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Minecraft Earth: Official Reveal Trailer


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Alex Kipman, Microsoft’s HoloLens and Kinect creator, is always enthusiastic about the future of computing. As he stands in front of me inside a Minecraft-themed conference room on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Washington, I’m immediately drawn to the stacks of Lego blocks on the table beside him. Lego is the perfect analogy for Minecraft. For a decade, it’s been a game that millions use to build their own creations out of virtual blocks of materials. Minecraft employees use Lego blocks to build miniature buildings during meetings, but over the past 12 months, they’ve been adventuring outside to secretly test a new way to play Minecraft.


In the same building where Microsoft is creating the next Halo game, a team of engineers and game designers have been dreaming up the future of Minecraft on mobile phones with the help of the HoloLens team. Minecraft Earth is a new free-to-play game for iOS and Android that’s surprisingly ambitious for Microsoft. We’ve already seen holograms through Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, but the company now wants to bring this technology to a much broader scale with the help of Minecraft Earth.


Pokémon Go saw 20 million people searching for pokémon in streets worldwide back in 2016, thanks to augmented reality. Minecraft has 91 million active players, and now Microsoft wants to take the Pokémon Go concept a big step further by letting Minecraft players create and share whatever they’ve made in the game with friends in the real world, away from TV screens and monitors.

”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.”


Imagine sitting at home and building something in Minecraft on your phone and then dropping it into your local park for all of your friends to see it together at the same exact location. Minecraft Earth aims to transform AR gaming from single-person experiences into a living, breathing virtual world that’s shared by everyone. If Microsoft succeeds, you’ll be able to walk into a mall and point your phone’s camera at a McDonald’s Minecraft adventure while you’re eating a Big Mac or see your own giant structures next to actual buildings.


This hugely ambitious project starts with some basics in the form of Minecraft Earth. The game will be available in beta on iOS and Android this summer, and I got to try various forms of it at Microsoft’s campus a couple of weeks ago. It’s fair to say the game I played was basic, occasionally buggy, but very impressive. While the regular version of Minecraft lets players play in modes like creative (with unlimited blocks and items) or survival (if you die you lose your items), Microsoft is blending these traditional modes into a new way to play Minecraft.


“This is an adaptation, this is not a direct translation of Minecraft,” explains Torfi Olafsson, game director of Minecraft Earth. While it’s an adaptation, it’s built on the existing Bedrock engine so it will be very familiar to existing Minecraft players. “If you like building Redstone machines, or you’re used to how the water flows, or how sand falls down, it all works,” says Olafsson. All of the mobs of animals and creatures in Minecraft are available, too, including a new pig that really loves mud. “We have tried to stay very true to the kind of core design pillars of Minecraft, and we’ve worked with the design team in Stockholm to make sure that the spirit of the game is carried through,” says Olafsson.


Just like Pokémon Go, you’ll need to venture out into the real world to collect things. Instead of pokéstops, Minecraft Earth has “tapables” that are randomly placed in the world around you. There are always two nearby, and you can walk to get more. These are designed to give you small rewards that allow you to build things, and you’ll want to collect as many of these as possible to get resources and items to build vast structures in the building mode.


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