Back in 2002 coming out of the Power of the Jedi line, there wasn't a dedicated "Attack of the Clones" line - there was Star Wars: Saga and sure, for the first year, most of the figures were from Attack of the Clones, but as the first year ended and we moved into the second year of that packaging design, we started to get figures mixed in from the other four movies that were out.
In 2005 when ROTS hit, the line for an entire year was 100% dedicated to that movie.
If the Clone Wars figures had been released in a realistic style, back in August 2008 the line could have gone for a year with only releasing Clone Wars related figures and the figures from the six movies could have taken a break and I don't think anyone would have minded. With realistic Clone Wars figures no one would have been running around freaking out that the realistic line was "done".
Stopping realistic figures entirely for a year to focus on the new media wasn't an option with those figures being done in a non-realistic style.
So there is actually a huge difference between the two. Collectors who have passed on the Clone Wars line due to the figure style wouldn't be passing on the Clone Wars line since it would be in line with all of the rest of the figures they already have.
I wouldn't say there's a "Huge difference" between the two Pete, but I would say that there are some differences... However, 2002's line didn't perform up to snuff by most accounts either, and that's why 2005's saw significant changes too... so it's a little tough to use it as a gauge in the analogy itself.
Also, there's a pretty big difference in movies and an animated TV series too.
I don't personally think sales of realistic figures would've been less than the animated figures. I do believe though that the current/ongoing media support tends to generate the most interest though. So with that in mind, and with the thought in mind that Clone Wars runs longer than a film's life in the limelight, I think Clone Wars would still be outselling the movie figures, and as such Hasbro would be doing other things people find annoying.
For instance repacking CW stuff as they do now, they'd be doing it in the realistic line under its sku in this hypothetical situation, and people would now be complaining the mantra, "I can't find (Insert random adult-collector-targeted-figure here) because of all these Ahsoka's, Anakin's and Obi-Wan's!", or something along those lines.
And likewise if the SKU's were separated between a realistic everything else line, and realistic Clone Wars line, then I still think it possible Clone Wars would be outselling that "Legacy" line in the hypothetical, and retailers would respond in-kind.
I don't know though, it just seems to me that things wouldn't be too much different, except that guys like me would be more actively looking for Clone Wars figures, as well as
the regular film and EU figures.
All that said though, it still boils down to this is what Lucasfilm wanted of course, not Hasbro's decision at all... I'm not so sure on Hasbro's part how much they "fought" for a realistic line, but I got the impression they at least strongly considered going that route but Lucasfilm didn't want it. *shrug* The realistic Anakin looked insanely cool, and since a lot of the CW3D characters are based on actors and things that actually exist, I think its translation to realistic sculpting is evident... Obi-Wan looks like Ewan McGregor, Anakin like Hayden Christensen, and so on... just in their CW outfits.
Personally I agree on the point about people avoiding the animated because they're avoiding animated style only though... I'm in that group as I noted. I tend not to buy animated figures because I consider it a wholely separate line, so I don't feel my collection's missing something without it. I do, however, like the thought of realistic styled versions of these characters. I like your optomism on them getting done realistically too, but you never know.
I like to think what you're suggesting is how it would be, I just don't know if it would be based on past trends in the line. You're right though, there's plenty of differences in the movie lines and the CW3D line, but some of the differences work in favor of the animated style idea though as well.