Minecraft Earth devs talk Android release, final beta cities, modding

Minecraft Earth
Minecraft Earth (Image credit: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

Microsoft has kicked off its Minecraft Earth beta, serving a tease of its upcoming mobile spin-off of the hit adventure blockbuster. Fusing mapping and location data with augmented reality (AR) technologies, the game brings the voxel world to life, attempting to mirror the success of Pokemon GO.

While Minecraft Earth remains locked down to an invite-only beta, lead Mojang figures recently hosted a Q&A session via the game's official Discord channel. Fielding community questions, we received an insight into the current status of Minecraft Earth and future ambitions the title.

The Minecraft Earth beta and tackling Android

Minecraft: Earth

Minecraft: Earth (Image credit: Microsoft)

Minecraft Earth's initial beta is limited to a select pool of registered beta participants, randomly selected among those in five eligible cities, and using iOS-based devices. While Microsoft has sights set on worldwide availability, the pre-release client only spans Seattle, London, Tokyo, Stockholm, and Mexico City for July 2019. Committed to a broader rollout in the weeks ahead, budding players are understandably clamoring for the chance to play.

"At this time we don't have plans to expand the beta beyond the current 5 cities," said Minecraft Earth Community Manager when questioned on expansion plans. "We're being thoughtful about our release and want to make sure that we roll the game out in a very thoughtful way." Mojang instead aims to expand more players in existing regions throughout the beta, with a wider footprint after testing concludes.

The team also reaffirmed plans to hit Android "later this summer," on track for a future stage in testing. "I know it's the 'typical saying' that you hear, but really, we want to get the Android folks into the beta as well." Minecraft Earth Software Engineer, under the moniker "Murtag," also confirmed plans for iOS and Android cross-play and cross-saves, allowing players to shift progress between multiple devices.

Mojang remains uncommitted to a release date for the final version of Minecraft Earth, instead advising players to "stay tuned" throughout ongoing tests.

What the future holds for Minecraft Earth

Mojang also outlined plans to diversify the Minecraft Earth world, including existing locales from the vanilla package. Design Director Craig Leigh touched on "eventually" implementing the hellish Nether underworld, likely bringing new blocks and mobs too. "Yes you can build an Obsidian portal, but currently you can't light it."

Leigh also confirmed plans for biomes in Minecraft Earth, bringing further variation to the overhead map. "Per our announcement trailers, we want to create different Biomes that will provide different resources," said a fellow staffer. While in the closed beta, exploration is limited to basis grasslands packed with flora and chests, dynamic biomes and rewards could soon take influence from real-world surroundings.

However, Mojang was fast to rule out modding support, a prior lifeline that propelled vanilla Minecraft one decade ago. Although built on Microsoft's reworked "Bedrock" engine and sharing underlying DNA, Minecraft Earth adopts a more closed, tailored experience.

Related: Where to find all Minecraft Earth blocks and items

Moderation garnered noteworthy attention too, including the steps Mojang is taking to combat toxicity. Expanding on the existing foundation of resource collection and construction, community-sharing hooks into location features to drop digital creations in public spaces.

Questions touched on the potential of overcrowding the augmented reality world with digital structures and how Mojang looks to ensure enough real estate. "[W]e are working on a new exciting system to deal with this," state Leight. "Don't worry, if you want to show you build off to the world you will be able to. More news soon."

And the topic of user-generated content and keeping kids safe from those who seek to exploit gameplay, the team has committed to moderating publicly shared content. Mojang also pledges to crack down for cheaters across Minecraft Earth, including GPS spoofing to fake their physical locations.

For those looking for a chance to pick up Minecraft Earth ahead of launch, registration for the closed beta remains live on the official site. In the meantime, don't miss on our early impressions from E3 2019, which dives into the full scope of Microsoft's mobile block-building ambitions.

Essential Minecraft Earth accessories you'll love

These affordable Minecraft Earth accessories are guaranteed to help on your digital adventures.

Anker PowerCore 5000 Portable Charger ($18 at Amazon)

Like any augmented reality experience, Minecraft Earth will be power-hungry and drain your battery fast. This 5000mAh Anker PowerCore portable battery pack keeps phone topped up when on the move with a compact, cylindrical silhouette.

PopSockets Collapsible Grip & Stand ($10 at Amazon)

Avoid phone drops on your blocky adventures with this collapsible PopSocket grip that doubles as a stand. Grippy and comfortable to hold, it adds convenience and peace of mind to any Minecraft Earth session.

Minecraft Baby Pig 7" Plush ($10 at Amazon)

Grab your own porky Minecraft Earth companion with this affordable official Minecraft Baby Pig plush. Lined with a soft exterior and embroidered pixel detailing, don't miss out on your seven-inch friend.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.