Of all the superb moments throughout Nintendo’s E3, perhaps the one that garnered the most excitement was that image of Zelda Wii U’s open world. Shigeru Miyamoto was asked at Nintendo’s recent investor briefing about Zelda Wii U, and responded with some interesting insight into where they want to take the Zelda series.

This term [open world] 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.

He also talked about how Link Between Worlds on the 3DS is a stepping stone towards their goal, and – most intriguingly – mentioned that they have further ideas along these lines for Zelda on 3DS.

We created the games in the traditional “The Legend of Zelda” series in steps that players could easily understand and follow; the player would obtain a new item in each dungeon, use the item to clear that dungeon and be able to enjoy applying the items in different ways after acquiring about eight items. However, in “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds,” we broke that down and let the player rent different items from the beginning, so the player could use different combinations of items. […] In addition to that, we have ideas for Nintendo 3DS which we have not announced yet, so I hope you will look forward to them.

Source: Nintendo Japan