Since Microsoft acquired Minecraft in 2014, the company has treated the title as more than a game, believing it has application in many areas. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, to see Microsoft launch its first augmented reality game under the Minecraft banner. Called Minecraft Earth the AR game integrates with Microsoft's ambitious mixed reality plans.
Announced this week, Minecraft Earth has been crafted as the future of gameplay, especially for Minecraft on mobile devices. Developed in the same division as Microsoft's next Halo game for Xbox, the new Minecraft experience is available for free on iOS and Android.
The Verge spoke to Alex Kipman, the driving force behind Microsoft AR development through devices such as Kinect and HoloLens. Kipman has already led the company to creating holographic content across a broad range of niches. However, Minecraft Earth represents its first fully fledged AR game.
”Minecraft Earth proposes to completely break the dogma that has lived with us in computing since the beginning: this idea of a single person that holds a single device to create a single experience,” says Kipman. “With Minecraft Earth, that's no longer the case. The content is in the real world.”
Microsoft is getting into AR gaming while the market is still nascent. Back in 2016, the potential of augmented reality gaming was hinted at through Pokémon Go. Yes, that game had fleeting success, but its star burned bright while it was ignited. 20 million people embraced Pokémon Go and Microsoft clearly sees the potential in Minecraft.
The block building, gathering, survival game has over 90 million active users across platforms. If even a fraction of those connect with Minecraft Earth, the game will be a huge success. There is also little doubt that AR gaming will eventually become something of a norm. Gamers will eventually be enticed by playing while combining virtual with real-world environments.
Minecraft Earth is Microsoft's first step, but it is also a full step that arrives as a complete game. Among its features are:
- Collecting: Minecraft Earth features many of the mobs that Minecraft players know and love (and potentially hate), along with new ones. The more you play, the higher the chance of discovering unique variants and using them to populate your builds.
- Exploring: You can explore the world around you to gather resources, take on challenges, and experience a whole new blocky world.
- Collaborating: You can team up with other Minecraft Earth players to craft together! You know what they say – it takes a village to craft a whole bunch of Minecraft creations, or something like that.
- Surviving: You can battle Minecraft mobs in real life! Just make sure you don't stand too close to the Creepers.