Minecraft Earth update: release date, iOS and Android beta access and much more about the game AP

With the mighty success of Pokemon Go, Master Team Up and other augmented reality games, it goes without saying that software giant Microsoft wants a slice of that action. After all, he owns one of the biggest brands in gaming: Minecraft.

To be fair, he's been biding his time, but is now ready to capitalize on AR's popularity for his latest block-building mobile release, Minecraft Earth.

But what is Minecraft Earth? How it works? And do you really have to stand in the park all day creating something on your phone? Read on to find out.

What is Minecraft Earth?

Minecraft Earth is a building block and adventure game very similar to the existing Minecraft for PC, consoles and mobile devices. Where it differs is that it is exclusively for Android and iOS and uses augmented reality to overlay Minecraft creations in the real world.

You can use your smartphone to create creations anywhere, placing them in parks, on the streets, even around and on top of your home. Then other Minecraft Earth users can hold their phones and view them.

It's not just a solo experience either. You can collaborate on builds with friends or fellow 'crafters', with each of you using your tablet or phone to create and view your current project.

And, if you're worried about standing in the park for hours to build a real masterpiece, you can build something at home and then place it anywhere outside as you like: "work on a smaller scale with friends before taking your builds into the wild at full size,” revealed by Microsoft during the game's opening.

There will be adventures and collection items, too, with the ability to fight mobs (creatures that inhabit the Minecraft world) either placed by the game or other players. Once found and collected, then you can place your own mobs in Minecraft Earth builds.

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Minecraft footage gameplay and exclusive content

The game was first publicly unveiled during the WWDC Keynote Apple in early June. We learned more about it during the presentation phase, just as importantly, one of the features will be exclusive to iPhone and iPad.

The demo showed gameplay, which will be available on Android and iOS, with two members of the Microsoft-owned studio Mojang interacting with a previously built castle.

As at first it was small and Lego sized, sat on the tablets, but then moved on to stage and life sized buildings.

Then an iOS-exclusive feature was revealed as one of the developers was automatically cut and placed inside the Earth Minecraft world. This is thanks to a new feature in Apple's Arkit 3.0: Occlusion People.

The software automatically detects people and can place them in 3D space, place virtual objects behind, on the sides and in front. This usually has to be implemented manually by the developer. In addition, Arkit Tools can automatically recognize gestures for full, automatic motion capture.

Minecraft avatar in demo mode is thus moved in sync with the player.

Other gameplay videos made by early access closed beta testers have also begun to appear online. And we've been playing a beta version of ourselves, which you can check out here: How to play Minecraft Earth and what to expect.

When and where will it be available?

Minecraft Earth begins closed beta testing, now available on iOS and Android, for some users who signed up for a special pre-registration on the page. This is currently limited to users in London, Mexico City, Seattle, Stockholm and Tokyo.

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If you are in one of these areas, or want to be one of the first to play in your region, if available, you can subscribe yourself for a chance to play. Just head to the special minecraft land site here.

You'll need a Microsoft account or Xbox Live to participate and not everyone opts for the closed beta tour. However, all those who register will be up to date and receive a free, exclusive skin to use in Minecraft Earth and/or standard Minecraft.

Microsoft hopes to release the full version of Minecraft Earth on a global scale. This means that while the closed beta may only be regional, the final roll will be available in all countries and languages, which is currently supported by regular Minecraft. He's not saying that the rollout will be gradual so that the game is fully operational in every region.

On which platforms will Minecraft Earth be released?

Android and iOS are supported. You will need a device capable of running a decent AR experience though.

This means you'll need a device running iOS 10 or Android 7.0 devices at the very least, as it's developed using Apple Arkit and Google's Arcor software development respectively.

Some features, such as the iOS-exclusive People Occlusion discussed above, will require more recently released phones.

How much is it?

Minecraft Earth is completely free, currently all paid items are locked away. The full version will be a free-to-play game, meaning you can download it for free and use the AR title as often as you like with no hidden fees.

However, while Microsoft is yet to fully detail in-app purchases, there will be a store to purchase additional mobs and skins.

There will be no box of loot though, so you get exactly what you paid for - no gambling aspect at all.

Minecraft Earth more information

You can find out more information about the game from the official website here.

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