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Sea of Thieves is switching to seasonal updates and a battle pass

Big changes are coming to Sea of Thieves in 2021. Instead of monthly updates, the new year will see a shift to seasons, which will begin with a major content update and will run for roughly three months. The first season will begin in January with the launch of a new Merchant Alliance Voyage in which you'll "piece together clues across land and sea trying to locate a lost shipment out there in the world—a lost shipwreck waiting to be found."

Each new season will include "featured and live events," along with new rewards for players, quality of life patches, updates to the Pirate Emporium in-game store, and Twitch Drops reward events. A new progression system will also be introduced that will give players the opportunity to earn up to 100 levels of "Pirate Renown" per season, with various in-game rewards unlocking along the way. 

Those rewards will be available to all players, but—surprise!—an optional "Plunder Pass" will grant access to a separate track with unique rewards and Pirate Emporium exclusives. The cost of the Plunder Pass wasn't revealed during the stream, so I've reached out to Rare to ask and will update if they tell me.

Development of the PvP Arena is also being halted. It will continue to operate, but executive producer Joe Neate said that over 97 percent of Sea of Thieves playtime is spent in Adventure mode, and so that's where Rare is going to focus its efforts.

"Arena will continue to be part of Sea of Thieves, it'll continue to be something that people can go play and we'll continue to maintain it and keep it working and stuff for people that want to play it," Neate says in the video. "But we won't be investing future development time in terms of new features or changes to the mode itself."

Before all of this happens, 2020 will wrap up with a final monthly update, the Festival of Giving, which will get underway on December 9. The event will feature "a whole host of events," including the 12 Deeds of Giving, Twitch Drops, login bonuses, and the return of the high-risk, high-reward Gilded Voyages.