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.