Next week's Sea of Thieves update, which is coming on March 6, is a "quality of life, bug fixes, and balancing" update—so, a minor one. It does do one major thing, though, with a change to Sea of Thieves' alpha testing program. After the update, we'll all be able take part in tests of the Arena mode and other future updates, just so long as we don't talk about any of it publicly.
Rare has been working on Arena, a smaller-scale mode focused on PvP combat, for a little while, and players selected to take part in the Pioneer program (opens in new tab) have been testing it and other features under NDA. As executive producer Joe Neate explains in the video above, that program is becoming opt-in with this patch, though the rest of us will also be under NDA, and won't be allowed to discuss the tests anywhere except on the official Pioneer forum. He says we'll get more information about how this will all work next week.
At first I was unsure if the opt-in button would guarantee Pioneer membership, or if it'll be more like an application, but Neate is pretty clear when he says: "This will mean, for everybody, there'll be an option for you to come in, join Pioneers, and start testing some of the upcoming content like Arena and some of the other features."
It's kind of weird to open testing to every player but continue to keep it confidential—imagine if we weren't allowed to discuss the Overwatch test server—but that's how it's gonna work. I've contacted a Rare rep to see if there's anything here to clarify, and I'll update this post if that's the case.
As for what else is coming to Sea of Thieves, Rare is holding off on announcing any big content update plans for now. That'll happen on March 20th, the one year anniversary of Sea of Thieves' release, where I'm betting we'll get a roadmap for the rest of 2019. Anyone who reached or reaches Pirate Legend before that date will get some special items, too.