I've been playing and researching World of Warcraft a lot in the last few months. I returned in September after not really playing for about 10 years so I had a lot to catch up on.
I found the conventional end-game somewhat frustrating. Each hard fight is an exercise in moving in the correct manner, a kind of dance. I felt like I was always the dance partner with 2 left feet. I know from past experience I do eventually master these dances and then I become one of the people other players look at and feel frustration but that doesn't especially appeal to me as a goal.
So I looked into other ways to enjoy this complex game and particularly gold-making.
Gold-making is in some ways a more fun minigame than the "proper" game of dungeons and quests. It's much more strategic (for a line member, for a raid leader I can see that there's a lot of interesting strategy). It improves almost every other aspect of the game, for instance you can burn consumables like flasks and goblin gliders without worrying about the cost. And it's been utterly transformed by something that has developed in the game since I last played.
Traditionally gold-makers got rich then ran out of things to spend it on. Now with the addition of the WoW token which is a bit like Eve's plex you can turn gold into real money - sort of. You can turn it into Blizzard balance which can only be spent on Blizzard stuff. So becoming a Wow billionaire has the added perks of being able to buy Blizzard games and store items and account services.
The other great change to the gold-making playstyle is the addition of sellable Battle Pets.
Battle Pets are one of WoW's minigames. It's a Pokemon clone and quite good fun if perhaps a little slow in the gameplay. However the pets can be sold cross-realm. If I have a cageable pet then I can sell it on any EU server. If I have alts on multiple servers I can buy a pet cheap on one server and sell it high on another server.
This is way way better than any other market.
In a sense as a gold-maker I don't care what I sell. If I can buy a thing for 1 gold and sell it for 1000 gold I don't care if it's a sword a herb or a battle pet.
Compared to other commodities Battle pets have very cheap auction house fees (1 silver), high prices, slow turnover, and the cross realm aspect I've talked about. They're also immune to obsolescence - a battle pet from a level 20 zone is just as valid as one from a 120 zone unlike, say, a sword.
Here's my plan: to build a trade empire of alts across multiple servers, possibly multiple regions and buy low, sell high. It's pretty easy to get money across to new alts - I let them take pets from the journal to sell. Eventually I want to use the TSM addon to run efficient shopping searches and fast listing but for now I'm doing it manually to help me learn and understand the market.
I have 6 alts camping vendors and buying pets. I have 2 other alts camping vendors who don't have any money yet - they'll become active buyers once one of their auctions sells. I do a run of buying, logging in to one vendor after another which gives me 3 copies of 13 vendor-sold pets. I then log into a separate series of alts who list 1 copy of each unique pet on their server's auction house.
The beauty of this system is that it's multiplicative. Currently I have 13 pets times 8 servers offering people sales that will make me a couple of K each. Eventually I could have 50 pets across 50 servers as I build up the trade empire. As I build up the gold I can do other schemes such as camping the Black Market auction house as a source of big ticket pets, developing garrisons on my alts which allow daily pet quests, etc. When I become rich enough I could consider boosting some random alts so they can do dailies.
One thing about this strategy is that it incorporates some rather predictable price changes. For example right now at the heart of the Winter's Veil event there are lots of very cheap pets from this event. In a couple of days supply will cease until next year's Christmas period. So price will slowly go up as people stop listing them and most people's copies sit forgotten in their banks. For example the Festival Lantern from a Spring event is worth 40k now because people don't seem to have farmed that many last Spring and steady demand has pushed the price up. We can be 99% sure that this price will drop like a stone as soon as the next Lunar Festival goes active.
The Winter's Veil event has a particularly interesting feature in that it's in two stages. The event is live from mid-December but we don't get our presents until the 25th. So next year I plan to be showing off and advertising cool present-sourced pets from about the 19th December, steering people to my auctions as auctions will be the only way to get one before the 25th.
Barking (advertising) is an important part of the strategy and I hit a macro after I list my pets on each realm, encouraging people to get into pet battles. Currently I can point out that pet battles give triple exp because of a weekly event.
It also has made the game in general more interesting to me as I now look for ways to collect new and interesting pets and understand their markets. Island expeditions for example introduced a lot of new pets and recent patch changes made them drop more. In fact even if you don't want them you can't help but get them because people run these islands for azerite power and the weekly mission, occasionally earning a pet as a by-product. This creates an ability to see the future of this market, fun for any speculator. The market will become more and more swamped as people run this, eventually seeing these pets sell for under 10g, possibly under 1g. As soon as the new expansion drops and people aren't motivated by AP these islands will almost never be run as they're quite dull. This will mean the pets slowly gather value as supply is effectively zero, they won't really be farmable as old content and demand remains a trickle but greater than supply. This is a very long term investment but a year or two after the next WoW expansion hits these pets which will be bought in 2020 for 1-2g will sell for 5000g+.
So there we have it: gold-making through pets, a complex and interesting minigame within a minigame.