Xbox Game Pass can be thanked for the continued success of Sea of Thieves. The game initially launched to mixed feedback from audiences. While the core gameplay itself was enjoyable, there just wasn't much to do. The sandbox was left without many toys, it seemed. Fortunately, the studio developing Sea of Thieves, Rare, never gave up on the game and has fleshed it out considerably. In fact, some may say it is now one of the better games available from Xbox Game Studios this generation.
The team even added a new PvP mode to Sea of Thieves that better allows players to flex their competitive muscle and swashbuckle to their hearts' content. Other additions include a full-fledged story mode that deepens the lore of the game and provides treasure hunters with a number of new quests. All of this has been added for free, and the game will continue to grow in the months and years ahead. Of course, this is only possible thank to the fan base that actively plays it, but apparently, this wouldn't be the case if Sea of Thieves wasn't on Xbox Game Pass.
During a recent interview with Kotaku, Xbox head Phil Spencer talked about how Xbox Game Pass allowed Rare to grow the game thanks to a larger install base. The fact that it was included in the service meant that more consumers had the opportunity to become fans, and the game was treated as a growing service as a result.
"The other thing that I would add as [Xbox subscription service] Game Pass continues to grow, it’s been an interesting way to watch our whole dynamic of, ‘What does it mean to engage customers with that game?’ Sea of Thieves is a good example.
At launch, and I read all the same feedback everybody else did, was: ‘Where’s the other half of the game?' But I would also say it’s a game where what it is today wouldn’t be what it is if we had just waited another year and kept it to ourselves. It is a game that was literally created with the feedback of the community, and how you manage that through the traditional lens of how people think about what a game launch means is interesting for all of us.”
To Spencer's credit, Xbox Game Pass is one of the smarter plays by the company in recent memory. Gamers gain access to every first-party release from Microsoft and a number of blockbuster third-party releases. This is a large reason why Microsoft has also begun purchasing game developers and adding them to its line of Xbox Game Studios – the latest acquisition being Double Fine Studios.
Rare's ability to tap into Xbox Game Pass allowed it to put a little more wind in Sea of Thieves' sails, which could spell great things for similar projects in the future. After word got out that the service will be extending beyond Xbox One, allowing PC users to join in on Game Pass, it became clear that Microsoft is looking to expand its user base. There are even rumors of Xbox Game Pass releasing on Nintendo Switch at some point down the line. Given that Banjo-Kazooie is joining Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, this seems like a very real possibility now.