In the past decade or so, open world games have really taken off. It seems like every other game that comes out nowadays has a large open world. It’s gotten to the point where it feels like companies just want to make a world bigger than their competitors and don’t actually care about their worlds.
Massive worlds can be fun to explore but problems arise when the worlds can’t be filled. Most games have large expanses of land where there’s nothing there. Maybe there’s a few enemies or some wildlife there, but nothing with any real substance. Now sure, earth doesn’t have the entirety of its land filled with meaningful things, so you could argue the vast emptiness is realistic, but I’m of the firm belief that even realistic games shouldn’t be entirely realistic. If they were, you’d die in two sword swings or a single bullet to the face. That wouldn’t be fun.
Some games have certainly taken the “good things come in small packages” motto to heart when it comes to their worlds (Deus Ex: Mankind Divided has a great, small, open world as an example). But there are still tons of games that try to use their boring, repetitive, but large worlds as a selling point. If they tone down the size of their world, they can put that production time towards giving their smaller worlds even more meaning, or further enhancing other aspects of the game such as gameplay.
Just a few of my thoughts really. I’m not sure if we’ll actually see worlds get smaller (but a man can dream). Oh, and don’t even get me started on side quests.