It's never been quite clear how many players will be able to fit in a Sea of Thieves server, and it turns out there's a very good reason for that - Rare's approach to servers is very different to most online games, meaning there's no definitive answer.
The developer's focus is on keeping player encounters regular, but not too frequent - the magic number is apparently to see another ship, on average, every fifteen minutes to half an hour, making every encounter different, as well as giving non-violent players the chance to escape.
But in a map as large and spread out as Sea of Thieves', a high number of players might still be too spread out, or a small group too bunched together, to keep that magic number in check. The solution for Rare is to focus on the distance between players in a server, not just how many players are on that server.
This is a syndicated post. Read the original at IGN Video Games 2018-02-13.