Sea of Thieves to add microtransactions three months after launch

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Our Alec had a rum old time with Sea of Thieves‘ beta version, but the rest of us landlubbers will have to wait until March 20th before we can hoist the mainsail, scrub the poop deck, and [insert third funny-sounding nautical thing here]. In the meantime, there are brows to furrow and consternation to be had about microtransactions, loot boxes and the like. If you like the cut of Thieves’ jib, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are no loot crates planned, and that there will be no microtransactions…at least at launch. You may be less enamoured with developer Rare’s plan to implement them as part of the game’s first major post-release update.

Speaking to IGN, executive producer Joe Neate said that the team’s “focus at launch [is] on a great game experience. When we deliver this first major update, that’s when we’ll turn on the ability for players to spend money optionally.”

Using a currency you’ll be able to acquire “through normal play”, players will only be able to purchase items that “add to the fun, social nature of the game.” So nothing that makes you more powerful or that shortcuts progression – for example, the first items you can buy will be trusty pirate pets. Monkeys, naturally, will be worn on the shoulder, as I believe they commonly are in Belgium, while cats will patrol the boat, probably in search of herring. Slightly worryingly, Neate seems very keen on players being able to shoot cats out of cannons, reasoning that “it’ll land on its feet, it’s a cat, it’ll be fine!” What’s the number for the RSPCA, again?

Sea of Thieves

Another idea floating around is consumable potions that will temporarily alter your appearance, for instance by making your character appear old. It’s clear that Rare’s plans aren’t quite nailed down yet, but whatever ends up being available from the in-game shop when it opens (according to IGN) around three months after release, Neate says that “you’ll always know what you’re getting – so that means no loot crates.” Which is nice to hear.

If you’re wondering whether your PC is up to snuff for Sea of Thieves’ impending release, have a gander at the system requirements, which were released yesterday.

72 Comments

  1. Wertymk says:

    70€ for a PC game plus microtransactions? No thanks.

  2. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    It would appear that they have learned exactly the wrong lesson from the Star Wars lootbox fiasco: “those guys were dumb enough to show their hand in beta and users hated it; so let’s wait and switch!”.

    Welcome to the grimdark future of ‘as a service’s I suppose. I plan to be elsewhere for as long as possible.

    • mungo says:

      At least they have promised to never have lootboxes or any sort of gambling in the game.

      • cakeisalie says:

        Yeah, because game publishers and developers are well known for upholding their promises!

      • Meat Circus says:

        Now we see how the ‘“it’s just cosmetic!” bullshit excuse that players and journalists have been deploying as apologia for corporate greed is being turned back against us.

        We’re expected to be happy that the unbounded corporate greed on display here isn’t pay2win, isn’t gambling.

        Seriously though, you don’t win plaudits because your untrammelled corporate sociopathy is mildly less abhorrent than the worst excesses.

        Yet we’re supposed to fucking APPLAUD them for it?

        Fuck all the way off.

        • Hartford688 says:

          While I agree with you generally, I have no real issue with purely cosmetic items, if those can also be obtained in game without paying. Day of Infamy unit skins for example.

          • Sirius1 says:

            @Hartford688 – I do take issue with it, because that is where we started. By *not* taking issue with the same practice years ago we have ended up where we are. We gave them an inch, they took a mile.

          • Zombiwan Kenobi says:

            Cosmetic is no excuse to microtransactions. That’s precisely because of such naive conclusions that we now have microtransactions everywhere.

            The only thing one needs to pay for is solid content that is actually worth your money, not some excuse to grab more cash from naive players with ridiculously cheap “content” such as “cosmetic” additions.

            Players are consumers and really need to be smarter than that.

          • Hartford688 says:

            @Zombiewan Kenobi: it isn’t necessarily naivety. In the DOI case, the paid skins were for people who wanted to pay extra to support a small team if devs produce a particular type of FPS. It gained you nothing (except a skin that everyone BUT you could see) but helped out a small team on a moderately priced game.

            For bigger companies that argument does not apply of course. What it can manage though is price discrimination that may/should mean that the base game can be cheaper while the publisher creams the pure profit off the cosmetics.

            In any event, this seems a fairly futile argument. Cosmetics gain you no advantage, so if you don’t want it, don’t buy it. You lose nothing. If anything, there is a tiny chance it may actually reduce the cost of stuff you do want.

            On the “one inch, one mile” point – the problem lies with the accepting the one mile. The one inch has different characteristics and does not inevitably lead automatically to P2W or excised content (see DOI example).

            By extension, digital distribution allowed micro transactions so customers should never have allowed that either (and I know, reduction ad absurdum)

          • Archonsod says:

            “Cosmetic is no excuse to microtransactions. That’s precisely because of such naive conclusions that we now have microtransactions everywhere.”

            Not really. The game is essentially an MMO, since servers don’t run for free the developer has to make the money to keep the lights on somehow, which means either subscriptions or microtransactions. We ended up with microtransactions because it was by far the more popular model (for pretty obvious reasons).
            If there were any point it could have been stopped you can probably blame all those people in the late nineties who were happy to pay for a game and pay a monthly fee to keep playing it. Although if that had been the case the whole notion of online, persistent worlds would have been stillborn and multiplayer would probably still be thought of as an added extra rather than a central feature (not something I’d be complaining about myself, but I understand the whole multiplayer thing is rather popular with the kids).

        • wengart says:

          As someone who doesn’t give a shit about cosmetics I enjoy their inclusion when it gives me a benefit. Give me free in-game content (SW:Battlefront expansions), but charge people who want to fancy up their character? Go right ahead!

          At the end of the day I want my games to be cheap as possible and filled with gameplay content. If that means people who really like to change what their character looks like have to pay through the nose that is a cost I am willing to pay ;)

      • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

        One round of “I am altering the deal; pray I don’t alter it any further” is enough to make me doubt the sincerity of promises not to alter it further.

    • ludde says:

      Once there’s money to be had, ethics rarely get in the way. That upfront price tag of $70 is telling enough that this is a greedy company.

      Also I think there’s an argument to be had that micro-transactions and pay-gating are always in some way fragmenting and detrimental to user experience. In a game where the focus is almost entirely social without progression systems, social items like the described pets could be pretty integral to the experience and not necessarily something superfluous.

      That micro-transactions should be both entirely optional – unnecessary even – but still be attractive enough that they make the seller a lot of money is an inherent contradiction that’ll never work.

    • G_Runciter says:

      Really?
      THAT was the wrong lesson to learn from that pile of horseshit?

    • fish99 says:

      Battlefront 2 had P2W loot boxes, so no they haven’t learned the wrong lesson.

  3. Nelyeth says:

    Focusing on improving the game at launch, and adding microtransactions at a later date, to buy cosmetic-only items that can otherwise be obtained with in-game currency ? Fair enough. Still a bit irritated because it’s a full-price game already, and microtransactions on top of a 60€ entry fee never feel good, but that’s still the most (and only) sensible way of adding microtransactions in games.

  4. Synesthesia says:

    Hah, yeah, this killed any remaining interest i had. Such a shame.

  5. Artist says:

    “Sea of Thieves to add microtransactions”
    Lack of content, overpriced, microtransactions – guess whos meant with “Thieves”? What a telling name it is..

    • Jalan says:

      At the very least, we all get to witness just truly how far Rare has fallen.

      To think, the least troubling thing from the studio under Microsoft’s steerage used to be a game named around a cheeky euphemism.

      • ludde says:

        It’s Rare in name only – it’s a brand. Same as with Bioware or any other studio that was bought up and had their key people leave a long time ago. In Rare’s case that was over a decade ago.

  6. larpsidekick says:

    “It’s just cosmetic” can take a long walk off a short pier. Games are a visual media, cosmetic upgrades are part of the game, especially in multi-player. Unless you’re happy with stick figures in black and white, then cosmetics matter.

    • Mezelf says:

      It’s such a weird argument to say “it’s just cosmetics”.
      As if cosmetics only came into existence together with loot boxes.
      As if the entire point of many progression games isn’t to get the most badass armor and weapons which are typically better looking or at the very least more detailed than the beginner equipment.
      As if that justifies charging €5, €10, €20, even fucking €40 for a single cosmetic (see: Black Desert Online).

      • BooleanBob says:

        Absolutely. Pets are obviously going to be among the most desirable unlocks in the game. What pirate fantasy would be complete without a pet parrot or monkey?

        To say nothing of the fact that plans such as being able to fire them out of cannons sounds suspiciously like a gameplay feature, rather than a cosmetic one. Ok, so it might not make your character stronger, but that’s still an expansion of the game’s ‘verbs’ rather than just a customisation option.

        Holding such things back as an additional purchase just seems crass.

        • ludde says:

          That’s how it’ll sell. That it cheapens the world for everyone else is of little concern when there’s dollars to be had.

  7. Rince says:

    Oh dear. Multiplayer, Microsoft Store exclusive, expensive as hell (here is U$S 90!!) and microtransactions on top of that?
    It’s like they don’t want to people to buy the game!!

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Indeed. I can’t wait for them to blame piracy for the game not selling well. …..
      …..

      …….
      I’ll see myself out.

      • b00p says:

        nailed it

      • Shadow says:

        Not sure how crackable it’d be if it’s essentially an MMO and gameplay goes through the official servers to a significant extent.

        Private, reverse-engineered servers would be years away, if ever.

        These consistently bad choices will likely just earn it an early grave, delayed only by its potential popularity on Xbox.

  8. Nastee says:

    So it’s a service instead of a game. Shocker.

  9. MaxMcG says:

    This is a pass for me now. Any game with MTX’s is a pass for me. They have no place in a full price game. Waiting 3 weeks before introducing them is nothing short of sneaky and deceitful on top of that. They must think everyone is stupid.

    At least I won’t have to use the Microsoft store now…

  10. vorador says:

    And there it went my interest in a puff of smoke. It was already half-dead when it went Windows Store exclusive, but now i won’t even give the benefit of doubt.

    • Mezelf says:

      I didn’t even know it was a Windows Store exclusive. I understand why M$ would do that, but unfortunately for them, there’s so many fucking games out (not to mention my backlog) that restricting a single mediocre game to their fucking piece of shit monopoly store guarantees I’ll never touch this one anyway. This MTX stuff is just another nail in the coffin.

  11. Chiselphane says:

    No sale. One of the main reasons I play games is for new art, so demeaning your art as ‘just’ cosmetic is a pretty shit move. The thing they’re writing off as a minor concern is why I’m playing in the first place, and they expect me to thank and reward them with money for it? Up yours.

  12. Grinterloper says:

    In principle I have no issue with micro-transactions in paid games, I agree with the core concept that games are increasingly expensive to make, especially when they are supposed to have a long life time.

    But whilst I’m not on board with the insane babbling that every attempt to make money from a game is an example of corporate greed, I’m not naive enough to think that this never plays a part, and often pushes things way too far.

    My caveats for (imo) good micro-transactions in a premium game are as follows:

    – Drop the up front price from $60/70, You are asking players to support your platform, meet them half-way.
    – Cosmetic or otherwise non-gameplay altering items only, pay-2-win is bad for everyone, EVERYONE.
    – Can unlock with play-time/skill. Don’t split your player base, don’t create an underclass of players vs payers, they are all supporting your game.
    – Purchase items directly, not through purchasable loot-boxes, At this point you are no longer monetising crafted-content and hard work, you are monetising addictive behaviour.

    In essence, Overwatch without the loot-boxes.

    • Daemoroth says:

      You definitely need to read some financial reports from publishers. They DON’T need MTXs to be viable as a business. They’ve just managed to convince their cattle that they’re needed.

      When they talk to their shareholders (the actual customers), that’s when you hear the truth.

      • Grinterloper says:

        I’m not asserting that all the publishers are on their knees barely scraping by though (many developers are though,) so how much they are making in profit every year isn’t relevant.

        My point is that I personally feel that there is a balance to be had with games that use an upfront cost with micro-transactions that is profitable for the producer and good value for the consumers.

        Unless you believe that there should be a hard maximum on how much money a game should ever make, I don’t see how the overall profits are relevant to this point.

    • Catweasel says:

      Games aren’t increasingly more expensive to make though, developer costs go down and more money gets siphoned off to people who do nothing to make the game, then they think of a nice sounding lie to justify trying to get more. Shareholders in companies aren’t afraid to brag about record profits at the same time as they cry over games not “meeting expectations” and other bullshit and roll out more greedy manipulative garbage into their products.

  13. thatotherdude says:

    woo, game looks nice and fun and stuff. But, wait, full price, microtrans….aaaand it’s gone

  14. Skandranon says:

    I don’t give a crap about cosmetics (never seen the point in a first-person games), and Windows Store doesn’t bother me a bit, so I’m all over this. A good pirate simulator is right near the title of “dream game” for me, and if this isn’t quite the nautical Eve Online in first-person simulator I wanted, it’s close enough. Between this and Skull & Bones, the itch I’ve been waiting to scratch since the first PotC movie might finally go away.

  15. ludde says:

    Are they waiting three months to add the micro-transactions to avoid the review window? Is this the new norm after the Battlefront disaster?

  16. DarkFenix says:

    Full price game with microtransactions and MS store exclusivity. I lack the words to describe how monumentally idiotic these devs are, they’ve killed off about 75% of their potential customers before the game is even out.

    Then again, I suppose if you shoot yourself in the foot once, why not do it twice? Can two bloody holes in your foot really be that much worse than one?

    • Cederic says:

      Yeah. Give it a year, release it on Steam and have no pay to win elements to the microtransactions and I may spend money on it.

      On the MS store? No. Buying before we see how badly they fuck up microtransactions? No.

      Maybe they want to fail?

  17. QSpec says:

    If they are 100% cosmetic, then I won’t throw a hissy, and to be honest, I might even enjoy it simply because mo’ money means mo’ content in many cases.

    That said, I’ll lose my mind if they try to sell any advantages, and I will be the first to admit that this is a troubling start in that once they have a microtransaction system in place, it is a tiny slippery slope to unethical microtransactions.

    In any case, this definitely makes me hesitate a bit more on a day 1 purchase.

  18. MushyWaffle says:

    I don’t mind these kind of MT’s at all.. and it has nothing to do with cosmetic. I HATE random paid-for loot. But since you know exactly what you get what you pay for it, I dont’ have issue with it at all.

  19. JoeD2nd says:

    Shocked! Shocked I tell you!

  20. JoeD2nd says:

    “Slightly worryingly…”

    SMH

  21. Moraven says:

    It seems fair, more so if the cosmetic content is new stuff that has to be supported in some form.

    $60 should support support the service the game is providing. 3 months seems fair, and you won’t be losing access. I assume they will use the cosmetic sales to support long term server costs and future content releases. Or will they be doing paid expansions?

  22. Anti-Skub says:

    Aaaand I’m out. I was semi-interested in the game before, couldn’t give a fuck now. The gameplay looks semi-fun, but the only thing that they seem to be pitching as content is grinding gold to buy stuff. If they are going to microtransaction it you’re guaranteed that grind is going to be made as tedious as possible and the best cosmetics aren’t going to be available through grinding.

    And waiting until 3 week after launch. I’m sure that definitely not because they know that their plans are anti-consumer and they want people to buy the game before they wreck it.

    Time to look for something else to look forward to.

  23. fish99 says:

    In the grand scheme of things that’s not that bad. It’s not loot boxes, it’s not pay-to-win, and you can get the stuff with in-game currency by playing. Compared to Battlefront 2, Destiny 2, Shadows of War, or even Overwatch, it’s pretty mild.

    Kinda hysterical overreaction from a few people above if you ask me. If you want the devs to add significant new content post-launch, you need some model for generating revenue to pay for that, whether it’s DLC or microtransactions. The other options is paid expansions, which often split the playerbase.

    • ShakesMcQueen says:

      Sometimes the comments section of this place reminds me of Slashdot, with the feverish rants about the corporations being all corporation-y.

      The game is essentially going to be a service, and they’ve committed to adding more content over the coming months (and potentially years), as well as timed events, etc. They’ve also said they won’t be charging money for any of this, because they don’t want to split up their players.

      The game has no “season pass”, no subscriptions, and no loot boxes. They are going to sell things like pets, and potentially other cosmetic items, in order to financially justify this ongoing development.

      So in exchange for months or years of new free content for your online pirate game, you can choose to flip them $5 for an inconsequential pet monkey in a silly hat, or whatever. And even that option won’t be coming for a few months. Oh the humanity. Strangely, Microsoft don’t seem to be too keen about eating into the retail profits of the game to fund optional post-release content.

      *AND*, if you don’t want to pay full retail price for the game, or duck out before these microtransactions hit, you can just sign up for the Xbox “Game Pass”, which gives you full access to the game (along with dozens of others) for $10 a month.

  24. Captain Narol says:

    There is so many interesting cheap indie games on Steam those days, I’m not even looking anymore at expensive AAA games especially if they include Microtransactions.

  25. ExParrot_1337 says:

    “Sea of Thieves to add microtransactions three months after launch”

    Well, I can scratch off my list of games to buy this year then. Cheers, RPS!

    • Raoul Duke says:

      I assume they work out these numbers, but I wonder how many people (like you, and me) they lose instantly when they make these types of decisions?

      • Skandranon says:

        Given the amount of revenue reported from microtransactions for the last few years, probably not many.

        In fact, I’m pretty sure most of the people that claim to be “out” either will pick it up, or weren’t going to in the first place.

  26. rymm says:

    ive been watching youtubers play this game when i’m too high to play monster hunter, and even then it seems like there is little to do. a bit like elite dangerous but with only one weapon type for your ship.
    which would maybe make it a fun little distraction with friends, but as a full priced game it doesnt seem worth it.
    and then to have mtx on top of such a slim game? just feels like a bit of a dig.
    i might be wrong tho

  27. Vilos Cohaagen says:

    Oooh I appreciate it when devs make my choice to ignore a game and focus on other games easier for me. *Never forgive GFWL*

  28. KyrenCross says:

    I’m fine with this if you can buy the micro transaction with in-game currency. But if it’s exclusive to real cash, and players already paid 60 for a low content game. Then I’ll probably wait for a proper answer before diving in on this.

  29. Krob says:

    Why not pre-order it and hope for the best! They might even include the day 1 patch for early birds!

  30. Carra says:

    Monkeys, naturally, will be worn on the shoulder, as I believe they commonly are in Belgium.

    I can confirm that. Source: I’m from Belgium.

  31. Pedro_O says:

    This is the kind of bullshit that enrages me. Seriously. Not the fact they’re about to introduce micro-transactions for cosmetic purposes (as reported), but the reaction that you get from the community. It usually happens with people, not micro-transactions. But we’re witnessing history. Now just because some developers use micro-transactions to earn more money, in an unethical way, we’re supposed to hate them as principle, like they’re all the same. A number of games, like CS:GO, tells me they’re not all the same.

    We have been doing to minorities and whatnot, now we’re seeing the same discriminatory and shameful behavior transported to other environments. Not all micro-transactions are bad – period. Just because some are, it doesn’t make the pond rotten – period. It’s amazing to see how human psychology works, thought. But it was expected. It was a matter of time. That’s how prejudices are created and evolve.

    One thing is to boycott games like Star Wars that use micro-transactions in a horrible, but highly lucrative, way (also expected from cunning corporate c*nts). Another is to boycott any game that uses it in a sensible manner (like cosmetics). The first is purely idiotic. The second is incredibly rational. And no, again like CS:GO proved, micro-transactions for cosmetic purposes are not a getway to pay2win model, in the future.

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