A few months after Sea of Thieves (opens in new tab) launches, it will get microtransactions. Normally this would be the "commence grumbling about extra purchases in a full-priced game" phase of a pre-release lifecycle, but at least some of those microtransactions will be adorable pets. This changes things. The consternation should also be preemptively quieted by the fact that Rare's guiding principle for Sea of Thieves is "emotional value, not mechanical value", as it confirmed to IGN, whether or not they take the form of a furry companion. And yes, they're separate from the chickens you can capture and sell to make your fortune in Sea of Thieves (opens in new tab). I think.
Giving people the opportunity to pick out exactly the kind of parrot or monkey or cat they want then purchase it with a single, non-randomized purchase, sounds like a nice alternative to the lootbox model. But Sea of Thieves will be far from the first game to line its post-launch coffers with the sale of furry friends. The pet trade has been a staple of video games for almost as long as microtransactions have been microtransacting. Here's how Sea of Thieves pet cash shop may line up with previous approaches.
Sea of Thieves pet microtransactions
Pro: You can keep a parrot on your shoulder without it pooping on you or biting your ear, like it probably would in real life.
Pro: You can get a ship cat and the whole crew can pick it up and play with it. Don't worry, it'll always come back to you.
Con: The Sea of Thieves devs would like to add the ability to fire your pets out of cannons. They'll be fine (pirates who fire themselves out of cannons never get hurt either), but I wouldn't blame you for getting upset at your crewmates for blasting Mr. Scruffles into a skeleton fort.
Con: The pets won't be available until Sea of Thieves' first major content update, roughly three months after launch. So probably some time in June or July.
World of Warcraft pet microtransactions
Pro: Some of the purchasable pets in World of Warcraft support charitable causes - for instance, buying Shadow the Fox back in 2017 benefited international disaster relief funds.
Pro: Shadow the Fox is hella cute. Way cuter than Shadow the Hedgehog.
Con: This is kind of a gameplay-influencing microtransaction, at least if you care about the Pokemon-styled Pet Battle system.
Con: There are four different kinds of pets in WoW, not counting mounts, and they all behave somewhat differently. It's confusing.
The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs expansion
Pro: The pets are ridiculously customizable, down to every single spot on their furry little bodies.
Pro: You can put a corgi in a tuxedo.
Con: You've already bought a pet expansion for The Sims three times and yet somehow you can't stop yourself from buying it again.
Con: The pets can die of neglect or old age. Oh God, this is too real. I'd rather they just get shot out of a cannon every now and then.
Second Life purchasable pets
Pro: You can have any kind of pet you want. I don't mean in the adult role-play sense, though you can definitely have those in Second Life too.
Pro: Some of the pets can be bred for sale, making you currency that you can cash out for real money. Create your own virtual puppy mill! Er, maybe this should be a con.
Con: Some of those same beloved companion animals require regular authentication with a database to eat. And when those databases go offline… goodbye pets (opens in new tab).
Con: That last one counts for two cons.
Looking at it all laid out like that, I think Sea of Thieves has the potential to be one of the finest pet-buying simulators ever created. But those plans are still a ways off, and we'll have to reserve judgement until Sea of Thieves' first big update at the earliest.
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