I'll warn you, this is a long and roundabout train of thought that eventually led me to the title's conclusion, but it got me thinking for a while so I decided to make a blog post out of it.
When wow first came out (yes, I've been playing since shortly after release), gold wasn't hugely important. The only real gold sink I remember was an epic land mount. At that time it cost 1000 gold. Back then, that was a lot of money, but it wasn't hugely necessary. Sure it feels slow now, but you had a 160% run speed mount at 40 and that was all you really needed. There were those that had the 200% speed mounts, but they were the ones who had the time to sit and grind out farming ore or runecloth and slowly acquire the gold needed. Everything else you needed (i.e. gear) came from running instances and eventually raiding. Any good gear from professions was bound to the crafter. There was no need for massive amounts of gold for anything really.
When Burning Crusade hit, it felt like gold was falling from the sky...at least at first. The cost for the epic ground mounts was dropped to something like 100-200 gold and this was easily made just from leveling through the first 2 zones. It was pretty crazy to those of us who had been playing for years. I'm pretty sure that this was when a lot of gear from professions was made Bind on Equip so there was somewhere to spend that gold. This was also when 2 big gold sinks were introduced. The first was pretty mandatory. At level 70 you could buy the first tier of flying skill. For 1000 gold you could fly at 160% running speed...that's right, if you wanted to go somewhere that didn't require flying, you still used your ground mount because it was faster. (By the way, I'm extremely glad that they changed the first tier of flying to be the same speed as epic ground mounts) The second gold sink was Epic Flying. For 5000 gold you could fly at 280% running speed. You want to talk about speed? Not only could you fly over things that were in the way of a ground mount, but you could do it at ridiculous speed! In addition to getting around waaaaaay faster than you could before, you had access to certain cool epic mounts that you had to have the epic skill to ride. Nether drakes were the big one in this department.
So even though gold seemed to be raining down in abundance, there were a lot more things to spend it on. Flying mounts were mandatory for accessing certain zones and instances, and for those who wanted to gear up quickly, there were crafted items that you could buy that were on par with some of the gear you could get in instances. There were plenty of outlets for your sudden influx of extra income.
Enter the gold sellers. I'm sure they existed in Vanilla, but either I was just ignorant of it or they weren't nearly as widespread with their advertising as they are now. The notion of buying gold isn't without its appeal. I was one of the people who found a niche I had an advantage in and spent hours grinding out money in order to have my epic flying skill by the time the nether drakes were released. I don't even want to know how many hours I spent farming the eels in the lake next to Shatrath for primal water. My main at the time was a warlock. I had a swim speed enchant, underwater breathing, and the ability to dot up 5 or 6 targets at once without ever stopping for mana. Anyone who tried farming that area when I was there didn't stay long. Anyway, my point is that I definitely considered the idea of buying gold from someone. After all, I was spending real time to grind out the gold, why shouldn't I spend real money to save real time. Seemed a fair exchange to me. Well, I never did and the main reason was because I don't think I could really justify spending the money on something like that. It's the same reason that I've been thinking about changing my Draenei mage into a Gnome mage for about 5 months...can I really justify spending the money on it? So, I finished grinding out my gold and had my mount. I was glad I made the decision I did.
Later I found out where a lot of the gold from these gold sellers was coming from. Hacked accounts. I began hearing more and more stories of key loggers and people having their accounts hacked into and all of their stuff stolen. Some may argue that they're just data files and it's not real money, but as I pointed out earlier, it's still real time that people put into getting these things so it most definitely stealing. I'm extremely glad that I didn't take the step to buying gold before I heard all this. I wouldn't have been happy with myself if I had taken part in such a system. For me, knowing (or rather not knowing) where that gold is coming from ends any internal debate about gold buying, but it doesn't mean I don't understand the allure of the convenience.
Well, we are now in the game's 3rd expansion and the in-game economy is almost a game within itself. There are literally people who play the game simply to play the Auction House. Taking it to that extreme seems silly to me, but to each their own. Anyway, there are more gold sinks than ever in the game now. I'm not even talking about the obvious aesthetic gold sinks like the Sandstone Drake potion. I'm talking about the ones that are mandatory depending on what you want to do in game. Want to raid? Better drop a couple thousand gold on epic BoEs, high end enchants, and flasks. For example, on my server, flasks for a single night of raiding cost about 500 gold. Multiply that by how many nights a week you raid and it adds up right quick to the point where you end up spending a lot of your "play" time earning gold to play the way you want.
Recently, an upcoming change was announced that drastically lowered the vendor price of cut uncommon gems. Now while this may seem like a small thing, it's already had a drastic impact on the ore economy. There were a lot of people, myself included, that were making a good deal of money by prospecting, cutting, and vendoring gems from obsidium ore. This includes the ore farmers who knew they could get a minimum amount of gold per stack of ore. I loved it. In the last month, I found someone who had a large supply of ore and I would buy a couple hundred stacks from him at a time. I had a macro set up so that I could bring my laptop out to the other room while watching TV and hit 1 button over and over to prospect all my ore. I'd then have my jewelcrafter cut as many of 1 kind of gem as I could (while I walked away from the computer) and vendor all of them. All in all, I could make about 1200 gold while sitting around watching an episode of Stargate without having to pay attention to what I was doing at all. It was pretty nice. I could buy as much ore as I wanted to prospect this way and could spend very little time in front of the computer still making lots of gold. /sigh...it was nice the 2 weeks it lasted for me.
My point about the jewelcrafting change isn't to whine or rage over the change. My point is that this last weekend I spend several hours farming ore, to level my warrior's blacksmithing, that I could have previously bought without a second thought in no time at all. With my primary source of in game income gone, it made me realize just how much gold I was spending on things like raiding and alts and that I needed to now figure out another way to make at least as much as I was spending for raiding. That unless I found another way to make money through the AH or some other quick method, I was going to have to spend time again grinding mobs or flying around gathering and take that time away from my "enjoyable" time playing a game. It made me realize that though I will never buy gold because I know that the source is less than reputable...others will. Gold selling will never die as long as there are fairly high mandatory costs for playing how you want to play. Though I will not be one of them, there will always be people willing to pay to avoid having to spend their precious play time "working" in game.