It feels like you're setting up a strawman here of people who believe that all success is unearned. The author only said that there are those who work as hard as he does and are as smart as him and yet don't succeed. How else would you rationalize situations where you find your peers failing and you succeeding, even though you might consider yourselves equals in ability and tenacity? Or do you simply consider yourself above and beyond and attribute all your success to that?
He ported a text game, that someone else had already designed and implemented, to iOS.
This is not a huge amount of work compared to what most game development people do, and is not particularly challenging compared to what people are doing with 3D graphics, etc.
I am pointing this out not to be mean, but to respond to your point: "those who work as hard as he does and are as smart as him". What he did for A Dark Room was something pretty much any iOS programmer can do, and in those conditions it's natural not to expect to be noticed in a crowded market. i.e. he evidently did not do anything noticeably smarter or work noticeably harder than anyone else.
This doesn't mean he can't do smarter and bigger things, just that a port of ADR is not that, and neither were his other descriptions of projects he did in the meantime (for example, look at the screenshots for Mildly Interesting RTS).
I think when this is the limit of what one is attempting, one has no right to complain that people aren't buying one's stuff (and should not be surprised at that either!)
I only played ADR for a few minutes, so I didn't discover its depth, but the reason it became so popular on the app store is that it was able to create a compelling experience with the least amount of resources, a creative tour de force if you ask me.
The mainstream audience wants flashy things, and these games are probably never going to catch on there, but not for a lack of value, work, or depth.
Oh and totally give A Dark Room a shot. You may find it pretty okay.
PS: I'm totally gonna frame this comment thread. I'm big fan Braid and The Witness. You? Not so much :-)
MIRTS is something I'd expect from a weekend programming jam. It's a minimal effort and it's not surprising that it did minimally well in the marketplace.