Walk with me on a thought experiment. When the last Lich King dungeon opens and loot goes to tier 10, what if WoW adds an item shop selling tier 9?
As Blizzard PR, I would immediately describe this as a way of opening content. We want everyone to be able to experience everything in Wrath of the Lich King before Cataclysm goes live, and this is a way of bypassing gating. Of course, you can still earn everything in-game, so we’re not taking anything away from you, just providing more choices for our players.
I would assume that the game designers would immediately recoil, just because they are gamers. The kind of people who make WoW are the kind of people who play WoW, and it became a raiding game because they recruited raiders to design it. Achievers do not sell Achiever content to non- or lesser Achievers.
As a Blizzard business analyst, however, this sounds like win-win-win. First, some number of people will buy the items. That number is probably larger than most would like to admit. This is almost free money, as the content being sold was already in-game, and the item shop already there. Second, some smaller number of people will quit in protest. You lose their $15/month, but that is going to be less than the new revenue. You now have more revenue from fewer players. Furthermore, many of the people leaving are the ones who feel that their previous accomplishments were trivialized. That is, these are the hardcore raiders who are always pushing the bleeding edge of content. These people cost you money. They play 40+ hours a week (with all the costs associated), they place CSR calls that cost you more than $15/month, and they constantly complain that there is nothing to do because they burned through the content as fast as possible. So they now are complaining about something different; who cares? Third, that complaining is just more visibility, where people who disagree with the decision are out advertising it. I am increasingly accepting that there is no bad publicity, since everyone still seems happy to talk about EA games after #EAFail.
I do not like the idea as a player, but I cannot see how it fails to make business sense. Too extreme, too many people would quit? What if they sold tier 5? Would you quit over that? I can get a long way down the slippery slope before many are willing to step off.