Minecraft RTXSource: Windows Central

Minecraft's place at the top of the games industry is indisputable after years of constant support and dedication from Mojang Studios. Now that Microsoft has helped spearhead next-gen console game with the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, many gamers are left wondering when, or even if, Minecraft will ever become an Xbox Series X|S Optimized title. The technology is there, Minecraft has given fans a peek at what a next-gen Minecraft experience could look like, and the expectation exists for Mojang Studios as a first-party studio for Xbox and Microsoft.

However, information is scarce, and Mojang Studios has yet to commit to a proper next-gen upgrade for Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S. We've compiled everything we know into one place. Here's what you need to know about Minecraft and ray tracing on Xbox Series X|S.

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A gaming masterpiece

Minecraft Bedrock Edition

Minecraft

Available everywhere you play.

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, Windows 10, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS. Play with anyone and play anywhere.

What is Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S?

Minecraft RTXSource: Windows Central

The Xbox Series X and S represent the beginning of a new generation of console gaming, with powerful evolutionary hardware pushing groundbreaking features that we haven't seen in the console space yet, like faster SSD storage, ray tracing, and more reliable performance even with upgraded visuals. Minecraft, being one of Microsoft's biggest and most successful franchises, will work on the Xbox Series X|S from day one through the platform's impressive backward compatibility program, even if it doesn't immediately support all of the latest features that the Xbox Series X|S can utilize for next-gen games.

Don't expect a "Minecraft 2" or even a specific version of Minecraft built from the ground up for Xbox Series X|S. Instead, if Minecraft does receive an update to help it take advantage of next-gen hardware, Mojang Studios will leverage the power and flexibility of Minecraft: Bedrock Edition.

This more modern version of Minecraft currently spans Xbox One, Windows 10, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS platforms with one code base and feature set across all of them. This is all possible due to the Bedrock foundation and the Render Dragon engine, which allows Minecraft: Bedrock Edition to dynamically conform to whatever platform you're playing on with the same great experience and gameplay with which you're familiar.

The Bedrock Edition can expand to encompass the next-gen gaming consoles, with some console-specific upgrades for the Xbox Series X|S. Neither the exact delivery nor timeline for this has been confirmed yet, but we can discuss all the possibilities and everything we do know for certain.

What next-gen features could we see for Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S?

Minecraft RTXSource: Windows Central

The next-gen is all about making gaming more seamless. This means less time waiting and more time playing. Right out of the gate, Minecraft should benefit from these immediate advantages on Xbox Series X|S. You should expect much faster loading times due to the ultra-fast SSD present in the Xbox Series X|S, more consistent performance (possibly at higher framerates, since Minecraft isn't very resource hungry), smoother animations, greater draw distances (how far away you can see at once), and better stability when lots of things are happening on the screen, like explosions or large fights with multiple mobs.

However, Minecraft actually doesn't seem to run much better on the Xbox Series X|S versus the Xbox One generation and actually appears to suffer from running in backward compatibility mode at times, with previously rarer frame drops and lag becoming more prevalent. Hopefully, a next-gen upgrade for Minecraft would resolve these issues on top of adding additional features and enhancements.

The only feature Minecraft obviously benefits from on Xbox Series X|S right now is Quick Resume, which means you can have multiple games and applications suspended in the background and nearly instantaneously resume them at a moment's notice without sacrificing performance. Minecraft does support Quick Resume, so players can hop right back into Minecraft without reloading the game even if the console has been turned off or other games have been played. Beyond that, however, other improvements appear to rely on the possibility of a future next-gen upgrade for Minecraft.

One of the biggest features that Minecraft could greatly benefit from on Xbox Series X|S is ray tracing. This revolutionary technology allows games to track the path of light beams in real-time, leading to much more realistic reflections, shadows, environments, and more. Ray tracing is already a reality in Minecraft on Windows 10 PCs, but there's reason to believe Mojang Studios is also working on bringing the revolutionary gaming technology to Xbox Series X|S.

What is ray tracing for Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S?

Minecraft RTXSource: Windows Central

Ray tracing is one of those vague gaming terms that doesn't concern the vast majority of gamers. However, when properly used, ray tracing can have real effects on how a game looks, particularly in the atmosphere department. On games that are already meant to be photo-realistic, ray tracing allows them to take it to the next level by accurately portraying lighting instead of simply "guessing" as was commonplace before. It's very complicated, but fortunately, we're here to break it all down.

Ray tracing, down at its core, requires three things to work: capable hardware, supported drivers and software, and a game built with ray tracing in mind. With Xbox Series X|S, all three of these things will be present, with ray tracing being touted as an essential next-gen feature for both the Xbox Series X|S and the PS5. Minecraft could be one of the games to support real-time ray tracing at some point in the future.

Now, it should be noted that Minecraft with ray tracing already exists, and it looks incredible, completely altering the look and feel of this over-10-year-old game. We even paired Minecraft with ray tracing and an NVIDIA RTX 3060 for even more beautiful results. However, Minecraft with ray tracing is currently available only for Minecraft: Bedrock Edition on Windows 10 when paired with high-end NVIDIA RTX GPUs.

Until recently, NVIDIA has been the sole pioneer of ray tracing technology, working together with Microsoft to create a robust set of tools that game developers can use to bring the tech to their games. Minecraft: Bedrock Edition is the perfect platform to show this off because the Render Dragon engine supports modern technologies like DXR through Microsoft DirectX 12. However, the Xbox Series X and Series S do not use NVIDIA graphics cards, so they don't support ray tracing, right? Well, they absolutely do, just not quite in the same way.

The Xbox Series X and Series S are using custom-designed AMD hardware for their CPU and GPU. This AMD hardware will utilize the full power of DirectX 12 Ultimate (Microsoft's suite of developer-centric tools and APIs) combined with AMD's advanced next-gen RDNA 2 architecture to bring ray tracing to console gaming (and AMD hardware) for the first time. Because of this, however, it might be a little longer before we see Minecraft with ray tracing on the Xbox Series X|S.

Minecraft with RTX is now a completed product on Windows 10, but it took months to get there and still isn't entirely perfect. To implement ray tracing with Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S, a lot of work is needed to pair AMD hardware with Microsoft's DirectX 12 and DXR (DirectX Raytracing).

There's no telling how far behind Minecraft is on the Xbox Series X and Series S, seeing as they're preparing ray tracing on new AMD hardware, a relatively recent arrival to the ray tracing field. In Austin Evan's early hands-on preview of the Xbox Series X above, he does show Minecraft with ray tracing in action on the Xbox Series X, and it looks awesome, as expected. Microsoft also made it clear to us, after the fact, that this was a technical demonstration of ray tracing on the Xbox Series X and in no way was a product announcement.

If you want all the details regarding Minecraft with ray tracing, be sure to check out our ultimate guide on Minecraft with ray tracing.

Will next-gen features come in a free update for Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S?

Xbox Series X Hero ThinSource: Matt Brown | Windows Central

If Minecraft is Optimized for Xbox Series X|S, there's absolutely no reason to expect Mojang Studios will do anything but release the enhancements as a free upgrade. Microsoft has been very clear about their stance here and has even told developers that they recommend providing next-gen upgrades in a free update for existing games rather than separate DLC or new games. Since Minecraft is a first-party Microsoft title, it's all but guaranteed to allow players to enjoy new features on Xbox Series X|S by simply installing a free upgrade.

Will Xbox Smart Delivery be used for Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S?

Xbox Series SSource: Matt Brown | Windows Central

A continuation of the last question, will Minecraft use Xbox Smart Delivery feature to deliver the next-gen Minecraft upgrade to Xbox Series X|S?

In case you didn't know, Smart Delivery is a technology that allows games to intelligently download only the parts of a game that is necessary for the platform. Someone playing on the Xbox One doesn't need the 4K assets and textures of the more powerful Series X or the next-gen textures of the Series S, so foregoing those assets leads to much smaller download sizes and even potentially improved performance. Smart Delivery also makes it seamless to upgrade a game for Xbox Series X|S and has led to several games receiving Xbox Series X|S upgrades in a far more leisurely fashion than on PS5, which requires PS5 games to be separate from PS4.

Like mentioned earlier, developers are encouraged to offer free upgrades to existing games to enable new next-gen features. Still, the final decision is up to the developers. Even if they decide to provide a free upgrade (which a lot already have), the delivery method is up to them as well. The most straightforward one so far has been Microsoft's Smart Delivery, as it means publishing a single game and then having the players' consoles download what they need to deliver the best possible experience to the player.

I fully expect Minecraft also to take advantage of Smart Delivery, being a first-party title. While it hasn't been confirmed, it would genuinely be shocking if Microsoft ignores its own advice and chooses an alternative upgrade path for players downloading Minecraft on their Xbox Series X and S consoles. Smart Delivery pairs nicely with Xbox's already-excellent cloud saves to make it as painless as possible to transition to Xbox Series X|S.

Will cross-play and cross-platform features remain in Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S?

Minecraft RTX ScreenshotSource: Windows Central

Minecraft has been a poster child for cross-platform support and was one of the earliest games to offer cross-play across platform lines. While many people feared that Microsoft would take Minecraft away from other platforms in favor of Xbox and Windows, that fear never came to pass, and Mojang Studios has continued their cross-platform love by releasing the Bedrock Edition for PlayStation 4. Even Minecraft Dungeons, an all-new IP for Mojang Studios that expands on the Minecraft franchise, launched simultaneously on Xbox One, Windows, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch and now features cross-play.

Minecraft being upgraded for next-gen consoles shouldn't affect cross-platform features in any way, as it'll all still be built on the universal Minecraft: Bedrock Edition. Players on Xbox Series X|S will have a superior gaming experience with new next-gen features, but they should still be able to play with all of their friends on other platforms, including Xbox One. Even the addition of real-time ray tracing shouldn't affect this since it's a single-button toggle on Windows 10. This means Xbox Series X|S players could enjoy the benefits of ray tracing while non-Xbox Series X|S players in the same lobby will see Minecraft as they always have.

Of course, there's always a chance that something will change here. Mojang Studios have confirmed nothing about Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S at all, so anything is possible. That being said, I firmly believe that a next-gen upgrade wouldn't affect Minecraft's cross-platform and cross-play features.

Will I keep all of my progression and purchases with cross-save for Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S?

Minecraft RTX ScreenshotSource: Windows Central

Since the version of Minecraft you'll play on the Xbox Series X and Series S will be the exact same as the version you'll play on other platforms and will be synced through your Microsoft account, Marketplace purchases should still carry over. Your maps should also carry over from Xbox One as long as you have cloud saves turned on, so you can download your maps and enjoy all the greatness that the Xbox Series X|S has to offer.

This is the benefit of taking advantage of features like Smart Delivery, because instead of having to figure out how to connect two entirely separate games (if a developer even bothers), Mojang Studios can use all the existing features in Minecraft that protect your progression. That means it should be easier than ever to keep all of your information moving forward and ensure any money you spent purchasing new maps, worlds, or packs in Minecraft doesn't go to waste on Xbox Series X|S.

Protecting cross-save also matters if you're coming from Minecraft: Bedrock Edition on another platform to Xbox Series X|S, as your Marketplace purchases like maps, skins, and texture packs should sync through your Microsoft Account.

When is the release date for Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S?

Xbox Series X, Xbox Series SSource: Matt Brown | Windows Central

The question to end all questions (and the one that gets asked most regularly on Windows Central social media accounts) is when Minecraft will be upgraded for the Xbox Series X and Series S. We have an entire article dedicated to when Minecraft with ray tracing will come to Xbox Series X|S, but the answer there is the same as here: we simply don't know.

Between an early technical demonstration of Minecraft with ray tracing running on Xbox Series X, Minecraft RTX working wonderfully on Windows 10, and the gaming technologies inside Xbox Series X|S progressively becoming more accessible, it's easy to assume and believe that Minecraft is definitely being upgraded for Xbox Series X|S. Unfortunately, there has been absolutely zero confirmation from Mojang Studios that it's actually happening, so we're not able to take guesses at a potential release date.

Recent rumors have suggested that Minecraft will receive its next-gen upgrade with the upcoming Caves and Cliffs Update. However, the Caves and Cliffs Update was recently split into two parts and partially delayed, so even if Minecraft was being upgraded for Xbox Series X|S with this next feature update it's still not clear. Should we expect it in Summer 2021 or Winter 2021? If the next-gen upgrade was planned, has it now been delayed beyond the Caves and Cliffs Update like the new archeology system? There's simply no way to know for sure.

If Mojang Studios is actively working on Minecraft with ray tracing for Xbox Series X|S, we know it's going to take some time. Microsoft and AMD have to work together to pair Microsoft's DirectX Ultimate APIs and DXR with AMD's RDNA 2 architecture. The potential of these technologies is tremendous, but it could take time to see them fully come to fruition. Mojang Studios also has to ensure that the Render Dragon engine powering Minecraft: Bedrock Edition can handle ray tracing and other upgrades on Xbox Series X|S without breaking anything or compromising on experience.

We're constantly looking for any additional information on when Minecraft could be upgraded for Xbox Series X|S. The moment we learn anything new, we'll be sure to update you right away. In the meantime, Minecraft does work on Xbox Series X and Series S right now through Xbox backward compatibility, and it does work well for the most part. Just don't expect any real benefits to playing on Xbox Series X|S versus Xbox One, as the experience is mostly identical.

Will the PlayStation 5 also see something similar to Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S?

PS5Source: Jennifer Locke | Windows Central

So what about the PlayStation 5? Sony's next-gen console boasts many of the same benefits as the Xbox Series X and Series S, so will the PS5 also get a next-gen upgrade for Minecraft? The answer here is a little bit muddier, but we can be more confident about some things on PS5. The PS5 is a true next-gen console, just like the Xbox Series X|S, and benefits from similar next-gen technologies like real-time ray tracing, powerful hardware, and speedy SSDs. PS5 differs in that it handles these technologies differently than Microsoft, choosing to use more custom solutions than Microsoft's DirectX or AMD's full RDNA 2.

Beyond the technical aspect of bringing Minecraft to PS5 with a next-gen upgrade, Microsoft may choose to hold back on fully supporting the PS5 at all. Minecraft is still a cross-platform game that gets new updates at the same time on PS5 as Microsoft platforms like Xbox and Windows, but that doesn't mean Microsoft has to support PS5 fully. For example, Minecraft Dungeons is now Xbox Series X|S Optimized but has yet to receive similar treatment on PS5.

On top of that, the Minecraft Dungeons next-gen upgrade is far simpler than what may happen with Minecraft and ray tracing. We know PS5 supports ray tracing and already has it in several games, but it's not clear how difficult it would be to implement it in Minecraft without using Microsoft's DirectX technologies.

If I had to hazard a guess, I'd suggest that Minecraft will not receive a next-gen upgrade on PS5. Any next-gen version of Minecraft will be reserved for Xbox Series X|S to ensure that Minecraft offers the best possible experience on Microsoft's platforms.

In a perfect world, Minecraft will be backward compatible on PS5, will receive a next-gen upgrade for free, and will still fully support cross-play with all other platforms, including Xbox Series X|S. However, there are a lot of unknowns here, so we'll have to wait a little longer to get a definitive answer.

With or without a next-gen upgrade, Minecraft firmly remains one of the best games on Xbox. Show your love of Minecraft with something from our list of best Minecraft merch, toys, and gifts.

A gaming masterpiece

Minecraft Bedrock Edition

Minecraft

Available everywhere you play.

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, Windows 10, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS. Play with anyone and play anywhere.

Xbox Series X/S

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Awesome Minecraft merch

We love Minecraft just as much as you do. These are some of our favorite Minecraft accessories.

Minecraft Guide Book Collection ($25 at Amazon)

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Minecraft Creeper T-shirt (From $7 at Amazon)

For the creeper in your life!

Creeper Hat ($14 at Amazon)

The spookiest hat of them all. Thankfully, it doesn't explode.

Minecraft Pig Plushie ($18 at Amazon)

Creepers too ugly? Try this cutesy plushie instead!

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