As last week’s tease basically confirmed, Microsoft has just announced a Minecraft AR game. It’s called Minecraft Earth and it’s free-to-play. It’s not an extension of the original game but instead an entirely new project.
That might sound like an immediate turn-off, but a lot of Minecraft Earth looks pretty intriguing. The game brings many of the core elements of the original into AR. You can make your own creations just like you would in the original, for example, but then place them in the real world. As you explore the real world you’ll gather resources and collect new mobs (characters and animals) to populate your surroundings with. Check it out in the trailer below.
Crucially, Microsoft tells us the game uses Azure Spatial Anchors. These allow multiple phones to see the same AR content in the same space. The idea of walking down your street, pulling out a smartphone and seeing everything warp into a world of Minecraft-made creations is pretty compelling. The question is where will microstransactions come into it? Microsoft says there won’t be any loot boxes, for what it’s worth.
Players will also be able to collaborate on their creations, and there will be some version of a survival mode included too. Note that Minecraft Earth is coming to iOS and Android smartphones and not Microsoft’s dedicated AR hardware, HoloLens 2. That’s primarily an enterprise-level headset. Microsoft did tease a version of Minecraft for the original HoloLens but it never came to fruition.
Minecraft Earth will launch a closed beta later this summer. You can sign-up to take part here. A full release date hasn’t yet been shared.