|then he bummed a cigarette, asked me for a light|
Why not? It worked with their minis line. Sell people on random blind packs of minis for their games, or to play the table-top minis game they came out with. According to some anecdotal evidence, they made more money off minis than they did off of splatbooks in the mid- to late oughts.
They've made piles of cash with Magic and Pokemon card games. Why not tie it into their premier RPG?
I'm not playing 4E, and don't plan to ever pick up the books, so why should I be upset that they're 'making the game into something else?' They've already done that. That's kind of the point of making a new edition to them. Remake the game the way they want it, rather than just retread the past. It's a valid way to view things, even if it's one I don't think is necessary (along with most of the rest of the OSR types).
I'm sitting here wondering, though, if maybe something like a card mechanic might be fun. I've got several thousand Magic cards sitting in my closet. They could easily be used for something of the sort. Maybe not all of them, but enough of them could be used to provide some temporary bonuses and the like in an RPG.
And I've already shucked out plenty of money for them, so no need to invest in further cards.
Or I could just use the GIMP and make my own...