Sea of Thieves launched this week and is already struggling with serious connectivity issues. The massively multiplayer, co-op driven pirate game from Rare uses its online world as its main selling point. However, like most online driven games, players are receiving error reports and are unable to connect in any capacity. Rare is so overwhelmed that they are temporarily stopping new players from joining online servers. While gamers are somewhat used to online games being overwhelmed at launch, it is worrying for Microsoft. The success of Sea of Thieves hinges on Rare’s huge multiplayer world. As the only first-party title in some time, Microsoft’s struggling Xbox One game library is relying on Sea of Thieves. While initial impressions of the game are good, a rocky launch is worrying for Microsoft.
In order to resolve the issues players are seeing with the servers, we will be temporarily suspending new players joining the game. We'll get everyone back in and playing as quickly as we can!
— Sea of Thieves (@SeaOfThieves) March 20, 2018
A return to form for Rare
Rare were an industry giant in the days of the Nintendo 64. Developing GoldenEye007, Banjo-Kazooie and Conker’s Bad Fur Day, they set a high standard for themselves. Following the disappointing Banjo-Kazooie Nuts and Bolts, Rare appeared to lose all momentum. However, with cartoonish graphics and a comical pirate setting, Rare seem to have returned to form. Not only are reviewers praising its graphics, which include the cartoonish style and photorealistic water, but also the ambitious gameplay. It is an ambitious title.
Many of the games systems are atypical, weird and wholesomely fun. With no tutorials or guides, the game puts you in place to figure out how to sail a ship. While quests are simple, players create the narrative through interactions with each other when completing the quests. It can be played alone, but, as Forbes states, “it’s not the way the game feels like it’s meant to be played.” In the same way GoldenEye revolutionised couch multiplayer, Rare is pushing online gaming forwards. Business Insider writes “Sea of Thieves” is, first and foremost, a game about navigating the sea in an old ship. I mean that in the nicest way possible, as it’s tremendously fun to play.”
A crucial release for Xbox
Other consoles have decimated the Xbox One in terms of strong, first-party titles. The Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 host some of the strongest games of this generation, and they are exclusives. Xbox has lacked this, with the Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, himself stating “we need to grow.” With Sea of Thieves, Microsoft is finally delivering on their November 2017 promise to invest more in their games. This is an important step for Microsoft in the console wars, as Nintendo dominated 2017 awards with Mario and Zelda and Sony is doubling down their investment into first-party titles. Expect more from Microsoft with 2018 releases of Crackdown 3 and State of Decay 2.
Microsoft is also relying on Sea of Thieves as a crucial boost for their Xbox Game Pass service. As Gamers Classified reported last week, the Microsoft’s online library in the Xbox Game Pass is a growing priority of theirs. The ability to pay $10 a month for a “Netflix for games” like service is a strong selling point for Xbox. However, the Sea of Thieves being avaliable at $10, or free with a 14-day trial, exemplifies this strength. It was announced that the Xbox Game Pass will include first-party titles on launch day and Sea of Thieves is the first to show Microsoft’s commitment to this. Forbes magazine wrote that “it genuinely feels like the first time a viable alternative has been proposed to the eternal $60 box copy.” If Microsoft continues this commitment not only to first-party games but also the Xbox Game Pass, it was be a key turning point in the console wars.
What do you think of the launch troubles? Will the connectivity issues hurt the launch like Diablo 3 or Sim City in the past? Is Sea of Thieves or the Xbox Game Pass worth a chance? Let us know in the comments below.