One big question coming out of the Sea of Thieves beta was how Rare would handle the purchase of additional content through microtransactions, loot boxes, or season passes. Xbox One and Windows 10 PC gamers can take heart in the fact the open-sea pirate adventure title is not going down the same path tread by others that caused so much outrage in 2017.
Sea of Thieves won’t come with the ability for players to spend real-world money in-game when it launches on March 20, Rare confirmed in interviews with theVerge and Windows Central. Instead, the studio plans to add in-game purchases later via an update some unknown months after launch. Additionally, microtransactions will be solely cosmetic and there will be no loot boxes present, the video game industry’s current dirty phrase after the debacles surrounding Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and Destiny 2.
Nothing players purchase via microtransactions will affect character progression or gameplay, so what is it they will be able to spend money on? The first feature planned for Sea of Thieves is pets with cats and monkeys used as examples. Rare plans to allow them to follow the player around and interact with other players but they will have no impact on gameplay beyond social shenanigans.
Rare is promoting Sea of Thieves as a “game as a service” title, which means it will continually be updated. Timed events will be available along with smaller updates to add new cosmetic content like clothes or tattoos or white flags for surrender to larger updates that add new features or systems like ship captaincy.
Fishing has been one feature requested by players and is something mentioned by Rare as an example of a way to add emergent, player-driven gameplay, versus new quests and goals. The goal is to service both types of play system.
With no Season Pass or paid DLC, the free Sea of Thieves updates will be supported over the long-haul by microtransactions. It will be interesting to see what items and features are brought in that will still attract players enough to open their wallets.
The Sea of Thieves monetization setup is complicated by the fact the game will be available immediately as part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Players won’t have to drop $60 on the game immediately and will be able to take it for a test spin immediately. This is all the more reason for the developer to make content as compelling as possible to keep them playing and supporting the game.