Kotaku's Luke Plunkett editorializes on how his best moments in Oblivion were in free roaming around without any quests, and expresses hope Skyrim will do the same.
It's tough to put a number on it, but of the 300+ hours I've spent playing Elder Scrolls IV, I'd estimate almost half has been doing this: being content to scratch the surface of the game world, because the surface is probably the most enjoyable thing about it. And for those still playing the game five years after release, I'd wager you're doing much the same thing. It must be easy to make games when players don't even need content to keep entertained.
Few games can match the feeling of a sunny day in Cyrodiil, blue sky shining, grass blowing in the breeze and the self-made fun of hunting deer with a bow and arrow, or collecting ingredients for potions from a river bed, not because you got some arbitrary reward (I was well past the point of needing or caring about money or loot) but just...because.
To this day, I don't exactly know why I do it. I'm not a survivalist. I don't want Bethesda too include some crazy "hardcore" mode like we saw in Fallout: New Vegas, where you have to worry about eating. I don't like hunting in real life and I don't really give a shit about horses.
But combining all of those things in a game and letting me do them, without a script pushing me along, pager bugging me there's tasks to be completed or a timer ticking down, lets me truly escape into a game world and be free to do whatever the hell I want. I can boot up Oblivion, wake up at a campsite on the side of a hill, and just...wander around.