Could be F2P... there was a surge around that time, but the queues petered off a bit since. Maybe it's the European Launch / IDIC tribbles? Either way, when the ground queues are popping these days, it's awesome. Not only is there actually the potential for assault matches that have more than 4v4, you don't get the same 8 people over and over again.
They didn't. But outside of that, ground PvP is largely balanced. There is no pay2win in ground, as far as I can tell.
Though that may just show that even Perfect World's bean counters say "LOLGround". I believe the only game-affecting stuff for ground in C-Store are a few weapon sets for uncommon or rare (?) gear. I am sure at some point we'll get +1 costumes. Should Ground PvP ever be largely successful.
I suppose costumes sold rather well, and are helped by the amount of freedom in combining costume parts. Can't get that with ship costumes, so other reasons for buying them all are needed. +1, consoles...
Another way in which Ground is different from space is the fact that each faction has access to the same stuff, with very few exceptions. That could appeal to people.
It certainly makes faction balance easier. THough I seem tor remember even then some saying the KDF had unfair advantages. But that may just be the usual background craziness and you can't remove that. :p