History disagrees with the sentiment that it was easier to "make money" as an indie in the 1980s, or 1990s than today....
In the 1980s the distribution channels were being established which meant either you scored a deal with a bricks and mortar retail store, such as Sears, Babbages or Toy's R Us, or you ziplock bagged your PC game and tried to sell them at swap meets and computer stores.
In the 1990s there were more direct retailers and amalgamations of bricks and mortar stores occurred. The shareware model emerged and ziplock bagging disappeared. If anything, the 1990's were a bit of a dark ages for indies as either you had a publisher to get into a store or shareware.
From the 2000s onward we have an increased number of target platforms, and increased demographic of game players (from kiddos to those who grew up playing games for 30+ years... see: http://dmitriwilliams.com/will... (warning: Word doc)) , and increased number of channels (e.g., bricks and mortar persists (barely), online services like Steam, bundles, etc...)
If you (have aspirations to) develop indie games, it may seem likely everyone is creating them and the market is saturated but it's the same mentality as a musician at a "Guitar Center" thinking everyone in the world is now in a band; no, it's just the community they choose to surround themselves in. The signal to noise ratio is such that indies can succeed if they spend time build a great game and heed the lessons of other indies in how to market it through these channels. (GDC Vault has many free videos on this topic, such as: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1... )
I even have a personal example of a AAA dev who use to work with me, but left years ago to start his own 1-man shop. He was a graphic programmer who taught himself to become a better artist and has been making a living, creating games, for a few years now. Check out his studio: http://www.epacegames.com/ And can also site Discord games ( http://discordgames.com/ ); larger than a 1-man group but by making an awesome game and marketing it appropriately, have an opportunity to sell Chasm to eager players, an opportunity that would not have existed 20 years ago.
tl;dr: Accessibility has always been a concern and, there is more innovation happening today than 30 years ago.
I also miss the (video game) days of my youth; learning about games from friends, or by going to an arcade and seeing what new machine was front and center...later making ANSII ads for BBS's so I could obtain a high enough credentials to get access to their warez section and learn about the latest games.
That said, I chock my emotions of those days as nostalgia and recognize an indie in the 80's/90's had a much more limited set of options than today. From middle school to college my options went from Applesoft Basic with the Beagle Bros compiler to Turbo Pascal/C++ with the XMODE library. That's it. Innovation in game design, and mechanics was regulated to a task that could be accomplished only after you figured out how to get a framebuffer up, sounds playing, and all the other nit picky things required to build a game.
Don't mistake accessibility with complexity. I make games for a living and some of my co-workers have been doing this for 30+ years; accessibility has always been at the front of the games developers build. When 4k of memory was a lot, the best games could do was have paddles, a ball, and text written on an arcade cabinet to describe how to play. Later on we introduced demo mode and how-to-play screens, which worked particularly well with most games as they didn't scroll and limited play modes and/or mechanics to demonstrate.
And when games became more complex (powerups, scrolling screens, etc...), the games people played were the ones that continued to innovate on how they were accessible. A great example that codifies this early push for accessibility by design is in "Sequelitis - Mega Man Classic vs. Mega Man X" https://www.youtube.com/watch?...
If games haven't always found a way to be accessible, demos, tutorials, etc... they wouldn't be played because only a handful of us die-hard geeks are willing to read through the manual. So as awesome as it was making games in 320x240 with 256 colors with my own game engine, I know what I was able to produce then pales in comparison to what an eager indie can create today.
To see this innovation just poke around Newgrounds or go to any global game jam site or just look at the entries from one of the quarterly Ludam Dare's ( http://ludumdare.com/ ). At the Game Developer's Conference this year there was a whole section of alternative input games ( http://www.gdconf.com/news/gdc... ). And there are plenty of other sources showing innovation game play mechanics, some fun, some not, but plenty of experimentation.
What constitutes indie is one questions (and AAA is even harder to come to a consensus, even among my work peers) but that said...
As a child of the 80's, who adamantly played video games (e.g., Apple ][, arcade, 2600, NES, etc...) and got into professional game development over 10 years ago (I work for a AAA studio and my have my own gig for nights/weekends) I'd agree with those who say now, 2014, is the best time for indie game development.
Powerful engines and Middleware tools are accessible with licenses that fit indie budgets (e.g., Unity3d, Unreal4, etc...) as well as a swatch of free software for development. (e.g. Phaser: http://phaser.io/ Blender http://www.blender.org/ Love https://love2d.org/ Flixel http://flixel.org/ Haxe http://haxe.org/ )
The internet, as-is, provides indies with a way for
- distance-collaboration (Skype, E-mail, Groups, etc...)
- community building (Twitter, CMSs, Facebook, etc...)
- fundraising (IndieGogo, Kickstarter, HumbleBundle, Paypal, custom web-based donation system, etc...)
- advertising (game communities, news outlets, etc...)
Organizations, such as the International Game Developer's Association (IGDA, http://igda.org/ ) and events like the Global Game Jam, PAX (IndieMegabooth), and MAGFest also contribute to the community of indie game developers.
It is a great time to be an indie game developer in terms of accessibility and ability to achieve a sustainable income.
I have FlashBuilder on my Mac, I only use it when deploying a project to iOS - it is awful. One example: With the latest version (4.7) I deleted a project through the OS X Finder on my hard drive, that I had previously built with FlashBuilder. Afterwards it refused to start up, immediately crashing/closing, even after a reinstall of the entire Adobe suite (a recommendation on various forums.) It took a few hours combing through posts to find a helpful one that mentioned some obscure user data directory that had to be deleted.
Who writes an IDE that crashes when a project on disk is gone?
It's for this, and various other reasons, I continue to use the free, open-source alternative FlashDevelop ( http://flashdevelop.org/ ) for my Flash IDE. It's the only reason I keep a Parallels partition on my MacBook Pro.