There’s a free tier and a premium Plunder Pass
In an end-of-year video, Rare shared some impressive figures about Sea of Thieves‘ ongoing growth – over 11 million people played the game in 2020 – and spoke about its shift to a battle pass model.
In 2021, Sea of Thieves is moving away from meaningful updates to the competitive Arena mode, though it will still be supported and playable going forward. In another understandable move, Rare is switching over to a seasonal content schedule for the main Adventure experience. That means there will be a major update every three months or so headlined by “a new experience or way of play.” After each season kick-off, the game will get “regular and featured live events” and quality-of-life patches.
Of course, a seasonal format wouldn’t be complete without a battle pass – “the biggest change to our progression system since launch,” according to Rare. In this case, there’s a free tier with 100 levels of Pirate Renown progression and a premium Plunder Pass with “unique rewards” and exclusive items from the Pirate Emporium. Rare wants players to achieve “tangible” progress in “shorter sessions.”
It’s hard not to associate passes with FOMO – there are a lot of games trying to get us to do a lot of things in specific time frames – but a progression path beyond the Trading Company grind sounds fine.
Once Season 1 begins in January, Sea of Thieves players will be able to undertake a clue-gathering “detective” voyage with the Merchant Alliance. Creative director Mike Chapman also says that “big things” are planned for 2021 and they’re “inspired” to freshen up the open-sea sandbox experience.
As for the game’s continual success, Rare pointed to the Steam launch (which brought in a million players “within that first month”) and a diverse audience fueled in large part by China and Korea.