Sea of Thieves may be a game about pirates, but executive producer Joe Neate has promised that it won’t be swindling its players with its microtransactions.
It’s become somewhat expected that games which take up an online service model will include purchasable extras in order to keep development afloat. However, ‘microtransactions’ has become something of a dirty word in the gaming industry in recent years.
A backlash against Star Wars Battlefront 2 has been the most recent sign to publishers that care has to be taken with regards to how these purchasable extras are included and how they impact gameplay.
Sea of options
Rare has naturally been paying attention to proceedings and has decided to take an approach which isn’t likely to ruffle any feathers.
All core gameplay updates, big and small, will be free for all players – an approach which is necessary if Sea of Thieves is to achieve its aim of being a game that allows players to create stories together, regardless of where they are in the game or how committed they are to playing it. But players will have options to spend.
“We thought long and hard about what’s right for Sea of Thieves,” Neate told us when we asked about microtransactions, “Where we came to is that everything is optional; it doesn’t affect power or progression, and you’ll know what you’re getting – ie. not loot boxes.”
Instead, the team is aiming to “add more fun and social things that benefit you if you buy [them], but also benefit your crew and lead to everyone having a stronger social experience.”
When we asked for examples of what kind of things we could expect to see in this category, we were told pets is likely to be first on the cards.
“The ability to buy a pet – a monkey or a cat to accompany you. But we want it to benefit everyone and we want it to be a part of the fun social side. So if you’ve got a monkey you'll be like ‘oh I’ll be able to pick it up and hold it!’ But that also means someone can run off with it. It’ll come back, obviously, but that bit of play between people and messing around is key.”
Just as players can fire themselves from cannons, Neate enthused that he “desperately [wants] to be able to fire animals out of cannons” before he quickly added, “they’ll always be fine.”
We’re now hoping our suggestion of firing monkeys at the faces of other players gets taken up. The fun animation potential is endless.
“It’s those things that don’t have a mechanical value, they have an emotional value. That feels good, that feels like what our game is.”
Unfortunately, Neate didn't give us any timeframe for when we can expect to see these optional microtransactions come into the game, but we imagine it won't be too long after official launch.
Being such an open game world, Sea of Thieves seems to have plenty of room for dynamic cosmetic additions which don't impact player performance but do increase player attachment – pets, appearance changing potions, we imagine the options are endless for the development team.
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Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.