The problem is however, all the features ever added to GDevelop require maintenance and with a constantly growing set of features it may be too much to handle for 1 person. So it is either paid developers or free contributors who need to get the job done. Now you might be thinking, no problem contributors always be here but it is just simply not true. You may love JS, Electron today you have the free time and motivation to do free contribution but it will change, it is not a matter of IF but WHEN.
This is the problem Godot currently facing. You might be thinking what a success Godot is. No, it is not. It is totally broken because paid developers are paid to work on the core staff like new rendering, physics, particle engines, scripting API’s, IDE, port to new platforms, export templates.
But other staff that is not considered core like pathfinding, ads, monetisation, lights, GUI, interfaces with certain API’s is totally broken on one platform or the other because those people who originally contributed those features are left and others don’t care to fix them, they constantly push the problems to next release for years because it is not considered priority. This is why many Godot developer end up going with Unity or GameMaker or even Defold instead because they get tired of this and the only ones remain are the hobbyist who manage to push some decent work out once in a while and this is what everyone is focusing on while ignoring all those who abandon Godot because of the problems that donations and free contributions can not fix.
If this is the path GDevelop wish to follow, it is fine, not saying it is bad one but I just don’t want anyone to have false beliefs about Godot and about GDevelop can be a commercial success with nothing but donations. It can not be and without a commercial success I honestly uncertain how much further 4ian can go, the future is extremely uncertain this way in my opinion.
Comparing it to Godot and pointing at it how successful it is, just not a good idea. Apart form being broken, Godot is also in a very unique position because it was the only free alternative to Unity at the time it was released especially on Linux because Unity was not available on Linux and at the beginning there was also OKAM Studio behind it and this is why so many people jumped on the train especially on Linux and this is why it gained so much momentum that keep it going even today. But GDevelop never be able to achieve this popularity and gain so much momentum as Godot did with nothing but donations and contributions, otherwise it would have already.
I think, at minimum monetisation options like ads, in-app purchase should be behind a pay wall because if you are about to make money then it is fair to ask to also pay some. I would personally also put (1 click, offline) export options behind a pay wall. HTML5 cold be free it is enough for hobby projects, other exports could be free with online build service with limitations like now, but 1 click, offline export to desktop and mobile should be behind a pay wall in my opinion to ensure being maintained. Export and monetisation is the two most important features of any engine. If you can not export and can not monetise people will switch to an other engine for their commercial projects that allow them to export and monetise.
Now you might be thinking, this is exactly why it is important to keep it free. But imagine for a moment you spend 2 years developing a game in GD and the day you want to publish you realise, when you export to iOS your game crash or maybe reward video ads does not work. Then what? If it a free contribution all you can do is pretty please and hope someone care. This is not how business works, in business people don’t pretty please, nobody want to pretty please and wait months and years or hire a developer and pay the full cost of a repair of something. This is the primary problem that need to be solved if you want GD to be more popular among pro developers, pointing at free contribution and voluntary donations is not reassuring. Despite all the huge amount of donations, not even Godot can solve all these problems with donations alone and many don’t realise it but it does also struggle to keep pro developers around.
But I guess it is depends on who is the primary target of GDevelop, students, hobbyist or commercial projects. Unfortunately it is not possible to satisfy them all because students, hobbyist want everything for free hoping others going to contribute and donate, pro devs want support but you can not provide support without stable income. So who is it going to be?
One solution maybe is to do it similar to Phaser, have a Community Version, that is 100% maintained by the community and have a Commercial Version that is built on top of the CE version, taking advantage all the free contribution but also add some paid features developed by paid developers. How about that? But yet again it is depends if 4ian has any commercial plans with GD or not.