The makers of Minecraft Earth launched a closed beta today in Seattle and London, the first time fans will be able to get their hands on the heavily hyped augmented reality smartphone game.
London and Seattle are the first two markets in the beta test, but it will steadily expand to other cities across the globe, Thomas Wiborgh, head of communications of Microsoft-owned Mojang wrote in a blog post Tuesday. Players can sign up here to participate in the test.
Microsoft expects the test to eventually roll out to “hundreds of thousands of players,” according to an FAQ. The game requires a mobile device running iOS 10 and Android 7 or newer. As long as they are signed into the same Microsoft account, users can bounce between phones and tablets and bring their creations with them.
Beta users must log on at least once a week, or risk losing their spot. Don’t be surprised if the game is reset and progress gets wiped away, that is pretty standard among beta tests as the teams update the game.
LONDON and SEATTLE, you’re up! As the first two cities to go live in the Minecraft Earth closed beta, all eyes are on you and your life-sized minetacular (specblockular?) creations!
— Minecraft Earth (@minecraftearth) July 16, 2019
The game takes Minecraft off the computer screen and brings the game into the real world — through the lens of a smartphone. Players collect items, go on quests and use their inventories to put together impressive structures that can be captured and shared. There’s important elements of cooperation in defeating bad guys in missions and collaborating on tabletop Buildplate structures that can be ballooned up to life-size scale.
While players will be able to transport “skins” over from traditional Minecraft, the team is setting up the game to stand its own. The game will be familiar to long-time Minecraft player, but the goal is for every item and creature in Minecraft Earth to come from that game.
Microsoft first teased the game at its Build developer conference in May and shared details a few weeks later. Minecraft has yet to give a release date for the full game.
The game is free to play, and executives in the past have demurred when asked about in-app purchases. However, we do know that Minecraft Earth won’t have loot boxes, a popular trend in the gaming world of grab bags full of items that users have to buy with either real money or in-game currency.
Minecraft Earth is part of rising trend of smartphone games layered over the real world. The immediate name that comes to mind when talking about games like this is Pokémon Go. And the company behind Pokémon Go, Niantic, just put out a brand new Harry Potter-themed augmented reality game based on the real world. Speaking with GeekWire when it first unveiled Minecraft Earth, the team behind it said “we don’t see ourselves as a clone” of anything that’s out there today, which they referred to mostly as “geocaching games.”
“It’s not just a geocaching game with like 2 percent of it in augmented reality,” Torfi Olafsson, game director for Minecraft, told GeekWire in May. “We decided to go head-first and build the game from the ground up as an experience that you play both in your immediate environment — when you’re home — and out in the world, like in parks, in cities.”