Some time ago Ted mentioned how simplistic the economics of game worlds tend to be (I wish I could find his comment). The obvious area where this can seen is in the faucet-drain economic model of resource movement which we've discussed elsewhere, but I'm sure there are a number of other examples that people can think of.
One that occurs to me is the observation that we found massive hoarding of resources as soon as people were able to own virtual property. So, as Raph Koster explained to Elizabeth Koster and she told everyone, entire resource systems were broken in UO almost immediately and one guy ended up owning 10,000 identical shirts, because...well, because he liked having lots of shirts. The observation that a virtual resource would be subject to the endowment effect would have been unremarkable at a behavioral economics conference, but it came as something of an unpleasant shock for Origin Systems.
Alternatively one can fairly easily make the case that eBaying arises as a consequence of a poorly developed economic model that fails to capture (internally) the value of the resources within the system.
A few thoughts/questions/ideas for the TN collective intelligence:
1. Are there other examples of simple economic models which have caused (or are causing) grief? I imagine there must be, I just haven't scoured the literature (Oh, that's right, there isn't any "literature". We're making it here).
2. Does it actually matter if a developer screws up the economics, or has an overly simplistic model? Sure, some assets or classes or other aspect of the world are gonna get nerfed and Dave or Raph are gonna have to pull a few all-nighters re-balancing their worlds. But, so what?
I suspect that a tentative answer to question 2 is "it depends", and it depends on whether the world is economically self-contained. A while back I was talking to Will Harvey, the founder of There. We happened to be discussing how There saw themselves, in part, like a themepark where third party providers could build content/games/etc (Second Life are similar in this) and these third parties got to keep a percentage of the money that they attracted to their attraction. Since there is an official Therebucks<->$USD exchange rate, this is real money. Under these circumstances a simple "re-balancing" is gonna involve very, very, serious redistributions of real money