Can't it be fun in its own right?
In theory, but in practice, eh, not really. The problem is that humans are pattern-recognition machines. We're (mostly) good at it. And that pattern-recognition is also the source of the feedback loops which allow us to have fun. Most any fun experience breaks down into this:
I want -that-. I will do -this-, and see if I can get -that-. Usually when I do -this-, I get the -that- I wanted. But sometimes, I don't! But if I keep trying, I will get -that-!
The fun stems from the things that break from the pattern--the unexpected things that we don't fully understand. It's us trying to get better at getting "that" by uncovering the patterns. As a result, we feel that we are earning, growing, and accomplishing.
When things are too predictable, they're almost guaranteed to be boring (exception: if the person is "vegging out"). If we weren't so good at pattern-recognition, then sure, I could throw the ball a million times and you'd have nearly just as much fun fetching it every time. But for it to be fun in its own right, it needs to have an appropriate measure of complexity, challenge, and uncertainty. Now, since we're talking about features that employ simple decision-making within a relatively narrow scope of possibilities, that's just not going to happen for most people.
And I hate to say it, but that's sort of the way it goes with most entertainment: the less skilled or intelligent you are, the more easily you can enjoy it. This is why children are always so excited about life in our world initially, and why they quickly become bored by it as they age. As you master the consumption of entertainment, it becomes less and less fun in its own right. For a system to be constantly fun in its own right, it needs to scale in difficulty and complexity as you master it. Of course, most systems in life are utilitarian, not necessarily intended to entertain.
So in theory, it could be fun in its own right, but that would require a far more sophisticated system than we'll see in MMO crafting/gathering for a long time.
Ok, now we're going to get slash fiction of Wint x Kachi somehere... rule 34 and all...
Never confuse your inference as the listener for an implication of the speaker.
Good games are subjective like good food is subjective. You're not going to seriously tell me that there's not a psychological basis for why pizza is great and lutefisk is revolting. The thing about subjectivity is that, as subjects go, humans actually have a great deal in common.