Microsoft and Rare's 'Sea of Thieves' is currently the #1 most preordered game on PlayStation

Screenshot from Sea of Thieves Season 10 trailer
(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

What you need to know

  • Last month, Microsoft confirmed widespread rumors that it would start bringing more of its "exclusive" Xbox games to PlayStation and Nintendo Switch, in a quest for bigger profit margin growth. 
  • The first batch includes Grounded, Pentiment, Hi-Fi Rush, and Sea of Thieves. 
  • Sea of Thieves is by far the biggest of the bunch, and the service game arguably has the most potential. 
  • It seems that that potential is already being realized, since the game has hit the top spot on the preorder chart on PlayStation consoles. 

Last month, Microsoft confirmed during an "Xbox Business Update" podcast that it would be bringing some of its Xbox console exclusive games to PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. The first four games include Grounded, Pentiment, Hi-Fi Rush, and Sea of Thieves. Sea of Thieves is by far the biggest game of the bunch, given that the multiplayer sandbox pirate adventure has reached tens of millions of players across both Xbox consoles and PC. 

Microsoft's decision to "dilute" the meaning of "Xbox exclusive" has been met with some fierce resistance in some quarters and quiet scepticism in others, lamenting the possibility of a collapse in Xbox console hardware sales. Microsoft and others have argued that the console industry is largely a static install base of around 200-250 million overlapping users, and the future of gaming is going to be more about targeting users where they are, rather than trying to absorb them into a closed ecosystem. At the same time, Microsoft said "not to expect" more than this initial pool of four ports for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation, but if the experiment is successful, it stands to reason to expect more to jump across. 

To that end, Sea of Thieves will be among the first games to explore this new direction, and so far, it seems like it's paying off. Confirmed by industry analyst Benji-Sales and others, Sea of Thieves has hit the top spot on the preorder chart for PlayStation in the United States, as well as various other territories. 

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Microsoft is already a prolific publisher on PlayStation, owing to games like Minecraft, Minecraft Dungeons, and some of the acquired titles from studios like Bethesda. Microsoft can now also count Activision-Blizzard games like Call of Duty as part of that envious revenue stream, too.

Analyzing the plan

(Image credit: Microsoft)

What Microsoft will be monitoring closely is whether or not this experiment will lead to a decrease in monthly active users. Microsoft confirmed in its most recent investor call that Xbox console monthly active users are higher than ever, counting both Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S players in that stat. Xbox Series X|S sales might fall far behind PlayStation 5, but the implication here is that both "sides" are selling hardware to an existing user base, rather than an expanding one. Popular service games like EA Football (FIFA), Minecraft, and Fortnite remain actively updated on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, contributing to the long-tail of the previous console generation.

Microsoft might have given Xbox One users fewer reasons to upgrade to the new-gen consoles than Sony's PlayStation 5 has, but that doesn't seem to have contributed to a drop off in active, paying users. However, Microsoft will likely be interested to see if Sea of Thieves on PlayStation moves active Sea of Thieves users from Xbox to PlayStation, for those with both consoles. Ideally, Microsoft would want to see Sea of Thieves acquire new users here, rather than simply move existing players from other ecosystems. In the short term, the extra sales will undoubtedly be a boon, but this strategy is entirely about finding growth. If Microsoft finds that putting games like Sea of Thieves and so on leads to a decrease in monthly active Xbox users, or seeing Xbox One users opt for PlayStation 5 as their upgrade path, it's likely that they'd be a little more restrictive about how they proceed. 

In any case, it'll be interesting to see how this strategy evolves over time. Microsoft has confirmed that new Xbox hardware is in the works for the next-generation, accompanied by widespread rumors that the firm is exploring its own Xbox handheld device, with native gameplay support akin to the Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch

Sea of Thieves launches on April 30, 2024 for PlayStation 5, and is available right now on Xbox Series X|S and PC, also with Xbox Game Pass. 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • fatpunkslim
    Microsoft's decision to "dilute" the meaning of "Xbox exclusive" has been met with some fierce resistance in some quarters and quiet scepticism in others, lamenting the possibility of a collapse in Xbox console hardware salesSo much negativity in this simple extract.

    The objective is not to dilute the notion of exclusivity but to seek new income, maintain franchises which have reached their full potential to grow the Xbox ecosystem. (I quote what was said during the Xbox Business Update).

    And then it's funny that you only distinguish 2 groups: "the very unhappy" and the not too unhappy. When in reality, I only see this negativity among certain influencers like you. Most Xbox fans were reassured by the latest Xbox business update which clearly showed that the goal was not to kill consoles (the term hardware was repeated 20 times) but to grow the Xbox ecosystem (cloud, pc, xbox consoles).

    How can you say that some people fear a collapse in sales of Xbox consoles. Do you really think these 4 games are system sellers? I don't see anyone around me who thinks so. Xbox precisely measured whether they were seller system games or not and whether there was a risk of harming the attractiveness of the consoles.
    I quote what spencer said at podcast: "that were never really meant to be built as kind of platform exclusives and all the fanfare that goes around that"

    Xbox has never considered these games as having to be exclusive games, small niche games and service games that do not support xbox brands, why is this a problem for the sale of consoles?

    This proves that Xbox clearly differentiates between games that must be exclusive games (with all the fanfare like he said), important to the Xbox brand, and other games.

    I quote: "just four games, not a change to our kind of fundamental exclusive strategy". They are not diluting anything at all, because before these 4 games, they already had multiplatform games, but they never sent system-sellers, games strongly attached to the Xbox brand, and this is not the case no more. So what is the change?

    And have you measured what these 4 games represent in relation to all Xbox licenses? It's nothing at all !

    I don't understand this fear that certain old little exclusives without an Xbox identity are multi-platform, especially since at the same time, Xbox is releasing around ten first party exclusives and a few third party exclusives in 2024 alone. The latter more than compensate for the "loss " of these 4 old exclusives.

    And yet, some people like you insist on being negative, it seems like these 4 little games hide everything else, it's crazy!

    If xbox didn't care about exclusive games, why do they bother to see exclusive third party games like ark2, stalker 2, age of mithology, etc... think about it !

    In your defense, you are more enthusiastic after:
    Microsoft is already a prolific publisher on PlayStation / Xbox console monthly active users are higher than ever
    Then, I quote you:
    However, Microsoft will likely be interested to see if Sea of Thieves on PlayStation moves active Sea of Thieves users from Xbox to PlayStation, for those with both consoles.

    I don't understand how you can make this assumption. Already the % of players who have 2 consoles must not be huge and then how would someone who has both consoles, who already has Sea of Thieves on Xbox, want to play it on PS5? What's the point especially since the gaming experience is the best on Xbox?

    Microsoft would want to see Sea of Thieves acquire new users
    Yes , thats's the point !

    Your fears about the rest seem excessive to me, such as for example that Xbox One players prefer to switch to PS5 to play Sea of Thieves, that seems highly improbable to me or really on the margins.

    In any case, it'll be interesting to see how this strategy evolves over time. Microsoft has confirmed that new Xbox hardware is in the works for the next-generation, accompanied by widespread rumors that the firm is exploring its own Xbox handheld device, with native gameplay support akin to the Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch.
    Yes bro ! I prefer that ! that's the spirit ! hardware, exclusive games, cloud, these are the 3 pillars of their strategy. When they talk about "play anywhere", this is what spencer said about the cloud:

    I think that's a technology I'd love to see applied to more platforms. But it is this view that people are going to play Xbox in multiple places
    It is the cloud above all that allows players to play anywhere, certainly not competing consoles because that would be contrary to one of the fundamental pillars of their strategy.

    The sale of xbox games on ps5 is very good news, it means more exclusive games for the xbox ecosystem (xbox, pc and cloud) and more games in the gamepass (gamepass avalaible on xbox, pc and cloud, nothing more).

    Xbox's strategy mainly goes where the Xbox ecosystem is located and where the gamepass is located (Xbox console, PC, cloud). It's that simple. As long as there is no gamepass on other consoles, there will be xbox exclusive games and xbox consoles.

    Thanks for reading

    Reply
  • ZhanToO
    If these had sequals arriving soon, this would be a brilliant move - release the original on Playstation, and have players have a go at what the games are like, and when they are hooked, announce and release the sequal on Xbox, forcing players to change platform if they want more.

    It might be cruel, but brilliant.
    Reply
  • fjtorres5591
    ZhanToO said:
    If these had sequals arriving soon, this would be a brilliant move - release the original on Playstation, and have players have a go at what the games are like, and when they are hooked, announce and release the sequal on Xbox, forcing players to change platform if they want more.

    It might be cruel, but brilliant.
    The XBOX folks implied that sequels depended on sales on the other platforms.

    Most likely, they were referring to PENTIMENT and HiFi Rush. The latter, in particular, was almost certainly developed as multiplatform to start with.

    As is, running the experiment this year is opportunistic enough. Especially SEA OF THIEVES which is successful enough without the Sony players. SOT is a fine way to fill the void of top PS5 games this spring. And it looks to be succeeding.
    Not cruel but it might be profitable.
    Reply