Opinion – Microsoft should take responsibility for Pirates in Sea of Thieves

If there are any Microsoft executives reading – listen up! I have a bone to pick with you.

Lately, Microsoft and Xbox have been pushing for cross-platform play between consoles and PC, but they seem to have ignored one big problem with melding these two disparate communities.

I should say that I’m a big advocate of cross-platform play, I think that combining our community can help more games shine, and allow more friends to play together. But as we all know – with great power comes great responsibility.

That brings us to the crux of the issue.

There are Pirates and there are ‘Pirates’

Recently I’ve been dipping my toes into the shark-infested waters of Sea of Thieves. I’ve been sailing the merry seas, killing skeletons and hunting for long-lost hordes of pirate gold.

Despite the issues with progression and longevity, it’s been a great deal of fun playing with friends. You can read more about what Leo thought in his review over here.

But as I’ve been leading my band of scallywags across the high-seas, a nefarious band of ner-do-wells have had their eyes set on my gold, albeit by far more underhanded means.

I mean of course hackers.

These cheating scoundrels have finally made their way ashore into the land of console gaming, and they seem content to set up shop and rake in the spoils.

As far as I’m concerned Microsoft has the power to fix this, but they don’t seem to mind one bit.

What’s the problem?

As long as console gamers have been playing online, it’s been a relatively safe, contained community. A walled garden where players can be safe from hackers. The closed nature of console gaming has meant that hacking a game on Xbox on Playstation is much harder than it is on PC.

Speak nothing about the inherent control differences and hardware advantages that a PC brings, when you mix gaming communities, there are bigger fish to fry.

On the other side of that garden fence, hackers are a somewhat expected part of PC gaming. I’ve been a PC gamer for as long as I could focus on a screen, and it’s unfortunate that hackers are a known quantity.

Years ago, playing Age of Empires II, I was horrified as I watched a painfully anachronistic invincible sports car tear through my Teutonic Knights and I thought – this just isn’t fair.

Years later I would see players spawn 747 airliners in the middle of Los Santos in Grand Theft Auto V, I would battle teleporting, shotgun-wielding maniacs in PUBG and instantly refreshing cooldowns in DOTA 2.

It’s no fairer in Sea of Thieves when my console-playing crewmates are torn apart by an opposing pirate who can auto-aim at their heads from miles away and see our hard-earned treasure chests through the walls of our ship.

What’s the solution?  

Microsoft seems hell-bent on making cross-platform play a centrepiece of its content offering moving forward especially with their “Play anywhere” system, so they need to take responsibility for this.

Microsoft can’t expect to set a new gold standard for cross platform play, without laying down the law for those who would game the system.

So ban them.

Ban them all.

I’m calling on Microsoft to lift its lofty ban-hammer like mighty Thor and strike down anyone who would make a mockery of its new gaming state.

I don’t just mean ban them for 72 hours, or a month, I mean strip their account of the license and lock their email out of the game indefinitely. I’d go so far as to say lock down their entire Microsoft account as well.

If you want to be lenient, throw them all in a big cheating pool together and let them make a mockery out of each other’s games. MOBA’s have been doing low-priority pools for years, even the traditional sports media have proposed a “doping Olympics” to level the playing field for countries that just can’t play by the rules.

Microsoft has the power to stop this sort of behaviour and at the moment it only seem to be taking baby steps.

It’s even written right into the Microsoft terms of service:

  1. Software Licence.
  2. The software is licensed, not sold, and Microsoft reserves all rights to the software not expressly granted by Microsoft, whether by implication, estoppel or otherwise. This licence does not give you any right to, and you may not:
  3. disassemble, decompile, decrypt, hack, emulate, exploit or reverse engineer any software or other aspect of the Services that is included in or accessible through the Services, except and only to the extent that the applicable copyright law expressly permits doing so; 

TL:DR – Don’t hack the game, if you do, we have the right to take the game away from you.

Hackers, Not Welcome

I started this article out by saying that I’m a big proponent of cross-platform play, and I stand by that. I think that the strides Microsoft is making to unite the community should be lauded, and this situation is far from unsalvageable.

At the end of the day, the people who are hacking, breaking, and circumventing the rules of the game are damaging the experience for the people they’re exploiting. Anyone who’s been on the wrong end of a hacker knows that it takes your game experience from flying highs to rock bottom in an instant.

Microsoft needs to make an example of these players, stand out at the front of the community and say “this will not stand.” Make a big enough noise that other publishers and media outlets around the world take note and report on it, and people might finally get the message.

Because say what you want about reforming them and “teaching them a lesson.” The type of people that would take advantage of others, ruin their fun and waste their time, these are not the type of people anyone wants in an online community.  

Good riddance.

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Nathanael Peacock
Nathanael is a gamer and writer in Melbourne, Australia. You'll likely find him either up to his eyeballs in RPG lore, or spending way too long in any character creator. In his spare time he also rides motorbikes and sword-fights competitively.

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