Sea of Thieves didn't have a ton of buzz in the beginning. The sea-faring online adventure was one of Rare's best-selling launches, but it felt like players dropped off the experience quickly. Instead, Sea of Thieves saw slow growth, continuing to improve and pull in more players month after month. It just passed 15 million players a day ago, and Rare continues to find success on the high seas.
As part of Rare turns its attention to Everwild, the studio's first title for the Xbox Series X, lessons from Sea of Thieves' lifespan are key. "I remember our first thousand players sailing in Sea of Thieves. Then that became 100,000. Then it became millions," Rare studio head Craig Duncan told Polygon. "Sea of Thieves organically grew with our players, and I think that suits Rare as a model — particularly if you’re making a game where players have to get can [sic] imprint themselves onto it."
Duncan says Rare is now "definitely idea-first", allowing its developers to nurture ideas they feel strongly about. In fact, the studio execs now assume that "the business side of it will figure itself out as we go." Being able to rely on Xbox Game Pass probably helps in that respect.
"We learned a lot from Sea of Thieves," Duncan said. "At its heart, we love the idea of Sea of Thieves [and] players creating stories together. I think with Everwild, Louise [O’Connor] and her leadership team are really passionate about giving players a world that they can just lose themselves in — you know, a lot of nature feels magical. Part of the reason we haven’t talked a lot about Everwild is because we’re still feeling a lot of these things out. We’re still playing around with gameplay ideas."
Everwild was shown for the first time at Microsoft's X019 event, with player avatars walking through what looks to be a vast wilderness. As Duncan noted, Rare hasn't talked much about the game since then, to illustrate if Everwild will tell a narrative or a more freeform online experience like Sea of Thieves. Sea of Thieves launched on Steam in June, and Rare is currently testing custom servers for release in the "near future".