I'm also super depressed since I cannot meet the last 10% of polish needed in my projects hence the need to hire, and I'm running out of cash. And then someone comes along with a no-budget work with little to no art and gets exposure and I'm like "But I've been doing that in the past and nobody cared!"
Maybe we should REALLY do more networking. In my opinion, games from our community pop up on game aggregators too seldom - and the current number and quality of release from here should at least justify having one of our titles mentioned every month. From all the recent NaNoRenO releases, for example, only Ristorante Amore seems to have found some attention, and that's just not enough!
The fact of the matter is that marketing and networking are extremely important to ANYTHING'S success, but especially indie games. The movies that do the best spend as much as 50% of what they spent on the movie itself on advertising, and they market the movie for months before it hits theaters. Marketing is a vital part of having a successful creative project. Field of Dreams
lied to you - if you just build it no one will come, because they don't know it exists
You need to be prepared to market your game just as diligently as you made it. I've heard many successful indies say they had to spend 2-3 months or more marketing their game as a full time job to achieve the visibility and name recognition that they have. You need to be proactive - a website, a development blog, building a fan base and getting them excited and mobilized BEFORE release. A mobilized fan base can market your game for you! Ideally you should have this marketing plan scheduled and designed to start 2-3 months before release, then build into a fever pitch where the climax of excitement corresponds with the release of the game.
What does marketing consist of? Trailers, screenshots, art. A good trailer cannot be emphasized enough. This is the 1-2 minute sales pitch that gets people excited and invested. Don't hold back the good stuff, here! You shouldn't spoil the story, but if all your good art is in CGs, show some of them! The fact is, if you don't impress people with the trailer, you'll never have a chance to impress them with your game.
Networking means having lots of places to submit your game to, and lots of people to help push it for you. It comes from being involved in multiple communities and making yourself well-known BEFORE your game comes out. This also ties into marketing - notice that the Ristorante Amore
team tied nearly everything they did on the forums back into the game - whether it was art discussion, showing a tutorial on Ren'Py features, discussing writing, etc.
That "no-budget with little art" that gets more exposure is probably doing things you aren't. Quality does not translate automatically to exposure.
It is the same reason McDonald's kicks a ton of fancy restaurant's butts. They have the biggest presence and marketing push.