The model for MTG worked for a very very long time. Can they close Pandora's box now? I dont know. If they COULD would that get us back in a few years to normality?
I am kind of wondering how they screwed this up, and if it's the pandemic that finally broke the model for Standard.
Magic was doing quite well, selling briskly and supporting multiple competitive formats going into the pandemic, as I recall. Arena came out prior to the pandemic and finally gave WotC a modern digital offering with enjoyable graphics and animations, which could
be played for free but made it really easy and tempting to spend money on digital cards, for Constructed or Limited play. And to my understanding it's made a ton of money. So that should have just added to their margins, unless paper players started abandoning in-person play in favor of Arena.
My personal perspective: After taking a long break from buying new product from the late 90s until about 2013 or so, I got back into playing limited (Draft and Sealed) at local stores, plus some cube draft at a friend's house. Once I got back into draft, to do so I was acquiring new cards of the current set on a regular basis, and when I did well, winning more packs of the current set as prizes, and often Friday Night Magic foil promo cards with cool art.
Since I had all these recent cards, and since I was in the stores regularly and SEEING people playing Standard (as well as other formats), it made sense to build a Standard deck or two. It wasn't a huge additional investment of cash, though some. It gave me a use for the cards I drafted and won. It wasn't an enormous investment of time or effort in learning the cards, because I had to read and learn them anyway for Limited play. I wasn't as interested in Commander or Modern because they necessitated a) retroactively learning a much larger card pool from the 15-ish years I had been away, and b) acquiring more expensive older cards. Any FNM promo cards I had but didn't want also became trade bait. Standard was a logical stepping stone from Limited play into Constructed. And I DID gradually work on acquiring cards for Modern decks, and built a couple of budget ones, again since my friends at the store often played Modern.
There was also a good online support and promotional ecosystem for Standard and Limited (and to a lesser extent formats like Modern and Legacy), with folks streaming Magic the Gathering Online (and later Arena), WotC streaming coverage of Grand Prixs and Pro Tour tournaments, Star City Games streaming coverage of their tournaments, SCG and TCGPlayer paying pros to write tournament coverage, deck and card analysis and strategy articles, etc. YouTube also had a ton of video content if that was more convenient for you than watching live streaming. If you got bit by the bug you had plenty of options for content to feed it. People sometimes decried the continual churn of cards in Standard's rotating format as a cash sink, but the investment needed at any given time wasn't that high for a hobby, and the barrier to entry was definitely lower than older formats where merely acquiring the older rare lands needed for your mana base could be hundreds of dollars for a single deck (or thousands, for Legacy and Vintage).
Eventually my hobby and free time priorities shifted again and I no longer regularly had Friday evenings or Saturday afternoons free to go draft at a local store, so my play and spending dropped way off, though I've kept up the habit of watching streaming play on Twitch a fair amount, and it's definitely something I'd be interested in getting back into at some point if and when my schedule and priorities change.
Do folks think it really come down to the pandemic breaking this on-ramp into Standard (Limited play giving people all these cards)? Or am I just thinking from my own perspective and how I got in? I do also wonder how much WotC dropping support for the Pro Tour and Grand Prix tournament ecosystem, and all the coverage it used to get, factors in.