Just for clarification, a stock's share price drops by the exact amount of the dividend on its ex-dividend date. When trading begins anew that morning, the stock may go up, down or be unchanged.
You are correct. Investors just break even each time a dividend is issued because the value of their equity goes down by the same amount as the dividend. A dividend does not provide total return.
Here's an extreme comparison of two stocks:
If my recollection is correct, in its heyday, Enron paid about a 3% dividend. Some might think that for what was believed to be a quality stock at the time that 3% was decent. We all know what happened to Enron. Kaput!
And then there's GameStop. Anyone who bought it in the high teens and lucky enough to get out in the high $400 area made a bundle.
The point of this absurd comparison? You should be investing in high quality companies that are leaders in their sector with strong (and growing) free cash flow, low debt, and good management. If they pay a dividend, fine. If not, no big deal.
PS GameStop and Enron are/were not high quality.