I'm not sure if player popularity would work in their favor as an argument.
I mean, imagine if they made a survey asking if people wanted it or not. How would you expect it to go, in all honesty?
In all honesty, I don't have a clue. If you asked the question flat "shall we add feature X", you will usually get a positive response. If you highlight tradeoffs, then maybe not.
Larian and Bioware ( and probably others ) seem to use exclusively event-driven games design, presumably in order to improve control over the overall narrative ( if you consider "linear story-driven" and "open-world" to be the extremes of narrative control ). I don't know whether any developer has publicly explained this choice ( or the data used to make the choice ), so my assumption has always been that financial return is the main driver.
Personally I prefer realistic open worlds with plausible behaviour and character interactions, but as a software engineer myself, I know that the ability to realise this with current techniques and hardware is limited. It's much easier to develop improved visuals to make things look shiny than to construct a better conversation algorithm, or a plausible information diffusion mechanism; so better visuals get the attention.