"To the casual 2-3 time per winter ice angler his/her interest could be limited because he can't afford that stuff or is unwilling to spend money on a hobby he/she doesn't partake in very often. Why should that individual get excited about introducing his/her kids to an activity that he/she perceives as not being cost effective? "
If somebody is a 2-3x a year ice person, odds are they aren't going to introduce anybody new to ice fishing because they simply aren't that interested in it. Let's not place $ as the reason why people don't ice fish, because that's not it.
The perception is that ice fishing is cold, dangerous and not as fast paced as open water fishing. Hell, I know die-hard open water guys who refuse to ice fish, not because they blew their $$ on boats and gear, but because they simply don't want to be uncomfortable.
It's more of an educational issue than it its economic from my point of view. The honest truth is this, the more you spend on ice fishing, the more comfortable you're going to be, in terms of warmth from the elements and in terms of making the sport easier. Which is the reason you're seeing your Old Timers not wearing Mickey Mouse surplus boots anymore, or why they're in Thermal flipovers instead of sitting on buckets.
Ice fishing mfgs make this sport as cheap and as expensive as possible. There's a 100% more selection in terms of price points than ever before.
So, do you need to spend money to be successful on the ice? I'd say to a degree, yes, yes you do. But unlike other forms of open water fishing, the costs to do so can be spread out over time. One year a nice auger, the next a nice shack, the next electronics. So on, so on.
I don't think you blame the mfgs for making new, more expensive products, you have to look at the consumer who's demanding them.
The days of this guy are long over.....