Sea of Thieves devs kept Disney deal secret for two years

The team behind Sea of Thieves devs kept their meetings with Disney secret for two whole years. That’s according to GamesIndustry.Biz, which spoke with Rare about today’s new update for their share world pirate adventure game. A Pirate’s Life introduces characters and elements of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean into the world of Sea of Thieves.

Editor Christopher Dring recalls running across the team during E3 2019, which was in high spirits presumably from a successful showing for their studio’s next projects. But looking back, Dring attributes the jubilance to what he knows now: that Rare had just had their first meeting with Disney at a hotel not far from the show, planting the seeds for A Pirate’s Life.

“[Disney] came to us and were very complimentary about Sea of Thieves,” revealed Sea of Thieves executive producer Joe Neate. “They wanted to see if we were interested in doing something with… well, Pirates of the Caribbean was the obvious one, but they have other stuff too. And they left it in our court to go away and have a think about it.”

For two whole years, Rare quietly worked on developing their ideas for how Disney’s IP could be integrated into the Sea of Thieves world. “We went all in and tried to figure out how fold it into our ongoing processes,” said Neate. “How does it fit with the game, how does it fit with our releases… and now here we are.”

Sea of Thieves devs

To minimize leaks, Neate said that everything was changed “in terms of how we worked and shared information internally.” He said the Sea of Thieves devs “codenamed everything,” avoided including IP-related images on any internal documents and kept testing of IP-related material away from usual channels. “Anywhere where we could reduce exposure, we did. We wanted to blow people away.

Neate also noted that they had to be really careful on social media, where even the tiniest interaction between creative leads can be read into. “We all followed each other on Twitter and LinkedIn and things,” he said of Disney and Rare. “But because we’re trying to keep it secret, it’s been awkward as we haven’t been able to like each other’s posts.”

Neate recalls replying to a tweet by John Drake, Vice President of Games Licensing at Disney. “I replied to one of his tweets in February, I think it was about Star Wars. I replied just saying ‘oh wow’. And then a Sea of Thieves fan replied with just the eyes. You can’t do anything. You can’t get away with it. Everything is cause for speculation.”

All the secrecy paid off. When A Pirate’s Life was announced at the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase it was an actual surprise. It wasn’t on anyone’s list of predictions, nor were there any leaks betraying the nature of the reveal before the show. That’s remarkable, and creating such a close distance between it and the release of A Pirate’s Life is quite the accomplishment for Rare.