My experiences will vary a little from the more typical profile of users on here, I imagine- as I encountered Interactive Fiction through Fallen London (and subsequently, Emily Short and Sam Kabo Ashwell’s blogs, where I found coverage of Spring Thing on Short’s blog) and am more involved in the offshoot Tumblr (which is heavily choice influenced (particularly using Twine and Choicescript), as compared to the more traditional parser games here, where Inform 7 seems popular) and adjacent Visual Novel community (the English offshoot, as the Japanese and English communities seem quite disparate, an example being the upswing in the Amare category of games on the English side) than on IFDB.
For the most part- discovery of actual games has come from competitions this community organizes. I think it’s pretty well accepted IFComp is the event of the year, and if you want maximal coverage and exposure, that’s the venue to enter a game into. SpringThing collects its fair share of participants every year, (I’m quite partial to it), alongside Ectocomp, with a handful of other events like the Text Adventure Literacy Jam, ParserComp, etc. The strong review culture and community engagement, particularly around IFComp and SpringThing is also great when those events swing around.
I also enter various gamejams on itch . io- which typically results in a small bump of activity but peters out. An exception to that is the Bitsy community, which is small, but quite interactive, and a trickle of comments and views floats in every month or so when Adam hosts the monthly jam and the archived monthly ones gets listed on the jam page as inspirational material.
Most of my own audience consists of adults, who often identify as being part of the LGBT community, and are interested in horror. That lines up pretty well with the sort of games I make- gothic horror, often featuring gay relationships. I would say normally, authors make up a big chunk of the player audience in interactive fiction, but for my case, because of the itch . io jams and adjacent communities I participate in, non-authors play my games more often.
The majority of my traffic comes from particular tags (as itch . io analytics let you see referrals and such), primarily being the NSFW and gay tags, though I get a handful of people checking out my profile directly (likely because I have it linked in my bio on Discord, where I interact with the Tumblr and Visual Novel community and checking out people’s itch. io profiles is more of a norm.)
Both games with the highest amount of traffic (VESPERTINE and origin of love respectively) were entered into interactive fiction community events, (a Goncharov gamejam hosted by a community member with good reach on the Tumblr IF side of things, and Ectocomp). Both get some passive traffic from being high in their more niche tag search results, with cover art highly influencing pull- though not user retainment, as some people are put off by finding a text based game in tags where more visual heavy games are common (NSFW especially.) VESPERTINE was also mentioned in a piece of games journalism about the Goncharov game jam, and I did see a temporary spike initially following that (~100.)
To roughly eyeball some numbers- games that I enter into interactive fiction community events will get around two to three thousand hits/views, while being curated into around 40 to 50ish collections on itch . io (often into assortments of games sharing a genre or theme).
Releases into the Bitsy community will get around 500 hits, though the Bitsy community is similarly quite happy to curate collections of games, (often to promote the engine) so similar numbers of collections as to IF event ones. Bitsy users seem more likely to leave star ratings than all of the groups I’ve encountered (perhaps because they’re more familiar with the itch. io platform?) I have more limited experience with releasing for the TTRPG community or the Visual Novel community. So far, my experience with the TTRPG community performs around the same as Bitsy for numbers. The Visual Novel community is very big, but I would say the most noticeable aspect of my dabbling in there was how often comments would highlight characterization in positive reviews. Full length reviews from player comments are rare in any community outside of the interactive fiction one (in my experience).