Games today are many times more complex than games were even a few years ago. Recreating every three-dimensional point of a complex cave environment is going to take an artist several orders of magnitude more time than dropping a few rough dots on an Atari 2600′s 196×160 screen and calling it a cave environment. Similarly, producing a full 5.1 surround sound track for a modern game requires sound engineers and advanced programming libraries. Triggering a few blips and bleeps is much easier.
But there are also some less obvious reasons for longer development cycles. In the old days, a programmer with a text editor and a few programs could create an entire game. However, to create all the complex content and code required for a modern game, programmers and artists need powerful tools such as 3-d modelers and advanced debuggers. Unfortunately, programmers and artists often have to use general purpose tools that are not at all well suited to game development. And when domain-specific tools do exist, such as in console game development, the tools are often unstable and immature due to the short life span of any particular console system. A multi-platform console world further complicates development by multiplying all of the issues of developing for a single platform by the number of platforms on which you intend to deliver your game. –Adam Geitgey –Where are the Good Open Source Games? (OS News)
Great suggestion, Evan.