Even with the traditional AAA game development cycle, Bethesda games seem to take longer than usual.
The development cycle for AAA games has grown longer and longer- there is no getting around that anymore. As games get better looking and more and more complex, the time it takes to develop and release them also grows. But even accounting for that, Bethesda games seem to take an inexplicably long time to come out, with average development cycles of four years.
It’s inexplicable, because most modern AAA development takes as long as it does because of the engine involved- either developing a brand new engine, or fine tuning it for your specific game or development pipeline, can take a lot of time. Metal Gear Solid V took as long as it did because it’s development was also associated with the development of the FOX Engine; development of Breath of the Wild took as long as it did because Nintendo developed a full physics engine from scratch. But Bethesda uses the same engine for each of its games- tweaked, yes, but the same engine nonetheless. So where does all that development time go?
The same template is used for all of their games, too- so why do Bethesda take as long with their games as they do? My argument is that they take so long because they spend so much time on their settings. Whether it is recreating real world settings in a post apocalyptic scenario, or creating fully realized fantasy worlds from scratch, Bethesda’s worlds all feel believable and lived in- and that is something that has to take time. Simply creating a consistent world that portrays the perception of existing independently probably takes a lot of research and thinking.
Is that enough to account for the long development cycles? I don’t know. But Bethesda games are always quality, with an insane attention to detail- is that not worth the long wait, then? It is for me. It means I am willing to wait however long it takes for Fallout 5 and The Elder Scrolls 6.