I am one of the people who worked on LEDgoes.
CosmicPuppy, actually they are that cheap! When you buy in orders of more than 100, those chips become about $1.30 each. The LEDpanels are about $1.25 in bulk. The PCB is less than $1. All other parts total to less than $1. The BOM is about $5.50. The production cost is about $4/each including the programming.
Working with the WS8211 RBG LEDs is actually MUCH more expensive ($0.40/LED in bulk) and you cannot power those effectively off of a battery as they use 30ma PER LED (which would mean 1-Amp per 5x7 matrix). You cannot really run 2240 of those LEDs off one Arduino (and more than one i2c port) like you can with LEDgoes…You need a MUCH more powerful ARM board (Like a BeagleBone) to control them for smooth scrolling and color. Then you run into adding more and more together. They need individual control and indexing which is hard to set up for automatically adding to the system. You also cannot get them to have the same resolution as the Pre-made LED matrix displays.
By using independently smart backboards that drive the LEDs, you can simplify what the end user has to do and give far more flexibility on control.
The LEDgoes board and all of the partner boards as designed with a dual purpose. Upcycling and Learning platform. You can actually use this system to grow with your skill level.
We are working on a LEDgoes version which uses those “all in one” Neopixels but with all of them shoved right up next to one another for high resolution. that is aimed more for the Commercial market where people will want to make quick Video and advertising Displays (limited to 256 displayboards hooked together from a single controller). The price would be much higher for them because of the very high production and parts costs associated (8x8 displays).