Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel I/we need to go to great lengths to incentify people to play a game. That just reeks of entitlement. It’s a game. It’s fun. Presumably the people you play it with are fun. Going to a convention has a level of ambiance that adds to the excitement of playing the game. There is inherent value to being with hundreds or thousands of other people who share your interest and having grand adventures even if they only exist in our minds.
Entitlement? I'm not really sure what that is supposed to mean. Beyond that, Paizo wants to incentivize people to play a game, its how they grow the game. Should Wizards of the Coast or Fantasy Flight not offer prize support for their organized play programs, afterall, why do you need to incentivize people to play a game, clearly they should just want to play it.
Additionally, there's a reason for supporting convention play from Paizo's perspective. Why do you think that is? It certainly isn't because they think that conventions add to the excitement of playing the game. Paizo doesn't run demos and introductory scenarios at conventions because they think its more exciting. No, conventions are how you recruit new players. The best way to recruit and retain new players is to show them how much fun the game can be, one of the best ways to do this is by showcasing unique things that only conventions can offer. One of those things is specials, but there's so much more Paizo could and can do.
Its not entitlement, its a recognition about how much opportunity there is to improve the convention experience.
Call me out of touch or an old crotchety grognard, whatever but if I invited someone to a local convention and after I shared everything I’ve said above they said something to the effect of “what’s in in for me,” I’d rather they just stay home.
Its actually the exact opposite, the crotchery grognard in me longs for the days when organized play at conventions felt special, it certainly felt special in Living City when I did an early form of Cosplaying with hundreds of people in a hotel ballroom with unique special missions and storylines. It certainly felt special when I played the premier of an event that influenced the plot line and perhaps had unique rewards. It felt special when I was playing Living Greyhawk and I would go to a different part of the country and play things that I couldn't play anywhere else. And despite my dislike for 5th edition, what WotC is doing with their organized play to make conventions feel special, including convention created content premiers, magic item trading posts, and author only scenarios definitely seems to make the convention experience seem more special on that side of the current gaming community.
Paizo OP feels watered down compared to the convention experiences of the past. But it doesn't have to be so.
Maybe those are just relics of the past, maybe organized play has become too homogenized. Maybe it is an entitlement thing (namely, that people feel entitled to access to every reward possible regardless of location.) But I've seen those things work before with as many people as every convention that isn't Gen Con gets and it makes me sad to see the state of convention play now when I know how much more special it could be, and has been, in the past.