One of the things that surprised me when I listened to Mr. Cousins presentation was that he cared so much about the player feedback. At the end of his talk he says that forums are just warning signs and everything written in them has to be interpreted and confirmed. He is very right. What puzzles me is that EA apparently put someone in control of the entire f2p department who still had to learn this lesson.
Moreover, Mr. Cousins did not only read forums, but he actually read player emails. And these emails did have an emotional impact on him! He cared enough to check back what the authors of the mails did in the game months later. He cared enough to put them as anecdotal evidence into a professional presentation!
Most interestingly he was struggling for a long time to do what players want. The question he tried to answer was: If I add pay-to-win, will the higher conversion rate make up for a potential loss of players? Now, this is a good question and a guy in his position shouldn't ignore it. However, not a single time he asked himself: If I add pay-to-win, will the game be better or worse?
This shows a lack of self-confidence that I would not expect to see from someone in his position. Games are too difficult to be measured by metrics and forum feedback. Art in general is. Sure, the scientific approach can help a bit. And occasionally it can give some insight. But that's it. To make a good game you need to have some idea about what a good game would be. Alternatively, you can try to compete with Zynga about making the best cognitive-bias-based rip-off.
CCPs introduction of yet another pay-to-win option after several ruthless lies might very well fire back. I don't think it is probable. But it is possible. The fact that EVE is based on communities and leaders makes it different. It would be safer for CCP to simply make EVE better than to speculate that Mr. Cousin's experience can be projected on EVE Online.
In regard to forums, I very much recommend Elder Game's classic.
The best way to treat forums is to use several, at least two, professional community managers that take shifts. For example, the one week only CM A writes and CM B checks and the next week they switch. The check is the important part of it. As Eric correctly puts it: forums are cesspits. Nobody can read them for weeks or even months/years without becoming angry and discontent. Reading forums is the fastest way to the dark side ;).
Most of the company should not read the forums, but only read the filtered feedback of the CMs. In no way should they be able to write on the forums themselves without being double checked by at least two CMs who have the authority to block anybody's post, including the one from the senior producer!
The quintessence of this post: Dear developers, believe in yourself and focus on making a good game. If you think that micro-transactions reduce the quality of your game, don't be afraid to sell pigs in pokes. We, the consumers, are used to that. We are quite willing to speculate that this game will be worth it. Free demos are also a good way to get players to experience the game.
If micro-transactions and even pay-to-win are the only way to save your game then please realize that for many players they are just another downside they have to accept, because you're out of money. That's ok; please communicate the change in this way.
What you should never do is promise things you aren't willing to keep when things go wrong. Murphy is everywhere. In the long run your reputation is more important than your immediate product.