The beauty of MMOs is that, nowadays, they leave open so many choices for players to make. How to play, when to play, what activities to participate in. So it's always so surprising to meet players, ADULT individuals that seem to think that one area of activities has more value than another.
A simple, to the point example: Raiding is more valuable than Exploring.
In a recent discussion (meaning me taking on 7 other people) on the Vanguard forums, players debated if receiving a free flying mount (for attending Fan Faire) was good or bad. I argued that it was only good or bad depending on the individual. Some players can think it is bad but that does not mean other players will. In other words, value is set by an individual, not by a group or by section of players.
Many people love to "theorize" about in-game economies, (EVE especially) spending post after post discussing this-effects-that and supply and demand, but it is all to prove a very basic point: the individual sets his or her own value. No one else does. To be clear, we are talking about MMOs and not real life, because in real life some items must be purchased for the very sake of basic living, but we could argue that even then there are choices to be made. But let's stay out of that. Boring!
But the cash shop/ non-cash shop arguments are debating the same thing: what value is this? The "this" can be a virtual item, time, or an activity. It does not matter because in MMOs, players do many different things and place a lot of different levels of value on those things. I like to role-play, love my boat to death (if I can find it) and think that exploring is the purest form of game-play. Many players love to raid, think that the Uber Sword of Uber is the goal, and think that a cash shop is a "cheat".
Neither are correct, except to themselves.
So, the debate was "..does getting a flying mount for free DE-VALUE the current flying mounts in game?" (Take out flying mount and put in cash-shop item, activity, or anything that players DO.) My point was that it might devalue flying mounts for SOME PLAYERS, but not for all. The other side of the argument was that it did indeed ruin the very IDEALS the game was built on, ideals like "Players kills Mob A, Gets loot B, and progresses." But, that is an example of a RULE, not a philosophy. And, like all rules, some gamers can participate, and some can't. That's why that rule only works for the individual that wants it to.
All this is to say that just because a good deal of players (or a small percentage) VALUES something, does not mean that the value of that thing is universal.
I gave this example: A player BUYS a flying mount in an auction, for 1000 dollars. That means that you (non flying mount owner) MUST value that flying mount to the tune of 1,000. Of course, that example would be proven false as soon as a player decided to pay less than that amount, or not at all. The player that paid 1,000 dollars does not dictate what other players MUST pay. It might INFLUENCE the sellers, but that can be fixed by avoiding the sell until the price comes down.
So, just because you think (player that thinks this) that raiding, loot, or "progressing" is somehow more valuable than other activities does not mean that anyone else might value it to that point. I certainly do not. Developers need to remember that they can only influence value, but not dictate it. Players need to remember that, even in a game that is heavy on the raiding (Vanguard) that there are many, many players that have nothing to do with it, players that would look at that glowy uber sword of yours and go "My two-bit hammer is worth more."
And they would be right.