The sub-prime crash of 2008 generated a lot of very interesting economic analysis. One of the lines that stayed with me is that while wheelers and dealers managed to make money shorting a falling market, for most regular savers the focus shifted from return on capital to return of capital.
Thus the rather remarkable fact that when Standard & Poors downgraded the USA, US government bonds became more popular. The thinking is this: if the US got downgraded the world economy is screwed. If the world economy is screwed businesses, banks and so on might go bust, land might plummet in value. But the US government will still pay back its lenders most of what they lend as long as money is still in operation. So the response to the US being rated less worth investing in is that people invested in the US!
That tells us a lot about deflationary economies, economies that are crashing.
The Diablo 3 economy will be born crashing. Day 1 there will be thousands, even millions of pounds, of real money chasing a negligible quantity of goods and gold. I'll probably stick up all my gold on the RMAH at level 10 if I get in right at the start - there will be some people who will pay £50 for a little boost at the start.
From that point it will head very quickly towards its equilibrium point. I think the economy will be balanced by very expensive repair bills and will eventually be mildly deflationary not strongly deflationary. But it will start off strongly deflationary.
So where do you keep your in-game assets to achieve return of capital? That 20 dps sword that will seem amazing on Day 1 and be worth £20 will be worth pennies by the end of the week. 1 million gold, worth a very significant amount on Day 1 will be something we farm in an hour once we're running around easimode Hell with a level 60 in 900% gold find gear.
Here's some ideas:
1) Invest it. Getting ahead of the pack with your artisans could allow you to practically mint money. It's probably best to just concentrate on one. I'm going to be focused on my Jeweler and my friend Wazzer is doing the smith.
2) Gems. Gems never become not valuable. Even at level 60 a chipped gem puts you that little bit closer to an upgrade. It's not like a level 10 sword that's only useful for alts and newbies once the main part of the player base has gone past it.
3) Pages of training. I think these will go UP in the first month. Competition for these will intensify as people close in on Rank 10 artisan.
4) Undiscovered marvels. Currently on the Beta AHs the worst affixes are Attacker Takes Damage and Health Regeneration. Usually people salvage this gear as junk, sometimes they put it up for some trivial price (and it almost certainly returns unsold).
However when the game goes live there's a very specific point at which those mods become valuable to a small group of players. At level 45 the Witch Doctors get Fierce Loyalty. So suddenly these junk mods become very useful to those WDs who like summoning.
Now I think summoning will be pretty strong and that Fierce Loyalty builds like this one will gain in traction. So this gear will suddenly become much more expensive as people realise that it's not junk after all and it will rise in price.
Another example is real dps v apparent dps. Once players get more experienced they'll realise a 280 dps weapon with + Int (or whatever your dps stat is), + Crit chance, + Crit damage is far better than a 300 dps weapon that lacks any such dps-boosting stats that aren't factored in. I explained about buyer psychology yesterday.
I'm sure there are other examples of gear that people will think is rubbish early on but then realise is good once they get more experienced at the game. High level Vit gear will go up if people discover they can't survive Inferno without it.
5) Store it as real money or the equivalent. Either cash out or you can leave it there as Blizzbucks or whatever the currency is. (thanks to Loque for reminding me of this option, I'd meant to put it in but forgot).