Sure, the topic has been beaten to death, but I figured I'd throw my two inflation-adjusted cents into the ring. There have been some good comments and postings about comparing the price of the miniature wargaming hobby to other hobbies, but quite often they're comparing apples to oranges. What about comparing apples to apples? OK, with that we'd wind up comparing Games Workshop to Mantic or Privateer, which would defeat the purpose. Therefore, I'm going to compare peaches to apricots: Miniature Wargaming vs. Scale Modeling.
For example, lets say you want to buy a Rhino transport. That's about $33 on the GW website. Kind of expensive for such a small kit, right? Compare it, then, to a 1/35 Sherman tank from Tamiya. That'll run you about $35. Moving on- check out the infamously expensive Land Raider. That little brick will set you back $66. A 1/35 Maus (super-heavy german tank from WWII) from Dragon will run about $55.
I use these two examples because once assembled, the vehicles are similar in size, so it's relatively easy to compare the pairings. So, what do you get for your money, other than a brick of plastic?
Historical armor kits from a major manufacturer will provide astounding levels of fine detail. You'll probably get link-and-length treads and quite often a set of crew figures. Some newer kits even come with limited photo-etched parts. The finished piece will be very accurate to it's subject and more often than not bee too fragile to do anything besides sit on a shelf as a permanent display piece.
A wargaming kit, on the other hand, will be an odd hybrid- halfway between a replica and a toy. Not detailed enough to match a historical kit but not sturdy enough to be a toy. Still, you'll get a lot of plastic- just not anywhere near as many pieces as you might see with a regular kit.
Companies like Tamiya, Dragon, Monogram, etc., don't have to pay licensing fees (usually, though it may change in future) or creative designers to manufacture their kits. GW, on the other hand, has to generate unique new designs, market the kits, and protect their intellectual property. Though not huge, it will impact the overall pricing of the kit.
The same applies to figure kits. Going with the 1/35 scale, being pretty close to the 28mm gaming scale, you can usually find an infantry squad in a box, fully equipped, for around 10 to 12 dollars. If you get two sets to equal the standard 10-man infantry squad in 40k, for example, you'd be paying $20-25. This, though, is where the bang-for-your-buck equation is often inverted. I rarely see infantry sets that can match wargaming squads for what I'll call "bulk". I'm not saying you get a greater value, but you do seem to get "more" in the wargaming box for about $28. Like the 1/35 vehicles, 1/35 scale infantry are more delicate and detailed than their 28mm cousins, but not as robust.
I have subscribed to Fine Scale Modeler for years and read the new kit releases every issue. That being said, I haven't really looked at the prices listed for a long time. So, when I decided to take a look recently, it ocurred to me that Games Workshop- the perennial villian, isn't pricing their product as exhorbitantly as we might like to gripe about.