Maybe I'm just being optimistic here, but I think that Command Ops has the potential to succeed in the more mainstream wargame market. It may be more complicated in terms of what goes on behind the scenes, but I wouldn't say it's harder to get into from a player's perspective than, say, Hearts of Iron 3. It's got a couple of things going for it that the standard 'niche' wargame doesn't:
1. A good UI. It's not perfect, but it's well-designed—there are clear delineations between sections of the UI concerning things you should know and things you can do, and barring a few minor things (like unit-centered LoS tools, and maybe a LoS tool that disregards daylight, terrain cover, and weather, and merely asks if there's a direct line of sight between two points, as might be determined with a raw contour map; also, seeing supply routes and knowing where supply columns came under fire might be nice), I don't have any real complaints about it.
2. Replayability and content. I own more Command Ops scenarios than I'm ever going to have time to play, I could play all of them on both sides, and they're not likely to play out the same two times in a row anyway.
3. Easy difficulty tweaking. Between orders delay, weather, reinforcement schedules, and supply, it's simple to make a scenario easier or harder.
4. Real-time. This one's a little stranger, but turn-based games bring out the optimizer in everyone, and in wargames of this kind of complexity, the penalty for forgetting a unit for a turn is much greater than the penalty for forgetting a unit for, say, half an hour or an hour.
5. A unique concept. There are lots of hexes-and-counters wargames out there. There are no other footprints-and-terrain-and-real-time-with-orders-delays-and-intel-failures-etc wargames out there worth mentioning.
With all that taken into account, I think Command Ops is more than capable of bigger things—not mainstream success, but definitely mainstream wargame success. I would submit it's priced appropriately for the market it's in now (games available only through Matrix), but I would also say that priced in the $40-$50 range for BftB and the HttR scenarios and marketed at a wider audience, it would be more successful than it is now.
I've run Command Ops AARs at a couple of semi-mainstream gaming forums, and the most frequent comment I get on the game is, "That's awesome, but I wish it wasn't so expensive." That's not coming from random people, either; it's coming from serious- or semi-serious wargamers, people who don't blink at Arsenal of Democracy or The Operational Art of War III. That's a market in which Command Ops is more than capable of succeeding, but it's not a market open to Command Ops given its current pricing and the current retailers through whom one can get it.
Obviously, that's just my opinion, and I don't have anything besides a gut feeling to back it up.
Yes, the 'expensive' part mirrors my own feelings as well as from some others when Command Ops has been brought up. I am not a fan boy but I do like the engine since first released by Battlefront. The same 'problems' plagued the game back then though as I recall Dave insisted it was the releasing of a demo which hampered sales - I didn't agree then and don't now.
Say what you want, but I know when BftB was first released I choked at the price point and didn't buy. I only did recently after the latest sale which brought it within the realm of reasonable value for the dollar imo. I also bought the HttR reissue which I am definitely more meh about; I got the impression these scenarios were not playtested much through with the new engine and I actually enjoyed the original much more. I will likely feel the same about the reissue of the CotA scenarios if I bought them; however, at $60 for the 'data' packs that will never happen :) - I will have to be content with the original. I'm also very surprised dismounting of mounted troops still has not been incorporated into the engine - one of my main beef's with CotA and seems a major deficiency.
I disagree with some of your other points. I do think the pauseable real-time is a positive in today's market and has the potential to grab a larger audience. I think where the game needs some 'love' is in the presentation, something more than plain, flat counters on a plain, flat map. It needs to be jazzed up to be more appealing. How? I am not an artist or designer, but better animations, sounds, map graphics etc. would be a start. We are human and eye candy never hurts as long as there is real meat underneath which CommandOps has plenty.
This plan to move forward will definitely push me off to the side in some areas, in others I will definitely be 'waiting'. Obviously, there are those who will buy regardless and it will remain to be seen if this new entry point idea will make up for and exceed cases like me. Anyways good luck, just one man's opinion, take it for what it is worth - no need to bring out the pitchforks. :)