Minecraft Earth could push mobile AR gaming to new heights


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AR on mobile devices may carry tremendous potential, but it's easy enough to argue that the mainstream value proposition hasn't arrived yet. You'll also be able to team up with other friends to collaborate on structures.

Microsoft may believe it has made augmented reality's killer app: the just-announced Minecraft Earth for iOS and Android. Don't expect to see Minecraft Earth on Windows-based devices though, sadly, as it depends on Apple and Google's augmented reality tech to work. "We chose to go head first and build the game from the ground up as an experience that you play both in your immediate environment, and out in the world, in parks and cities, wherever you are".

Minecraft Earth will be free to play when it launches. You'll be able to buy in-game items, but Microsoft ensures us there will be no loot boxes present.

As you explore in Minecraft Earth, you can find treasure chests, clusters of blocks, or mobs that the company has nicknamed "Tappables". It also helps, of course, that Minecraft is one of the most widely recognized games around. You can walk around it and look at it from all angles through your phone display, and if you walk through a wall of the building, your camera will show you the interior. It's not clear exactly how they'll work, but McHugh described the mode as a "life-sized experience" that could incorporate things like lava and hostile or friendly mobs in addition to rarer resources.

Even during our short demo, we managed to surprise the Minecraft developers by creating a mud slide that ended up covering a large portion of the environment. We dropped a few chickens and cows into the world, and cackled as they fell into the pit. Beat all the enemies, and you're rewarded with useful stuff, likely to be blocks, weapons and armour.

Wait, what? You read it right.

As reported by The Verge, "We have covered the entire planet in Minecraft", explains Torfi Olafsson (game director).

Microsoft acquired Minecraft from its creator in 2014, and has (mostly successfully) sought to turn it into a family-friendly, educational gaming and creative powerhouse.