANET reported that pre-launch and launch sales were successful beyond their expectations. This means they exceeded their launch revenue goals - probably by a considerable margin. Since GW2 is B2P, the only significant revenue they could have expected between launch and the first B2P expansion would be from the cash shop and additional game sales.
Now, they sold so many games that they even suspended digital game sales, so it's hard for me to imagine they aren't happy with game sales. If you're ANET and you know your main source of income for the next 6 months or so is the cash shop, it seems to me clear that a cash shop expansion based on customer suggestions should be your primary focus besides getting that first B2P expansion ready.
However, 3 months into the game and now we have a new armor tier set that goes hand-in-hand with new content gateway mechanics in the Lost Shores updated slated to go live this week. This kind of thing isn't something you just throw together at the last minute because some players are complaining about lack of gear progression. Such complaints had to be something ANET knew were going to happen. It would of course take time for the community to sort itself out, because many, many people were going to log in at launch expecting to find the usual MMOG and would probably be dissatisfied with the lack of the usual end-game grind mechanics. This is something ANET certainly realized. They even said that they expected the game population to slack off between expansions as the powergamers consumed the content; it was part of their design philosophy.
It's only logical, given their philosophy, that they should have had a massive cash shop expansion ready to go - new skins, emotes, animations, perhaps an expansion of the dye system, avatar cosmetics, ability to change names, custom dye weapons more bank space, etc., perhaps some new armor drops throughout the whole world, perhaps some new events scattered throughout the zones, a new zone. But the cash shop expansion should have been on the top of the list because it was going to be the revenue generator.
But, what are we getting? 3 months in - before any cash shop expansion or any other content in keeping with the original design philosophy, we get content that certainly took some time to generate (perhaps months, considering how ANET likes multiple iterations through development) and is clearly in structure contradictory to their core design philosophy as stated.
Is ANET really just schlepping out thrown-together design-busting content generated in a panic by nothing more than a lack of cash shop sales, as some have suggested? If that was the case, wouldn't it be more prudent to "schlep out" cash shop product that keeps in the design philosophy, even if they hadn't been planning on such a CS expansion all along (and they should have been)?
Linsey Murdock said that this change is due to customer feedback; I don't see how that is possible. What customer feedback? Complaints by a group they knew were going to complain all along? There were no log-in polls or questionnaires. Is Linsey saying that after a month or two they got feedback and THEN decided to schlep together a philosophy-betraying update including a new armor tier and armor-locked "end game" content? In a month? What happened to that famous ANET iterative process?
No, I don't think so. I don't think that complaints by a group they knew were going to complain anyway caused ANET to schlep together such a philosophy-betraying update 3 months in. That's ridiculous. That's an obvious lie.
They planned this - this "item progression initiative" - long ago, which is why the Agony system and content is ready to go 3 months into the game and BEFORE any significant cash shop expansion. and WITHOUT any serious log-in polling. This can't be a direction made necessary by a lack of income. This can't be a direction made necessary by any meaningful "customer feedback" since launch. The "item progression initiative" is just too big and broad to have been thrown together in a month. Linsey Murdock and ANET are lying.
The "item progression initiative" had to have been developed long before any unexpected "customer feedback" forced them to come up with a philosophy-betraying update they could throw together in a month or so. I'm not buying that explanation for a second.
Stop lying to us, ANET.