Particularly when applied to the upcoming Zelda title on the Wii U.
When Eiji Aonuma revealed the new Zelda for the Wii U, the most celebrated piece of information was the new level of freedom promised. The idea was for the new Zelda to be a return to the 'open' nature of the first game, which allowed players far more freedom to explore. The term 'open world' was tossed around, leading many fans to wonder if the new Zelda would have more in common with Skyrim than, say, Skyward Sword.
According to Miyamoto, that remains a goal for the new Zelda, but we should be careful with how we use the term 'open world'
"I prefer not to use the generally used term "open world" when developing software," he explained, "but we used this term in order to make it easier for consumers to understand. This term means that there is a large world in which players can do numerous things daily. In the traditional "The Legend of Zelda" series, the player would play one dungeon at a time. For example, if there are eight dungeons, at the fourth dungeon, some players may think, "I’m already halfway through the game," while other players may think, "I still have half of the game to play." We are trying to gradually break down such mechanism and develop a game style in which you can enjoy “The Legend of Zelda” freely in a vast world, whenever you find the time to do so."
It's an interesting distinction to make even if, at first glance, it seems like splitting hairs. I think most gamers, particularly Zelda fans, understand that the new Zelda won't be open world to the scale of certain RPGs like The Elder Scrolls series. I think what most of us are hoping for is a little less handholding, and a little more freedom to find our own path. Not quite Dark Souls, but not a slow grind of tutorials like the kind seen in Skyward Sword either.
Personally, I saw A Link Between Worlds as a small step forward. Just having the freedom to tackle certain dungeons in any order you chose was a breath of fresh air. Can't wait to see what lessons have been learned from that little experiment.