I've had a few discussions about the state of the economy recently. I also read a lot about how the ingame economy is failing and similar statements. Now, I don't want to argue about AH or no AH, or related issues. What I would like to know is what a healthy economy would look like in your opinion. You don't have to provide a solution for how to achieve that state, but feel free to do so if you like.
Now, what do I think? Right now I have a few very simple pictures in mind:
Food is produced and it is consumed at a steady rate. Food that takes more effort to produce is more expensive, but is still consumed.
Now, the ingame equivalent would be a somewhat extreme implementation fo an item sink: Finite durability for every item, including perfectly rolled legendaries and gems. This could be something like 100 hours of play time of a set number of mob and elite kills. Durability and drop rares can be adjusted and will determine where the market settles. There is a constant demand for gear at different quality levels. Depending on how the knobs are adjusted, a reasonable fraction of item drops will be valuable = healthy economy?
Every year Apple releases a new iPad/iPhone. The previous models are sold at reduced prices. Some people sell their older models to buy the new ones (Note: insert your favorite electronics brand).
Ingame such an economy would happen if there were regular content patches that improve average gear quality and introduce a new best-in-slot items. To some extent this has been happening over the last few patches, with better legendaries and now in 1.0.5, higher affix rolls on some items. The effects are somewhat visible ingame: Before patches trade slows down, after patches the new stuff is expensive and in large demand, over time supply increases and the new stuff starts replacing old gear which drops in price, and trade activity starts slowing down towards the next patch. It also has the effect that more and more gear becomes worthless and is being vendored. Just like that 5 years old CRT monitor.
Super rare, always have a very high value, not many people can ever afford them.
A few ingame items currently behave like diamonds. Natalya's set ring e.g. is constantly around 40m (US AH) even for the worst roll. But it is very hard to find.
I think that 1. is a healthy economy but would not make players particularly happy. One could try to implement a softer version of the item sink, but honestly I don't think that a fair system is possible unless you make it incredibly contrieved (i.e. not fitting into the fast paced action game scheme). Option 3. doesn't produce a very enjoyable playing environment for casual players (yeah, that stupid majority... ), so it's not really an option even though some players like it. I think that for player satisfaction, 2. is the best solution, but the implementation could be better than the seemingly random item buffs we are seeing in D3 currently. If Blizzard can come up with a 1. type solution that is both simple and fair, I would be impressed.