Phil Spencer recently made the surprising announcement that all first party games from Microsoft Studios will be included in the Game Pass program on the day they launch.
Moving forward, we plan to release all new Xbox One exclusive games from Microsoft Studios into Xbox Game Pass on the same date as their global release. This means that when Sea of Thieves launches on March 20, it will be included in Xbox Game Pass to all members.
This is a huge step in the right direction for the Xbox brand. By itself, the Xbox Game Pass is already a fantastic service, and including first party games with the subscription, benefits gamers and development studios alike. One example of this is the upcoming pirate adventure game, Sea Of Thieves, from the legendary studio, Rare. I played the game at E3 2016 and adored it, while fellow enthusiast writer Steve, set sail with the game at EGX 2017.
Despite our excitement for Microsoft’s latest exclusive, I’ve been concerned that Sea of Thieves would not be able to find an audience, theoretically shortening its lifespan. This is mostly due to the fact that the game is online only. As the video game industry starts to evolve, games as a service are becoming the new standard. Look at games like Tom Clancy’s: The Division, Tom Clancy’s: Rainbow Six Siege, Destiny 2, Warframe, and Overwatch. With these titles, the experience grows over time as the developers continue to add content and tweaks instead of following traditional development guidelines of creating a sequel, of course with the exception of Destiny. These games mature and cater to the player base. Through expansions, timed events, new modes, characters, maps, and level caps being raised, developers focus on making the overall package better through feedback. And with that, Sea of Thieves is Microsoft’s first foray into the Games as a Service arena.
Before the major announcement regarding Xbox Game Pass, I worried that as Sea of Thieves set sail, due to traditional constraints, it would sink fairly quickly. This has nothing to do with the quality titles Rare continues to produce.. As you can see in our previews, the Xbox Enthusiast camp found a lot to love about the nautical adventure. Unfortunately, there are a few things that can hinder the game.
- The Player base drops out early
I have a love/hate relationship with Destiny 2. Bungie’s latest game features an interesting narrative, fun squad-based gameplay, and stellar shooting mechanics. It’s a much better title than its predecessor which released in 2014. Despite the fact that I enjoy killing Vex, and other baddies in the Destiny universe, Bungie’s direction began to frustrate me, making me not want to play the game for a while. My group of friends dropped out before the first expansion released-and we haven’t gone back since.
It’s a shame. Destiny 2 is such a solid shooter. Unlike what Bungie did with Destiny, Rare needs to make sure that they are transparent with the player base, offering updates on what will be happening in the game world over time. A roadmap would be ideal in order to keep player interest constantly piqued.
- There Isn’t Enough To Do
One of the biggest problems with some “Games As A Service” is that there isn’t much to do. Tom Clancy’s: The Division and the aforementioned Destiny 2 both featured fantastic campaigns and entertaining endgame content. The problem comes with the grind and repetitive nature of both of these games.
Patrolling the dark zone in The Division is fun, but grows stale and repetitive. Destiny 2 is also fantastic, but after you do the strikes, and the raid, I found that there isn’t enough motivation to really come back and play more.
Outside of our own staff’s personal hands-on previews, we don’t actually know much about Sea of Thieves. We’re two months away from launch, and Rare has been tight-lipped on what the story actually entails come launch. Will there be an engaging narrative? Is the game strictly a multiplayer experience? Will players just be exploring, completing random quests, or even left to cause mayhem for other crews? Is there lore that will be presented through cutscenes and manuscripts found in the world? We honestly have no idea.
To put this restless worry at ease, I feel Rare must continually update the game and strive to have engaging in-game events that will make players never want to leave the Sea Of Thieves universe. This is the studio’s first original game since Kinect Sports, and all eyes are on Rare to see if their years of work will pay off. My biggest concern is that people will buy the game, play it for a short time, and then uninstall or trade it in after experiencing “everything” Sea of Thieves has to offer.
At least, with Xbox Game Pass, players will have access to Sea Of Thieves as long as they’re a member. For my own group of friends, this seems like an easy victory.
But, with the game needing a group of players to consistently party up, the same questions arise: “We always need to be in a group to play?” “What if the community disappears quickly?” “I’m not sure if it’s my type of game…”
To be fair, these are valid concerns. Gathering in a group is sometimes hard due to scheduling, and the unpredictability that life throws your way. Sometimes the community does drop off quickly. I’ve learned this from buying Evolve on launch day, only to find that it was already difficult to find a match. And you know what, Sea Of Thieves isn’t a game for all audiences. Like every game, there will be people that genuinely don’t like it, and that’s okay. For those who want to play with random players, there’s the Looking For Groups (an excellent Xbox One feature) option.
Sea Of Thieves has gone from a game that I’ve been concerned about, to one that has me optimistic. Microsoft’s new approach to first-party content is something unprecedented in the video game industry. It’s a practice that I think is very consumer friendly and will have people talking. Not only does it give players the opportunity to experience the latest and most anticipated first-party games, but it also breathes life into games that could potentially fail.
Sea Of Thieves continues to wow me, and I hope that the final product exceeds all of my expectations. Hopefully, Xbox Game Pass subscribers take advantage of this feature, and those curious about upcoming games begin to subscribe. It’s a fantastic service that is going to revolutionize the way first-party content is distributed. March is coming soon. Start getting a group ready, subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, and prepare for adventure when Sea Of Thieves launches on March 20th.