Minecraft Earth Is Finally Available In The United States

After gradually launching across a few smaller countries in the last few weeks, Minecraft Earth is finally available to download in the United States.

While the game is still in early access, anyone in a launch region can download and play the game. So far, those regions the United Kingdom, New Zealand, IcelandAustralia, Mexico, SwedenCanada, South Korea and the Philippines and, as of today, the United States.

The game takes classic Minecraft mechanics and merges them with map-based, AR gameplay similar to games like Pokemon Go. You can collect materials while walking around your neighborhood and then use them to build AR Minecraft structures with your phone’s camera.

We also posted our full impressions piece of the game earlier today as well. Here’s a brief snippet of what we thought:

“Minecraft Earth feels very well intertwined with the ideas in the original Minecraft game. It takes advantage of existing, well-known Minecraft mechanics in a new way that feels like your world is transforming around you. Unlike Wizards Unite, there is true magic at work here.”

That being said, the game also isn’t without its faults. You can read more here.

We also posted a preview video showing the core gameplay, including the AR elements, and some of the game’s main features. You can check that out above or over on our YouTube channel.

Will you be jumping into Minecraft Earth, now that it’s available in the US? Or have you already given it a spin? Let us know in the comments below.

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Minecraft Earth Impressions: A Magical, Yet Shallow, AR Goldmine

I’ve been a huge Minecraft fan since almost the beginning – I played the alpha that was embedded on the Minecraft site and then the downloadable beta version after that. I remember when the game finally “released” and hit patch 1.0. While I stopped playing regularly many years ago, I still consider myself a big fan.

So when Mojang announced Minecraft Earth, a map-based mobile AR game, I felt mixture of skepticism and curiosity. I’ve been spurned by similar AR games before, but was curious to see how Minecraft Earth might differentiate itself in the market. As more and more information came out about the game, including features like the “adventure” events, I started to feel that maybe there was enough to separate it from the competition and offer an experience built to Minecraft’s strengths.

tappables minecraft earth
“Tappables” appear around the map and grant you with materials to use on buildplates.

As I noted in my Wizards Unite hands-on, these mobile map-based AR games work best when the activities and actions of the game directly relate to the franchise itself. That’s why I consider Pokemon Go to be a much more successful game, from a conceptual standpoint, than Wizards Unite – the act of walking around and catching Pokemon ties in perfectly with the franchise, whereas catching creatures from the Harry Potter universe doesn’t feel like it’s leveraging that property to its true potential.

The good news is that Minecraft Earth feels very well intertwined with the ideas in the original Minecraft game. It takes advantage of existing, well-known Minecraft mechanics in a new way that feels like your world is transforming around you. Unlike Wizards Unite, there is true magic at work here.

Mining And Walking In Minecraft Earth

It was a 95° F day in Melbourne when I first booted up the game. I had my account logged in, my headphones ready and a battery pack on hand, but I’d by lying if I said I was excited to go walking around in the heat for a few hours. However, after 5 minutes with the game, that completely changed. I got stuck in a gameplay loop that made me forget where I was and what streets I was walking down, completely ignorant of the heat until I was well past dehydrated and needed to stop for a break.

The game places your avatar on a map that tracks your position akin to Pokemon Go. From the get go, you can see Minecraft animals and little structures of blocks (which the developers call “tappables”) spread around your map. In the distance, you might see a large shaft of light, marking one of the “adventure” events available to play by yourself or with friends. When you’re in range of a tappable, you can tap on it a few times (which simulates the visual effect of mining in Minecraft) and the game will grant you with a few materials, varying in rarity.

spiders adventure minecraft earth
Fighting spiders in one of the AR “adventure” events

Exploration rewards you with a stacked inventory full of materials, gathered from tappables and adventure events, that are taken straight from the original Minecraft game – dirt, cobblestone, sand etc. Even the beautifully familiar Minecraft soundtrack plays softly as you walk around, which weirdly helps create a connection between the world of Minecraft and the neighborhood you’re exploring.

I got completely immersed in the game for the first couple of hours – I had no idea what I would need materials for, or how I could use them, but I just kept going and collecting more. At home the next day, I realized that anything you collect in the world can then be used to build Minecraft structures and environments on ready-made “buildplates” in the game.


minecraft buildplate draft
Smaller scale versions of buildplates can be edited in AR before exploring a full-scale version.

The only currently available buildplates in Minecraft Earth are sized as 8×8 blocks or 16×16 blocks and they are somewhat similar to LEGO buildplates. The only way to edit those buildplates is via AR on your phone’s camera. You can place a small version of a buildplates on a table and start adding to it with the materials you gathered from your trip outside. Then, you can save that draft and load it as a full-scale, 1:1 version (with 1 Minecraft block equaling 1 meter wide). You, and any friends playing with you, can then use the AR display on your phone to walk through a full-scale version of the environment you built a few minutes ago.

It’s an incredibly cool concept that many younger Minecraft fans will probably love. I found the feature cool but struggled to see myself regularly using it. After playing around with the AR structures, I went searching for more things to do in the game. It turns out that everything in Minecraft Earth leads you back to collecting materials to use on buildplates. The adventure events were amusing, and I can see kids enjoying them, but the two I completed only granted a few (slightly rarer than usual) materials. You can smelt and craft things too but, unlike Minecraft, these complete over time in the background per item, with more complex items or materials taking longer to complete. Anything you either craft or smelt makes something new to use on buildplates. In some cases, you might craft a sword to take into an adventure event, but then the adventure only rewards you with more materials for buildplates.

minecraft ar structure baseplate
Your Minecraft “buildplates” can be placed down and explored in AR in full, 1:1 scale

This is where I started to grow frustrated with the game. There just isn’t much to do that isn’t grinding for materials for buildplates. It doesn’t help that the buildplates you start out with are quite limited. You unlock more as you level up, or you can purchase some fancier ones with the in-game currency, rubies. You can acquire rubies as you collect materials and explore, but you will realistically need to purchase some via an in-app purchase if you want to get the fancy buildplates anytime soon.

Granted, this whole loop of collect-and-build-and-repeat might be perfectly okay for a younger audience. They might want to collect as many materials as possible for days on end and rush home to put their new items on a buildplate. But for me, I quickly lost any inclination to interact with the buildplates after trying them, which made the rest of the game feel a little bit pointless.

Early Days For Minecraft Earth

There’s also no way to permanently place buildplates in a location on the map, for others to then explore in their own game even when you’re not playing. Others can join a buildplate session while you’re playing, but every buildplate you put down is temporary. It only exists for you and anyone you invite for as long as you’re interacting with it. If you could place buildplates down on real world locations permanently, it would be a game changer and make the world feel much more connected. Being able to permanently place things for others to then explore, and being able to explore others’ structures that you stumble upon in the world, would make everything feel like it’s building toward something.

Still, everything currently on offer might be enough to keep Minecraft’s audience coming back for more. It certainly feels immersive and amazing to walk around the world, collect materials and use them in AR building. You get that same feeling of wonder and excitement you get in the original Minecraft game. As I said, it’s still early days and the game is still in early access.

Maybe over time the development team will mine further down, make some changes and find a diamond. But for now, cobblestone works okay.

Minecraft Earth is launching gradually across regions, but is available now in early access most major countries, including the United States, the UK,  Australia and more.

This article and all recorded footage is based on time spent with Minecraft Earth using a Google Pixel 3XL running Android 10.

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Mobile AR Game Minecraft Earth Is Now Available In The United Kingdom

Death, taxes and Minecraft Earth launch countries – that’s what it feels like lately, with new launch countries for the mobile AR game popping up every few days. This time, it’s the United Kingdom’s turn to get building.

People living in the UK can now download the game, which is in early access and launching gradually worldwide, a few countries at a time. The United Kingdom joins New Zealand, Iceland, Australia, Mexico, Sweden, Canada, South Korea and the Philippines as launch countries. There is still no word on a United States launch, but given that the UK is one of the bigger markets that the game has launched in, a US launch might be coming soon.

The mobile AR game is Minecraft’s response to Pokemon Go and other map-based mobile games that get you out of the house and exploring the real world, intertwined with AR elements. You can build structures, craft weapons, collect materials by exploring your real-world neighborhood and fight monsters in AR during the “adventure” events scattered across the map.

While the game does share similarities to other map-based AR games, it also has its own nice Minecraft-spin to it that offers some nice points of difference. I’ve been able to try the game out here in Australia already, so you can expect a first impressions piece on the game soon.

What are your thoughts on Minecraft Earth? Have you tried the game out, and are you still waiting for it to launch in your country? Let us know in the comments below.

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Minecraft Earth Launches In More Countries, Now Available In Canada, South Korea, Philippines

The Minecraft Earth release schedule seems to be speeding up a bit – just a few days after the last batch of countries, the new AR mobile game is now available in Canada, South Korea and the Philippines.

The game, while still in early access, is now available publicly to anyone in Australia, Mexico, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, the Philippines and Iceland. The release schedule is gradual, rolling out a few countries at a time. With Canada, Australia and South Korea now on the map, it looks like we’re getting closer to a release in some of the bigger markets like the US and the UK.

Minecraft Earth is Microsoft’s response to the mobile AR craze that started with Pokemon Go. You’ll have to get out of the house and explore the real world and use AR to build structures and complete “adventure” events set in the Minecraft universe. You can also collect materials, craft items and smelt resources just like you can in the original version of Minecraft, but not without a few changes to adapt it to the AR-based mobile platform.

I’ve been jumping into Minecraft Earth here and there since the Australian release last week, and it’s definitely an interesting spin on existing AR-based mobile games like PoGo or Wizards Unite. You can expect a first impressions piece, and other Minecraft Earth content, coming soon.

Have you been able to dive into Minecraft Earth already, or are you still waiting for the game to release in your country? Let us know in the comments below.

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Minecraft Earth Early Access Now Available In Australia, Mexico and Sweden

After an initial launch in New Zealand and Iceland, Minecraft Earth early access is now available in Australia, Mexico and Sweden. The game is gradually rolling out across a few countries at a time, seemingly in smaller markets first.

While it’s still launching in early access, this gradual launch is not restricted and is available to anyone, provided you’re in one of the supported launch countries. Minecraft Earth previously launched a closed beta for select players only, and early access marks the first time the game is available publicly.

This is Minecraft’s response to Pokemon Go and other map-based mobile games that get you out of the house and exploring the real world, intertwined with AR elements. You can build structures, craft weapons, collect materials by exploring your real-world neighborhood and fight monsters in AR during the “adventure” events scattered across the map.

I downloaded the app today and gave it a try. While it’s still early obviously, there are some really fun elements that hark back to 2011 and give me major Minecraft nostalgia. The game still has a lot to offer that I haven’t checked out yet, but it does also feel somewhat distinguished from other similar AR games like Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.

There’s still no concrete word on when the game will launch in some of the larger markets like the US or the UK. The best indicator we have is on the Minecraft Earth site, which just indicates it will launch in more countries “in the coming weeks.”

Be sure to keep an eye out for more Minecraft Earth coverage from us in the next few weeks. If you’re in one of the supported early access countries and you’ve tried the game out, let us know in the comments below.

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Lenovo Mirage AR Headset Returns with New Marvel Game & 6DOF Controllers

Lenovo first released its smartphone-powered Mirage AR headset last year alongside its sole title, Star Wars: Jedi Challenges (2018), a collection of short AR games that let you do things like fight Darth Vader & Co. with a lightsaber-shaped controller, play HoloChess, and challenge the Empire in a tabletop RTS. Now, Lenovo is returning with a new AR game, MARVEL Dimension of Heroes, and a pair of 6DOF controllers too.

Mirage AR’s new Marvel title is said to let you jump into the boots of six super heroes—Doctor Strange, Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Star-Lord—and battle against super villains in an original story.

Besides saving the world in story mode, the game also boasts a wave-based survival mode (online leaderboards included), and an admittedly pretty intriguing local co-op mode, which lets two Mirage AR users connect to the same Wi-Fi network and duke it out side-by-side against the game’s super villains, Loki, Ronan the Accuser, Ultron Prime, and the Winter Soldier.

In addition, the new bundle will also include a pair of what Lenovo is calling its ‘Universal Controllers’, two wireless 6DOF controllers that will let you use both hands to punch, slice and blast away.

Like last year’s bundle, the system also comes with an external tracking beacon, which helps provide stable 6DOF tracking for the headset, and both its Universal Controllers and previously bundled lightsaber controller.

Lenovo is selling its MARVEL Dimension of Heroes AR headset bundle for $250 in the US starting today on Amazon.com and Lenovo.com.

Oculus Explains Rift S Design & Manufacturing Partnership with Lenovo

Users who own the new bundle will also be able to play Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, ostensibly using one of the tracked Universal Controllers as a substitute lightsaber.

Marvel Dimension of Heroes is a free download for iOS and Android. The headset itself supports a wide array of flagship phones including: iPhone X series, iPhone 8/Plus, iPhone 7/Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 6 series, Samsung Galaxy S9, S8, S7 series, Google Pixel XL, Google Pixel, Moto Z2 Force, Moto Z, LG G6. Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, Nova 2S, Xiaomi MIX2, Sony Xperia XZ1.

Although we haven’t seen a separate store listing for Universal Controllers yet, Lenovo maintains that they will be purchasable through its website at some point. Considering however that the original Star Wars bundle now costs $50 on Amazon (originally priced at $200), we’ll be interested to see how the company intends on pricing its controllers, which despite the name, are entirely locked into the Mirage AR platform.

While it’s clear Lenovo Mirage AR isn’t a traditional hardware platform as such—it only has two games for now—it’s good to see that the company hasn’t abandoned it entirely, which would have placed it more abruptly in the ‘expensive gimmick’ territory I mentioned last year.

Now that it has two 6DOF controllers, it would be interesting to see whether Lenovo decides to open Mirage AR up to more developers looking to create for what could be an augmented reality Cardboard platform in the making, or whether it continues on as a two-trick pony.

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First-person ‘Angry Birds’ AR Game is Coming to Magic Leap This Fall

Angry Birds, the mobile breakout hit, is coming to Magic Leap in a brand new game called Angry Birds FPS: First Person Slingshot. Due to launch this Fall, the game is quite literally a first-person take on the physics-based slingshot smasher game.

Rovio Entertainment’s Angry Birds franchise is one of the smartphone world’s earliest smash-hits. The original game of the same name has more than 100 million installs on Android, according to the Google Play store. The entire franchise has achieved some four billion downloads, according to the company.

Now, in partnership with Resolution Games, Rovio is bringing Angry Birds FPS: First Person Slingshot to augmented reality on Magic Leap this fall. While the original mobile games give players a side-scrolling view as they launch birds from a slingshot in an effort to knock down wobbly forts, Angry Birds FPS will put the slingshot in players hands, allowing them to launch birds from a first-person view and walk around the opposing structure for the best vantage point.

The game is heading to the Magic Leap One headset this Fall, though an exact release date and price haven’t been announced.

Image courtesy Rovio, Resolution Games

This seems like a smart approach for a game on Magic Leap One, since the structures to be destroyed are naturally distant from the user, and understandably small, which hopefully means that field of view clipping won’t present much of an issue.

While Angry Birds has a distinct family-friendly allure, it’s doubtful that a demographic of younger kids will be playing Angry Birds FPS on Magic Leap’s $2,300 developer kit headset any time soon, though getting the franchise onto the platform could be a win in the long term, and a fun distraction for the developers experimenting with the headset today.

This won’t actually be the first time that Angry Birds found itself experimenting in the VR/AR space. Way back in 2015 the company showed a glimpse of Angry Birds VR running on a Gear VR headset, though the title never saw a public release.

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Niantic Offers Tantalizing Peek at Upcoming AR Tech, Announces New Platform for Third-party Devs

Niantic, the developer behind Pokémon Go and the upcoming Harry Potter AR game, announced they’ll be opening up access to their latest work in AR, dubbed the ‘Niantic Real World Platform’, to third-party developers soon. To boot, the company also introduced a few key AR technologies that will have you salivating over the possibilities of actually chasing down pocket monsters on your commute to that next Pokéstop.

Niantic says their Real World Platform blends machine learning and computer vision to tackle the classic challenge of building a useful and realistic AR experience on mobile devices—something that can sense small details, understand surroundings, and model them in an interactive 3D space that a smartphone can digest.

One area of research Niantic has been work on is proper occlusion, or making sure digital imagery fits into the physical world correctly, and allowing it to be obscured naturally by objects in the environment. The company published a quick video on their blog, showing off their latest work in the area of AR occlusion. What better test subject than Pikachu?

Creating correct occlusion in AR requires that the computer, in this case a smartphone, contextually understands the world around it. Slowing down the video some, it becomes a little more clear however that the company still has a ways to go, as the occlusion masks oftentimes overcompensate, or misjudge the alignment of objects as Pikachu scampers about. While a proof-of-concept, it’s definitely a tantalizing look at the near future of smartphone AR, and a clear departure from what we saw at Pokémon Go’s launch back in Summer 2016.


The Niantic Real World Platform is also focusing on cross-platform AR for shared, multiplayer experiences. The biggest obstacle, the company says, is invariably latency. To this effect, the company says they’ve developed “proprietary, low-latency AR networking techniques” to overcome this problem, which allowed them to realize a unified, cross-platform solution with a single code base. To demonstrate, Niantic built a multiplayer smartphone AR shooter, dubbed ‘Neon’, which shows six users playing at once.

We can attribute some of this to the company’s recent acquisitions; Niantic recently acquired Escher Reality, a studio touted for its cross-platform, multi-user AR platform, and the computer vision and machine learning company Matrix Mill—two decisive moves forward after the company’s $200 million Series B finance round.

“It’s through the coordination of these teams that we’ve been able to establish what the Niantic Real World Platform looks like today, and what it will be in the future,” Niantic says in a statement.

As for third-party developers looking to get in on Niantic’s platform, the company says they’ll be picking a “handful” of devs to begin working with their tools later this year. To receive more information, sign up here.

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Google Opens ‘Maps’ API So Devs Can Create ‘Pokémon Go’-style Games

During the Google Developer Day presentation at GDC 2018, Product Manager Clementine Jacoby and Engineering Lead Patrick Donelan at Google Maps presented the team’s progress in bringing their technology and data to game developers. Several ‘location-based’ AR games using Google Maps APIs and ARCore are coming to mobile devices this year.

Building large virtual worlds is costly and time-consuming when done by hand. Using the example of Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto IV (2008), which remains one of the most expensive and richest game worlds ever created, Jacoby noted that this was, at launch, it only as big as downtown Manhattan (in terms of real-world scale). Google is now offering an easier route, where even small teams can leverage vast, rich geodata through Google Maps APIs.

The team has built an SDK to bring the technology to Unity which “does all the heavy lifting” with “no Google Maps expertise needed to get started,” and helps developers design interactions around real-world places, which presents a unique set of challenges.

“Doing it well requires knowing a lot about the player’s immediate environment and also their larger context,” says Jacoby. “We help you design gameplay around real-world locations so you can choose places that are appropriate, unique, and fun to play, no matter where your players are.”

Image courtesy Google

Donelan demonstrated how the Unity integration can easily turn the bland, untextured geometry of Google Maps building and object data into stylised settings for game experiences using lighting and textures, or even changing the height of the buildings. Then, using the Playable Locations API, you can create a game with missions and spawn points at prominent locations, and have it work anywhere around the world. “We use a vast array of Google Maps signals to determine the best places for gameplay and AR experiences ranked by prominence and popularity,” says Donelan. “You can request points at whatever density your game requires, and fine-tune the way those points are distributed.”

There are additional features to enable richer detail to the environment, such as ‘nine slicing’ for adding custom-sized textures to buildings, decorators to add extra geometry to rooftops, and borders around roads and buildings to simulate ambient occlusion. The SDK also integrates with Unity’s real-time lighting and physics systems.

Donelan then highlighted some well-polished examples created by a single developer in just a few weeks using procedural rules and modular asset packs. Firstly, two stylised views of city environments were shown, zooming down to street level at an impressive level of detail, with Google Maps data informing the procedural rendering in an organic way. In the final example, a vast area of Glacier National Park in Montana was shown, rendered in Unity using Google Maps elevation data, with procedurally generated rocks and vegetation, showing the SDK is not limited to urban environments.

The overall message: it’s easy to harness Google Maps geodata to build rich game experiences that work on a global scale, using gameplay suitable for the real world, and driving players to popular places, or off the beaten path, depending on the style of game. Finally, three games coming in 2018 using ARCore and Google Maps APIs were featured: Jurassic World Alive, Ghostbusters World, and The Walking Dead: Our World.

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4 Interesting New ARCore Apps Hitting Google Play Store

ARCore, Google’s augmented reality software development kit for Android devices, was recently made available on 13 flagship smartphones – giving over 100 million devices, the company says, the ability to run AR apps. At GDC today, Google highlighted two upcoming apps arriving on the Play Store today, and two arriving in the second half of year.


eBay is focusing in on sellers by updating its mobile app to include an AR feature that helps you calculate which size shipping container you need for a product. To try it out, you simply head to the ‘Selling’ section on the eBay mobile app and look for the ‘Which box?’ option. You’ll need to find a non-reflective surface, and then move your phone around while pointing where you’ll eventually place the item. Place your item on the surface and try out a number of common box sizes. Who knows, maybe people will use it?

The Walking Dead: Our World

Much like the hit mobile game Pokémon Go, Walking Dead: Our World is a location-based AR game that, instead of hunting cute little pocket monsters, pits you against a world of zombies. The goal of the player is to defend their surroundings by fighting walkers in real-life environments. Walking Dead uses the Google Maps API and ARCore together, in order to build a real-world game with immersive experience that ties to players’ location. The game is currently in pre-registration and the release is planned for Q2 2018.

Google’s ‘Just a Line’ Art App

Google just introduced its new mobile art app Just a Line, which lets you draw in 3D space with a white marker, then record a simple video. Google is also open-sourcing the core code of the Just a Line app so developers can use it as a starting point for their own ARCore projects. Supported phones can download it here.


Image courtesy Tender Claws

TendAR is a game from Tender Claws that features a virtual fish named Guppy that responds to users’ facial expressions, and survives by “eating” other people’s emotions. The game was created by combining ARCore with the Google Cloud API, which provides computer vision and object recognition. TendAR will be available for download starting in July 2018, Google says.

We have boots on the ground at this year’s GDC. Check back for more AR/VR news this week.

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