Sea of Thieves: Release date, open beta possibilities, trailer, and everything we know

Do you like grog? And the open seas? And singing shanties while you sail? And eating bananas with the skin on? Okay, maybe not that last one, but there's never been a game that lets you live the pirate life quite as well as Sea of Thieves. It revels in every little element of swashbuckling fun, from raising the anchor to rigging the masts and climbing up to the crow's nest - and everything in between. Well, except for the parts where you get scurvy and are eventually sentenced to die in a gibbet - developer Rare wisely decided to leave those bits out.

What makes Sea of Thieves really special is how it brings other players into the experience; what's a pirate without a trusty-ish crew at their side and seven seas worth of bitter rivals? Picture the way other players can wander in and out of your world in a game like Destiny, then give them big ships full of cannons and a strong desire to sink you and take your treasure (or maybe, just maybe, come over for a grog-and-shanty party). Fortunately, you can crew up with your friends (or match-made randos) for a better chance at nautical survival. And yes, you can vote to put them in the brig if anybody misbehaves.

Here's a quick tour of everything we know about Sea of Thieves, including when we can pull up the anchor and go sailing once more, and for our thoughts of the game in-progress check out our Sea of Thieves preview.

Fast facts

  • Sea of Thieves release date: March 20, 2018
  • Formats: Xbox One, PC
  • Developer: Rare
  • Price: $59.99 / £49.99

Sea of Thieves Xbox One and PC release date is coming up

The release date for Sea of Thieves is set for March 20, 2018. After years of development, we're just months away from taking to the open ocean in Rare's ambitious swashbuckling simulator. You'll be able to start playing Sea of Thieves on Xbox One, Xbox One X, and PC all on the same date, just by buying one copy. In fact, the game seamlessly supports cross-platform multiplayer, so you can team up with your friends on Day One no matter what system they're on!

Sea of Thieves makes Xbox Game Pass look tempting

Xbox Game Pass is a subscription service that gives you almost-unlimited access to a large selection of downloadable games, and soon it will include every first-party exclusive Xbox game the moment they debut. Sea of Thieves will be the first game to kick off the new-and-improved program. Even if you don't want to commit to another subscription, you can still treat it like a $9.99 / £7.99 month-long Sea of Thieves trial (with all those other games thrown in as a bonus). Not a bad deal at all. 

Sea of Thieves beta and alpha tests are done (for now)

Select players participated in Sea of Thieves alpha tests, but they were all hushed-up by strict non-disclosure agreements. That finally changed in the Sea of Thieves closed beta test that ran at the end of January; players were free to stream, record, and otherwise share the heck out of their experiences. The internet ate it up and good times were had by all (even the folks who played sad songs while going down with their ships). Rare hasn't said whether it plans to host another beta session or if we won't be able to play again until the game actually comes out. We can only hope that a Sea of Thieves open beta announcement arrives soon. 

Sea of Thieves on PS4, Switch, or Steam is very unlikely

Microsoft owns Rare, the developer of Sea of Thieves, and the game's always been discussed as an Xbox One exclusive (in the weird way that many Xbox One exclusives also come out on Windows 10). Ergo, the chances of PS4 or Switch ports are very slim. Yes, Minecraft is also a first-party game that Microsoft has had no problems releasing beyond Xbox, but that one's a bit different, as it was already available on multiple platforms before Microsoft bought the franchise. Similar regrets for PC players who prefer to keep their libraries centralized on Steam: no first-party Microsoft games have made their way to Steam in quite a while. The only exceptions are those titles from external development partners, like Cuphead or Quantum Break. Looks like it's the Microsoft Store or bust. 

Sea of Thieves trailer is a minute and a half of joyful piracy

Sea of Thieves has brought us a bounty of trailers over the years, but this one might do the best job of summing the whole thing up in a short length of time. Searching for treasure, getting into fights, teaming up with random seadogs - it's all represented here. It even reveals the key 'puke on your crewmates feature' which... ugh, yep, that's definitely a thing you can do. I'd tell you to go easy on the grog, but pirates don't go easy on anything. 

Sea of Thieves progression keeps you hunting for coin

You earn money in Sea of Thieves by completing Journeys (aka quests) for factions like the Gold Hoarders or The Order of Souls. The Hoarders give you maps and riddles that point the way to treasure chests - assuming you can figure them out - and the Souls give you missions to take out powerful NPC enemies. Completing Journeys will increase your reputation with factions, giving you access to more lucrative challenges and special items. Or you could just steal other people's treasure to make money - you are a pirate after all. You can spend that (perhaps ill-gotten) coin on new weapons, clothes, and even instruments for your buccaneer, or on upgrades and customizations for your ship. Yes, the options do include a parrot figurehead. 

Sea of Thieves mixes PvP and PvE for unpredictable adventures

This isn't one of those games where you pick "Campaign" or "Multiplayer" from the main menu and settle in for the rest of the night. Once you set sail, you can encounter anything Sea of Thieves has to offer. Maybe your Journey begins uneventfully (a few skeletons here, a confusing treasure map there), but on the trip back, you see another ship heading your way. Those players could be friendly, but will you take that chance when your hold is full of booty? Maybe while you're sizing them up through your spyglass, a storm blows your way and floods the lower decks with rainwater. But that will probably be the least of your concerns when a pair of colossal tentacles whip out from the roiling sea. Rare hasn't said much about sea monsters, but references to a kraken showed up in a datamine of the beta assets, so do keep an eye out... 

There are three factions to work for

All the missions you get given in Sea of Thieves will be for one of the three in-game factions, with bounties scaling as you level up your relationship with each one. The only way to become king of the seas is through this lot. 

The Gold Hoarders
You may know these guys from the Sea of Thieves beta, with their gold faces, fingers and teeth. Descended from legendary treasure hunters, they want all the gold and you're going to go and collect it for them. 

The Merchant Alliance
While the Gold Hoarders (as the name suggests) are all about gold, the Merchant Alliance are more fixated on other tradable items like gunpowder and cannonballs, to more unusual items like exotic animals. 

The Order of Souls
Probably the most interesting faction in Sea of Thieves, The Order of Souls are formed of conjurers and seers who want to control all the magic across the lands. They've found a way to capture the magic from the enchanted skulls of former pirate captains. They'll be handing out bounties for said skulls, and it will be quite the task to take down the powerful undead NPCs before you can take their skull.

Skulls in the sky are a sign of Skeleton Forts

Although working together with your crew and against other ships is the basis for most of the gameplay in Sea of Thieves, working together with other pirate groups is also possible - under very specific circumstances. You might have gotten a glimpse of ghostly skull clouds hanging in the sky, well, they announce the arrival of Skeleton Forts. They're large, fortified islands that are empty until that cloudy noggin appears in the sky, which causes the land to come alive with undead soldiers. But more importantly for all those pirates with a nose for gold, underneath the island is a vault filled to the brim with plunder - and more than any one crew can carry. 

The cloud skill therefore becomes a symbol of a public event, where you have to work together with other pirates in order to have any chance of getting your grog-covered hands on that treasure. Anyone who can see the cloud skull can come together to broker an alliance to storm the outpost, kill the undead (again), defeat the captain to get the key and then share the treasure.

Sea of Thieves is a multiplayer game, but you can go solo

Part of the fun of Sea of Thieves is just how hectic it is to run a tight ship, even with a full crew helping out. There are sails to angle and unfurl, anchors to haul up or drop down, cannons to aim and fire, holes to patch, buckets of water to bilge - and oh yeah, somebody should probably be steering, too. That said, the game does have smaller boats that are more accessible (if not quite manageable) for singletons. You can play Sea of Thieves solo as long as you're careful. Just try to stay open to the idea of making friends out there, because Sea of Thieves is built to be a social experience. 

There will be pet-based micro-transactions, but DLC will be free for everyone

There's good news all round when it comes to shelling out in Sea of Thieves after release, because Rare has confirmed that all major updates to the game will be completely free. 

“Our plans for launch is to deliver a good game experience, and so all our efforts are going to be on making sure everyone’s happy, we’re reacting to feedback if there are any issues, etc,” executive producer Joe Neate explains to PCGamesN. “But then, as we move into our service-based game - think about a month or two after launch - we’re thinking about our first major update that has new goals for people to achieve, new rewards and stuff.”

“But we have to have an optional way for people to spend money in our game, because we are running it as a service with a large team,” Neate says. “So we looked at the right way to do this for Sea of Thieves. The people who love our game, have been playing it for ages, and are happy to spend money on things that they love and the hobby that they enjoy - what feels right for our game? So anything we add in this area won’t affect power, won’t affect progression. You’ll know what you’re getting, so you will be buying something specific.”

Micro-transactions will be on offer, not for loot boxes (hurrah!), but for pets. Turns out, pirates want little critters running around their feet as much as we do. They don't give you any advantages in game, but they will interact with you and your crew mates. 

"“It’s fun for everyone, regardless of whether they were the one who bought it or not,” Neate explains. “So if I have a monkey, I can hold it, because it’s a monkey and we can hold most things in our game. But you could also hold it, then you could run off and drop it over the side [of the ship] because that's funny."

"“I fundamentally want to fire animals out of cannons because it will be very funny. But obviously they won’t get hurt, and they will come back. But we want people to be able to piss about. It’s that social play and hi-jinx. We want to add stuff in that’s completely optional and just adds to the fun. It’s emotional value rather than mechanical value.”

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