“We first spoke to Rare around Rare Replay time,” Daniel Amos, from Tinderbox, the gaming division of brand extension agency Beanstalk, tells us. He’s a big fan for the company’s N64 days and immediately wanted “to do stuff in blue and gold with the logo on,” though nothing came of it.
But Rare came back to Tinderbox later to talk about Sea of Thieves. “They didn’t have a consumer product team, but they really love consumer products,” Amos says. Looking around their office it’s clear “they are collectors of games merchandise,” he adds. They were already producing promotional product for E3 and the like, but they wanted a full range. “Sea of Thieves is a new IP but it has a Rare handwriting to it, it feels familiar.”
However, with player-created avatars, and no in-game characters being pushed front-and-centre in the marketing as yet, there’s not an easy hook to hang products off. But that’s also why the Tales from the Sea of Thieves lore book works so well, by adding stories and characters to this pirate playground.
Amos tells us that Rare talks about the “Sea of Thieves universe” and “so the product had to feel as though it came out of that universe.” And removing the band from the book certainly leaves something that looks and feels as if it’s fallen out of that world. The texture work on the cover, with its sea-salt sprayed, metal textured corners really is superb.
“Everything in Sea of Thieves has to have history, everything has to feel like there was an event. So if there’s a dent or a cut you have to feel like there’s a reason that happened, it’s not about something being wonky for the sake of it, it has to be weathered or damaged.”
The book is designed to bring that world to life, “informing players’ experience of Sea of Thieves.” Titan Books worked closely with Rare, because “there’s a huge mutual respect of each other’s work,” says Amos. “It has diary entries and it ties back really nicely to the game.” And it’s only coming out for launch, because there’s stuff in there that no one has seen yet.
It’s a publishing led line-up at launch. There’s a concept art book, from Dark Horse, going back into the dev process to show the behind-the-scenes progression. “It really gets under the skin, there’s some great interviews and some great imagery in there,” Amos says. Plus a comic which has different interpretations of the core art style, with Rare being involved in the process of selecting artists.
There’s apparel coming as well, from Bioworld Europe, and “the game is loaded with iconography we can use for inspiration.” A webstore is up-and-running, which soft launched around the game’s ‘insider program’ of early access demos and sneak peeks. The webstore is linked from www.seaofthieves.com and will be a destination for exclusive items, with stuff “not necessarily for retail.”
Looking forward, “there’s a pipeline of products to come, there are themes and elements of this game that the world isn’t aware of, but that we need to have some understanding of so we can plan. Stuff is locked to launch later this year, both because of the development time for certain collectibles and for strategic reasons.”
It sounds like there’s a lot to come from Sea of Thieves then, but it’s key that the consumer product grows with the game-as-a-service to reflect the title and its community, but then that’s just the challenge of working on a title with such huge potential.