Minecraft is too big to fail at this point, and sees massive success on every platform it touches, be it Xbox, PlayStation, PC, Switch, or mobile devices like Android and iOS. However, this doesn't hold true for Minecraft's newly emerging spin-offs, which still have to battle to hold their own in established genres.
This battle is now coming to a close for Minecraft Earth. It was a quirky Pokemon Go-like mobile AR title, but it was announced early this year that Minecraft Earth is officially closing down in June 2021 with a final update that abandons all pretense of hope.
Minecraft Earth's failure can be attributed to many factors (not just the pandemic, as was implied by Minecraft Earth's closing announcement), but that doesn't mean the behemoth that is vanilla Minecraft can't learn a thing or two from its failing little cousin. Here are three things that Minecraft could foreseeably borrow from Minecraft Earth, and a bonus lesson that Mojang Studios shouldn't be quick to forget.
1. Minecraft Earth gave us mob variants and collectibles
Variants make the world feel more diverse and alive.
One thing Minecraft Earth was great for was mob variants. It's a small detail, but being able to collect an increasingly wide variety of adorable mobs was a reason for players to return, and it remained one of Minecraft Earth's pride and joys. These variants functionally had no difference from their vanilla parents other than visual distinctions, but it would still be great to see some of them make their way to Minecraft.
We already see something like this in regular Minecraft when you visit villagers in different biomes. If you head to the desert, a frozen taiga, or the plains, villagers will dawn different clothing and building types to match their surrounding environment. Sheep come in different colors, and horses can have different patterns and coats, too!
Why not expand it to more kinds of creatures? Even better, give players more reasons to explore Minecraft by adding a journal that keeps track of what players have already discovered before. The world not only feels more diverse and alive, but players get a sense of completion when they add a new entry to their journal.
2. Minecraft Earth's build plates made creations easy to share
This would be a less direct translation than mob variants, but Minecraft Earth's build plates could actually find a home in Minecraft. The idea of a build plate in Minecraft Earth was having a defined area to build in that you could bring up anywhere to add to, explore, and share with your friends. In Minecraft, this could instead allow players to "record" their favorite builds in build plates and be able to take them to their friends' worlds and servers to share.
Have a fantastic build that you're proud of? Use a build plate to save it, and then access it any time you're in Creative mode. Not only would this be great for sharing incredible builds, but it would make it easier for experienced builders to accomplish bigger builds and more elaborate designs in Minecraft: Bedrock Edition. Mods have been doing similar things for years in the Java Edition, but players on the more modern Minecraft version are left with tackling even the most tedious builds by hand.
I'd love to see this core function of Minecraft Earth evolve for Minecraft.
This would require a lot of work on Mojang Studios' part, but it could be a fantastic quality-of-life enhancement for sharing builds when you're not in your world and tackling larger builds in Creative. There's even a case for bringing this functionality to Survival with a new table (like a "workbench" or something) and letting players skip the time required to build something in exchange for inputting all the necessary resources (and maybe a bit extra for balancing) and choosing where to place it.
Is this the "wild dream" of my choices? Absolutely, but I'd still love to see this core function of Minecraft Earth evolve and come to vanilla Minecraft.
3. Seasons gave players reasons to come back to Minecraft Earth
Seasons are becoming quite prevalent in modern games, especially games as service like Fortnite and Sea of Thieves. These games depend on in-game purchases to continue providing free updates and content. However, seasons can also be quite controversial for gamers, who sometimes feel like they're not getting their money's worth, and that vital content is locked behind annoying paywalls. Minecraft Earth added seasons to the game, which added additional challenges for players to complete and earn rewards. However, its seasons were far too short to be alluring for players.
Still, if Minecraft makes every season 2-3 months of challenges and milestones, it could give players reasons to continuously return to Mojang Studios' creative sandbox. Provide XP for playing the game like blocks mined, blocks placed, items crafted, mobs killed, and days played, while offering specific challenges that provide additional XP and potentially exclusive rewards.
Give players character-creator items and Minecoins as rewards, and partner with community creators in the Minecraft Marketplace to even offer maps, texture packs, and skins at higher tiers. By making seasons entirely optional, and ensuring that players who spend the time to 100% complete a season get their investment of Minecoins back to spend on the next season, Minecraft can increase engagement over time and appeal to completionists who love games that give them specific missions and goals to accomplish.
Bonus: Minecraft Earth showed how not to do microtransactions
Above I've listed three things Minecraft can borrow from the failed Minecraft Earth, but there's one lesson that Minecraft should never forget: How overly aggressive microtransactions aided in Minecraft Earth's demise.
Minecraft Earth's failure is more complicated than any single reason: Absurd time gating on basic tasks, a lack of updates that added meaningful new content and changes, persistent bugs, a confusing release cycle, a lack of marketing, and an inability to evolve with the pandemic quickly enough were all factors in Mojang Studios' decision to close down the project. However, few of these reasons ever captured as much attention as the microtransactions, which are often the most despised aspect of any major mobile game.
Minecraft Earth's microtransactions weren't just for cosmetic items, but actually gave players huge benefits and bonuses for spending cold hard cash. Reducing times, unlocking additional crafting tables or furnaces, buying more build plates, and even gaining access to more of the game's Adventures could all be accelerated with a little (or a lot) of real world money. And because of this, Minecraft Earth was hard to play for any significant amount of time without spending money.
Players need to feel like they're getting their money's worth.
Minecraft has plenty of in-game purchases of its own through the Minecraft Marketplace. Players can purchase Minecoins for real-world money and then spend them on skin and texture packs, maps, adventures, character creator items, and more, much of which is created by the Minecraft community. There's also Minecraft Realms, which offers private servers for multiple people with a monthly subscription. However, none of this deters from vanilla Minecraft in any way and is all entirely optional.
It's a fine line to walk, though, and Mojang Studios needs to constantly keep this in mind as it moves forward (especially if it elects to add Seasons at some point). In-game purchases can be a great way for game studios to make money on their projects and keep adding new content, like the upcoming Caves and Cliffs Update for Minecraft, but players need to feel like they're getting their money's worth out of anything they buy.
Minecraft Earth never offered this sense of value, and its final day approaches us in June.
Minecraft can turn Minecraft Earth from failure to aid
If it wasn't apparent by this point, Minecraft Earth is being buried. Come June 31, 2021, Mojang Studios' experimental mobile game will be shuttered forever. That doesn't mean much for Minecraft, however, which still sees tons of success, even on mobile devices. Minecraft Dungeons, the ARPG that continues to see new expansions and updates, can also be played on mobile devices through the power of Xbox Cloud Gaming (Project xCloud), and tops our list for Best Games for Xbox Cloud Gaming.
That being said, even one of the largest, most popular games in the world can still learn something from Minecraft Earth, though, and it's up to Mojang Studios to turn Minecraft Earth from a total failure to successful aid for Minecraft.
If you're looking for a gift idea for yourself or a fellow Minecraft fan, be sure to take a peek at our Best Minecraft Merch, Toys, and Gift ideas.
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Minecraft is an inarguable and complete success. It has sold copies in the hundreds of millions, has a huge following of dedicated players, and lets you unlock your every creative desire. It's also available on every platform imaginable, including Xbox One, Windows 10, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. Play with anyone, and play anywhere.
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