by Dave Thier via Forbes

Sea of Thieves, Microsoft and Rare’s long-teased, long-questioned pirate MMO, hasn’t made the sort of splash its creators were hoping it would. It’s working with a nasty 67 on Metacritic, and writers like Forbes’ Paul Tassi are almost mystified by how the game made it this far without so many of the basic structural elements that have guided gamers through MMOs and other games for decades. The consensus is that there’s just not enough to do — a vast empty ocean populated by repetitive islands and fetch quests. We had a feeling this would happen, and now we know.

Because this is 2018, release is merely one of many punctuation marks in the lifespan of any given game, whether you think that’s a good idea or not. And so we’ve got the standard apology/promise/hope when it comes to Sea of Thieves: this is a game intended to evolve over time, expect exciting things, we’re working on it, etc. It’s a frustrating thing to hear, mostly because of the way that it elides the fact that people pay $60 expecting a finished product, and because of the number of times we’ve heard it over the past year or two. No Man’s Sky may be a much better game now than it was at launch, but that doesn’t excuse the game it was at launch.

Sea of Thieves, however, is a little different than other games as service, mostly because an untold number of gamers didn’t pay the $60 purchase price. Sea of Thieves is included in Xbox Game Pass, and so those who already have Xbox Live Gold can pick it up for a free trial, for a $10 one-month subscription, or for free if they’re already Game Pass subscribers. And even those that pay the $10 to check it out aren’t just getting Sea of Thieves, they’re also getting a boatload of other games. It takes the pressure off, to a certain degree.

I hope that what this means is that the game can get a little room to breathe. The game has a million or so players, many of which might have signed up in a lower-pressure, Game Pass situation. Just as importantly, the game could have as many potential customers as there are game pass subscribers, and if Rare manages to fill things out down the road there are a ton of players that can just sort of sign in to see what it’s like. The lower barrier to entry means that it stands a better chance if — that’s a big if — the developer manages to deliver on its promises, even a year or so down the road.

Sea of Thieves is the first new release to debut on Game Pass, marking the beginning of an interesting new experiment from Redmond. And while I assume Microsoft would have preferred to have done this with a better-received game, Sea of Thieves is perfect for it in a strange sort of way. It’s a flawed game with some genuinely interesting parts, and I have a feeling it’s going to be interesting to watch. It seems pretty impossible to recommend it at a full freight of $60. But for $10 or free, it’s most certainly worth a look, whether that’s now or next year.

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