When I heard during the Xbox Showcase that Sea of Thieves is getting a Monkey Island expansion, I thought to myself, "That's nice—I'm glad that Ron Gilbert is cashing in." But as it turns out, he is not, and in fact he had nothing to do with it.
Gilbert is widely acknowledged as the creator of the Monkey Island games, which he co-wrote with fellow Lucasarts luminaries Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer. He actually only worked on the first two games in the series before leaving Lucasarts, but returned to the series in 2022 with the outstanding Return to Monkey Island.
Clearly, the passage of time has not dulled Gilbert's Monkey Island mojo. But when he was asked about it on Mastodon, Gilbert said that he wasn't actually involved with the Sea of Thieves DLC at all.
"Nope. It was all done without my knowledge or input," Gilbert said in response to a question about working with Rare on the DLC. To a separate inquiry, he replied, "Wasn't even told about it. Happened behind my back."
This was possible because of the rights situation. Gilbert was the main mind behind the series, but it belongs to Lucasarts, the company he worked for, and which retained that ownership when he left. Lucasarts was acquired by Disney in 2012, along with all its game properties; Gilbert and Devolver were able to do a deal with Disney in 2019 to enable them to make a new game, but Disney retains ownership of the IP, meaning that if it wants to do another Monkey Island deal with someone else—say, Microsoft—it can.
Gilbert confirmed that this is the case in an email sent to PC Gamer, saying, "Disney owns the rights and can do what they want."
Gilbert's initial replies made it sound like he just woke up one day to discover that Monkey Island is coming to Sea of Thieves, but he later clarified that's not actually the case. "I was given a heads up before the announce, but wasn’t given an opportunity to be meaningfully involved," he said. "I do wish the game well. I love Monkey Island."
I hope it goes well too, because it's a natural fit: Sea of Thieves takes a cartoonish, comedic approach to the life of high seas piracy that embraces "goofiness and fun" over grim, gritty realism. Even the visual styles aren't too far apart—with some weight gain and a good beard, Sea of Thieves' Cursed Captain would make a pretty good LeChuck.
It would've been great if Gilbert had been able to contribute to the DLC, but I have pretty high hopes for it even without him. Monkey Island comes to Sea of Thieves on July 20.