From: Old Los Angeles pre-1960
While I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said below Bill, I was astounded to find a rather large exception recently.
Because of a renewed personal interest in Avalon Hill's/MMP's ASL, I went searching for some relevant forums and found it on Gamesquad.com
They very recently changed their Forum format (since September 2016), but prior to this - each game forum showed the number of it's members.
The surprise was seeing that ASL boasted some over 357,000 members world wide (in 2016)....unfortunately they don't show any figures now that I can find - but the point is, in ASL's case - they are garnering over 350,000 fans in 2016...which can only be indicative of a portion of ASL sales over the last 30 years...astoundingly good for such a niche market.
Still though, that pales in comparison to today's console games like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty (for example).
On the other hand, another sobering statistic I saw this year was watching 'Video Games: The Movie' on Netflix.
They pointed out that since humble beginnings with Atari's 2600 back in the 1970's, ....the Video Game Industry now dwarfs the annual sales of ALL Motion Pictures (ie..Hollywood), Professional Sports, and the entire Music Industry - COMBINED! (that blew my mind anyway).
So the reality that hardcore military sims like WitP:AE aren't huge numbers in the Industry isn't at all surprising...considering where that industry now lies.
Many years ago there was an editorial in the Avalon Hill magazine The General about the size of the wargame hobby. I believe the writer was one of the head people at AH and knew the industry well. He pointed out that a mega hit in the wargame industry like Advanced Squad Leader would sell around 10,000 copies over its entire lifetime. The popular games sold by Hasbro all sell more than 100,000 copies a year. Hasbro drops games that don't meet that threshold. When Hasbro later bought AH people were scratching their heads because AH was such small potatoes compared to everything else in their line up, but they were looking to the rights to some of AH's more popular multiplayer games like Diplomacy to turn them into online games. That never really happened, but that may have been their thinking.
The computer game industry is a bit different from the physical game industry, but the same scale of economics apply. Games like Grand Theft Auto sell millions of copies and the studios that create those games have lots of cash to invest in new games. Though they still do all they can to recycle the old game engines because creating a game engine from scratch is not easy and once you get something right, you milk it for all you can. Games that can be played on multiple platforms are also desirable in the industry. Games limited to one platform are limiting their market from the start.
In the gaming business real time games sell better than games that take time to play. Those who don't play real time games, tend to be on game systems like iWin or play Facebook games that have fairly simple game engines compared to what it takes to run the sort of wargame Matrix releases. The sort of people who have the patience for a slowly unfolding game like AE are few and far between. And of those people, there is some percentage who wouldn't be interested in the subject, and another percentage who never heard of Matrix.
I can't go into details, but having seen the extent of the guts of AE, it would be a pretty daunting task for anyone to build an all new engine that did the same thing better. For a lifetime sales of 10,000 if you're lucky, the payoff is not worth it to most developers. Playing in the mainstream game arena where a big hit can bring in millions vs a niche game that might make $100K-$200K over its lifetime of the entire engine, only those who are doing it for the love of the game are going to bother.
AE was developed by a handful of people who were fans of the game. If we did it for the money we'd all be living in cardboard boxes now.