Blizzard has, for a while now, offered vanity pets on their website that can be used in game. 10-20$ per item and the catch was that once purchased, it only worked on the characters linked to your account. That’s changed.
Why the change of heart? To quote:
Since the introduction of the Pet Store, many players have been asking for ways to get the companions we offer there without having to spend real-world cash. By making the Guardian Cub tradable (much like the BoE mounts from the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game), players interested in the new pet will have fun, alternative in-game ways to get one. In addition to trading the pet, players can give the Guardian Cub as a gift to another character for a special occasion; guild leaders can use them to reward members for a job well done; and so on. We also hope this change will help reduce the number of incidents of scamming via trading for invalid pet codes.
Basically, they want people to have the change to legitimately buy in-game gold with real world cash. Of course, the actual value of gold in-game will vary depending on what people are willing to spend and it is guaranteed to be a much worse deal than buying from a farmer. The difference is that Blizzard takes your money.
I have reservations about a sub+item shop game. I pay X amount of dollars for all content, why should I be paying more? In most cases, the items are not game related, in that they don’t give you some sort of edge or benefit. WoW is similar in this regard while games like Star Trek Online (going F2P in few weeks) is the opposite. Diablo 3 however is a pure item shop game, but it’s not planned to be a competitive game, so the impact should be negligible. Then again, Blizz is making money on trades.
It really is an interesting market we see nowdays. Blizzard is moving more and more towards the casual, time-restricted crowd that has disposable income to bypass the grind that people with more free time are willing to blow through. Sadly, they are also trying to keep raiders around and that honestly died a year ago.