In a recent interview with IGN, both Shigeru Miyamoto and Bill Trinen had the chance of explaining why the newest Zelda entry, Breath of the Wild, is an “open-air” game rather than an open-world one.
Miyamoto stated, “I think within the game industry or the tech industry, there’s a tendency to want to name everything, but I think it’s important for what we do that we don’t want to be dependent or swayed by the technology and what’s available now. We want to use the technology and the techniques that are available to make what we want to make.” He continues, “What’s important is to really express how we use that to make our experience unique. We didn’t want to just make a game where you can do anything, but we wanted to make sure that we make a game where the player is able to do anything, but it’s also a form of entertainment. It’s fun to do all of those things. That’s why we felt that coming up with a name that we created would be best. The term ‘Open Air’ is a result of that. That’s what Bill [Trinen] uses a lot.”
Bill Trinen also gave his insight on the matter: “From my perspective, I look at a lot of open-world games and the world is a setting for the story the developers want to tell in that space. I look at this game and I see a world that is fully integrated into the exploration and the adventure. It’s not just a world that you’re passing through. It’s sort of a world that you’re a part of. So much of the adventure and exploration is in this outdoor space, and the theme of wilderness collectively seemed like ‘Open Air’ was the right fit for it.”
Certainly, just from looking at the world displayed in Breath of the Wild, you can tell the world in the game will be just as important as the characters in order to tell Breath of the Wild’s story. It has always been like that in Zelda games. Iconic places like Hyrule Castle or the Temple of Time are almost a “must-have” in every entry of the series, although there have been instances where they are not present. Nevertheless, Link’s surroundings have always played a big part in Zelda games, and this time is no different.