I'm a bit surprised about the level of ignorance of basic economic and business tenets. Selling a premium product at premium price - think Hasselblad, Sinar, Phase - is just one strategy to recoop high development costs - and I'd argue the worst. There are others:
- Sell at cost or below cost, and recoop development from sales of accessories. This is what Microsoft and Sony are doing with their consoles: they sell at around or even below cost of manufacturing, making the games people "have" to buy to use the consoles more expensive. Same can be done easily with cameras by selling lenses at premium. But this is of course limited due to interchangeability of lenses between manufacturers/backs/etc.
- Sell at "normal" price - ie. not the high premium price. Although margins are lower, the added sales due to lower prices and bigger potential market might very well mean higher overall revenues and ROI. This is apparently what Mamiya is doing and is more suitable for the camera world. The problem with this approach is that the MFDB market is quite limited, no matter what the price is. This is where thorough market research comes in, to find the sweet spot for pricing to achieve highest ROI - or whatever your company's metric is.
The recent Mamiya announcement convinced me to start saving for an MFDB system as a "serious amateur," something which I wouldn't even dream of a month ago. At least in my case, price does expand the market, and judging from the welcome on this board it's clear that I'm not the only one ecstatic about this development.
So, no, MFDB prices don't "have" to be ridiculously high. Blaming high R&D costs for premium pricing is mere marketing speak in an attempt to justify the high sale price, relying on the customer not to know much about economics or business.
(I'm ignoring quite a few factors, such as the intangible but very real value of positioning your product as premium product - Hasselblad cameras, Montblanc pens - to capture a certain niche market. But my main point remains: high R&D prices do not in themselves demand a disproportionately high sale price.)