So I had another thought on this...
How are loot boxes different from buying packs of cards?
Someone asked Richard Garfield that question after he wrote about "Skinnerware" and he did admit that he wasn't entirely comfortable with the similarity. It does seem like a lot of his output since he moved on from Magic has been trying to come up with a less exploitative model. Stuff like Keyforge.
Personally, I think that there's a lot of difference, but that it isn't down to any single, definitive thing. Ultimately, "loot boxes" work with human psychology because of things like "surprise" and "variance." And those are elements of just about any game
I don't think that Magic boosters, as a way to get game pieces for playing a game, are as gambling-like as most of the infamous "loot box" games, but the similarity is why I loathe the mythic rarity. I think that in the early years, excusing some hiccups of philosophy and distribution, WotC was trying to keep the game in a reasonable place. I thought things like the unfairly derided Fallen Empires
and the even more unfairly derided Chronicles
were a step in the right direction. And I didn't even mind foils. People who were interested could try to collect them and the rest of us could ignore them. The stability of the base set also helped ensure that players had access to key cards. Not trying to idealize it. There were problems back then too. But I do think, perhaps because of Hasbro, that the game has moved in the wrong direction, that it feels more greedy
as a business model than in the old days.
The randomization factor is similar, as well as the concept that the more you buy, the higher the odds of getting the card that will help you achieve a better standing in the game.
So for people who play Constructed formats where having access to a certain card is important for improving standings, everyone I know of just buys the singles anyway. I mean, I do sometimes see people getting excited about "cracking packs" and discussing how good or bad their pulls were and stuff, but for people seriously wanting to get a particular card to help them win, they just buy it anyway, or trade for it.
You could almost say that MTG invented an IRL precursor to the loot box by assigning rarity to cards and then packing them randomly. Isn't this a form of gambling unto itself?
Richard Garfield didn't invent trading card packs, though. Trading cards came wrapped in packs that were themselves stored in cardboard boxes long before Magic came out. Were they loot boxes then?
My younger self certainly fell slightly victim to the addictive nature of the game and the need to buy more packs in hopes of getting the best cards.
If loot boxes were to be banned, shouldn't the same standards be applied here?
I mean, I've seriously seen people argue exactly that. For my part, I would not, but it is an opinion that real people have...