Warning, this is going to be a wall of text. TLDR; Blizzard is trying to do the right thing, but it’s trying to do it the wrong way.
I’m a video game developer with a background in computer science and economics. Studying and implementing in-game economies is something I do professionally (I should add that I have no connection to Blizzard whatsoever outside of playing their games in my personal time). This is just my opinion based on my experiences in the industry, I don’t have any insider information about the decision making process for Blizzard games.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with “flipping”, it’s the business model of any brick-and-mortar retailer. Sellers have the obvious incentive of earning as much gold for as little product as possible, and buyers have the exact opposite incentive. If the price of a product is too high, people won’t buy it. If people stop buying something because of price, that exerts pressure on the seller to lower prices. It’s a clash of wills: will the buyer cave and make the purchase or will the seller cave and lower prices? These are basic economic principles, nothing controversial.
So why would Blizzard take actions against basic economic theory? To answer that, we should consider the obvious effect “flipping” has on the game economy: it creates upwards pressure on the price for goods on the auction house. When upwards pressure continues to exceed downwards pressure over time, it leads to what economists call “inflation”.
From Blizzard’s perspective inflation is a very bad thing, because it creates a barrier-to-entry for new players who have not accumulated enough gold to buy goods from the marketplace. Until a new player has enough gold to do anything with it, that gold is effectively worthless. Worse, as soon as they have enough money to spend it on something, they are immediately back to being broke again.
I think this is what Blizzard aims to address with this hot fix (I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt that it’s not simply about making tokens the only viable way to obtain a longboi). They are trying to combat rising prices and reduce inflation by disincentivizing the practice flipping. HOWEVER, it’s the wrong way to solve that problem.
It’s the wrong way to solve the problem primarily because it won’t solve the problem, throttling flippers doesn’t stop flipping. Nor should it! Flipping is older than WoW and it will endure long after WoW. Flipping isn’t the problem, inflation is the problem. The reason flippers have an advantage moving the price upwards because there are willing buyers. Upwards price movement is only sustainable when there is sufficient currency to actually pay for things as costs rise, which is exactly what’s happening right now in the game. Max level players generate so much gold so quickly that they don’t really care if Peacebloom costs 3-5g each.
It’s also the wrong way to solve the problem because it punishes a subcommunity of players for a problem created by the design choices of the game developer. Max level players don’t have enough meaningful ways to spend the enormous amounts of gold they earn unless they save up ridiculously enormous amounts of gold to buy expensive vanity items (like the longboi). So what do most players do with all that gold? They pay more at the auction house.
Flippers aren’t bad people (who do you think buys all those tokens?). Their goal is to make money and they simply recognize that the average player has greater liquid capital (gold) than ever before in the history of the game. It’s natural that prices would rise. In some ways, flippers actually provide a huge benefit to the game. You know what the real economic effect buying a longboi has? It deletes five million gold from the economy, fighting inflation in the process.
Throttling doesn’t fix the problem. The ease of generating raw gold and the lack of meaningful gold sinks are the problems, throttling does nothing to address those issues.