Microsoft Bets Big on AR With U.S. Launch of Minecraft Earth In Early Access

Screenshot: Microsoft/Mojang

Just in case you forgot that Microsoft is deep into augmented reality, the early access version of Minecraft Earth is finally available on iOS and Android for Americans to get a taste of the future.

The mobile AR game was announced back in May as a joint effort between Microsoft and Mojang. Per the release, the game lets players trawl through their neighborhoods to collect resources, collaborate on builds with other players, and battle Minecraft mobs. Basically, it wants to be Minecraft in the “real world”—even if it’s not there yet.

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So far, the U.S. is the tenth country to get early access to Minecraft Earth. The highly-anticipated app’s rollout began in mid-October, and outside of the U.S., is also available in Iceland, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea, Canada, Philippines, and the United Kingdom. To play the game, users will need a smartphone that can run at least iOS 10 or Android 8, as well as have a Microsoft or Xbox Live account.

Aside from being a pretty cool game, Minecraft Earth is an interesting AR play from Microsoft. So far, Microsoft’s AR attempts have been tied to its HoloLens headset, which initially launched back in 2015. The tech, while impressive, was prohibitively expensive at $3,000. While it was, at first, meant to be something that lived at home, it became clear that wasn’t in the cards. We got a peek at HoloLens 2 earlier this year, and while it’s made massive improvements, it’s most useful in an enterprise setting. In fact, HoloLens 2 finally went on sale just last week—and while Minecraft Earth was available as a demo at its New York City launch event, the whole thing quietly slipped under the radar.

HoloLens 2 definitely isn’t ready for the average consumer—it’s $3,500!—Microsoft clearly feels differently about Minecraft Earth. Although the early access version isn’t the full game, it appears both Microsoft and Mojang feel good enough about it to let players take it for a whirl.

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About the author

Victoria Song

Consumer tech reporter by day, danger noodle by night. No, I'm not the K-Pop star.