When comparing Defold vs Pico-8, the Slant community recommends Pico-8 for most people. In the question“What are the best 2D Lua game engines?” Pico-8 is ranked 7th while Defold is ranked 8th.
Ranked in these QuestionsQuestion Ranking
Pro Easy to learn
Defold uses Lua, which is regarded as an easy to learn language by most.
Pro Completely free of charge
Software and online dashboard are free of charge.
Pro Good combination of visual editing + code (Lua)
You can do a lot with drag and drop, but you're not limited -- the code (Lua, which is easy to learn) allows you more power than just visual editing usually gives you.
Pro Visual editor
Pro Easy and fast export for various platforms
Pro Fast results
Going from idea to result is very important for the creative process.
Pro Very performant
Being crossplatform it is important to work on low end devices.
Pro Great community
A very active and friendly community in forums.
You can invite friends from the dashboard and create games together.
Pro Hot reload
It allows you to change scripts in a game while it is running live. Common use-cases is to tweak gameplay parameters or to perform debugging on a running game.
Pro Perhaps one of the easiest sound editors around
Pro Encourages building simple games
As a beginner it's all to tempting to try to make the games you like to play, like Zelda or Call of Duty when we should probably be making pong.
Pro Share the game in a .png file with other pico-8 users
Pro You can read the code of any game you play
Pro Lots of examples
Almost every game made for the Pico-8 is open source (if you can download the .png, you can see the source).
Also there's the fancy Pico-8 "fanzine" that has lots of code examples as well as other great tutorials in a beautiful physical or PDF form.
Pro Easy to get things going very quickly
Pro Very simple programing language
It's lua with a few modifications.
Pro Takes away the pain of having to wire things together
Because it's an all in one product, you don't have to worry about things like how to load sprites.
Con Google account needed
You need a Google account to develop with Defold.
Con No collision library or other common things
Pico-8 is very minimalistic and as such doesn't come with really any abstractions whatsoever which means often you end up re-inventing the wheel.
Con Code editor leaves some things to be desired
Such as code completion and automatic indentation.
Con Costs 15$
Unlike many of the other frameworks it's not free. However this is kind of a feature because it means it's much more likely to be supported.