Mojang Studios needs to come clean about Minecraft and ray tracing on Xbox Series X|S

Minecraft RTX Screenshot
Minecraft RTX Screenshot (Image credit: Windows Central)

It has now been 18 months since the initial release of Microsoft's Xbox Series X and Series S duo of consoles, and in that time, dozens of new games have been released that attempt to take advantage of their powerful hardware. Even many of Microsoft's older first-party titles have since been updated to look and perform better on the new consoles. Unfortunately, one game under the Xbox Game Studios umbrella refuses to shine on Xbox Series X|S, and players are left with little hope it ever will: Minecraft.

Minecraft is one of the best Xbox games of all time, but is it one of the best games on Xbox Series X|S? Eighteen months later, one of the world's most successful and influential titles still doesn't take advantage of the latest generation of video game hardware, despite long-standing rumors that something is in the works.

After a recent mishap let a small handful of players gain access to prototype code of what Minecraft can be on Xbox Series X|S, Mojang Studios needs to come clean about what the future holds — where is the Xbox Series X|S Optimized version of Minecraft, and why isn't it here, yet?

Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S

Minecraft RTX Screenshot

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

This is far from the first time I've discussed Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S. Most notably, I waxed long in my post evaluating why Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S is an unfortunate disappointment, an article that I wrote over 11 months ago that has, sadly, aged remarkably well. I've touched on the subject on multiple other occasions, and all of those words remain true regardless of how long ago they were written.

I won't rehash everything I've previously said yet another time. Suffice to say, Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S is still disappointing, and there has been practically no improvement since Microsoft first released its powerful Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. Of course, Minecraft running more or less the same on Xbox Series X|S as it does on everything else isn't in and of itself a bad thing — Minecraft is still a classic, timeless video game.

The issue stems from Mojang Studios' disconcerting lack of communication on the subject; something I covered when discussing why the legendary studio sometimes feels like a much smaller, underfunded studio than it really is. Minecraft players eagerly awaiting the arrival of enhancements for Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S, especially for the long-rumored ray tracing already available on Windows PCs, have been left with little to no reason to expect anything better.

That all changed near the end of March 2022, until Mojang Studios dashed all hope again.

A short-lived taste of rays

See more

On March 28, 2022, it surfaced on Twitter that a small number of users enrolled in Minecraft Preview on Xbox Series X|S had gained access to a new "Optimized" build. The elusive build enabled the "ray tracing" toggle in Minecraft's settings, and allowed Xbox Series X|S owners to experience an early build of Minecraft in its full, beautiful, ray-traced glory. Understandably, many players became extremely excited by the leaked build, which strongly indicated that Mojang Studios was finally preparing to test a current-gen version of Minecraft with players.

Unfortunately, the fun was short-lived. Only three days later, Mojang Studios removed the ray tracing support from any players lucky enough to have it, and released the following statement:

The previous Minecraft Preview build available to Xbox Insiders inadvertently included prototype code for ray tracing support on Xbox consoles. This early prototype code has been removed from Preview and doesn't signal near future plans to bring ray tracing support to consoles.

While the statement doesn't explicitly deny that ray tracing is still planned for an eventual release on Xbox Series X|S consoles, it devastated any assumption that it would at least enter into early testing with the Minecraft community any time soon. Even more egregious was Mojang Studios' stubborn insistence on remaining purposefully vague and aloof, immediately returning to "business as usual" after the statement and refusing to touch on the subject again.

For a few short days, a handful of players caught a glimpse of the future of Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S, as rough and unfinished as it was. This insignificant window of time interrupted months of utter silence from Mojang Studios, despite repeated and endless complaints and questions from the Minecraft community, only for the same heavy silence to return as if the mistake had never happened.

It's time to come clean

Minecraft RTX Screenshot

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

It's obvious that Mojang Studios never intended for players to see the build that was leaked, and the state of the build made it clear ray-traced Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S is unfinished. Nevertheless, Mojang Studios cannot rescind what has already happened. Even disregarding the studio's insistence on secrecy before the leaked build, it's unforgivable to blatantly dismiss the situation with a singular, ambiguous statement without providing any additional information to the community on which Mojang Studios relies to make Minecraft the game that it is.

It may very well be true that a current-gen upgrade for Minecraft on Xbox Series X|S is far from ready for release; it may even be true that Mojang Studios is unsure of its timeline or how long such an endeavor will take. Video game development is an iceberg of complications with much hidden below the surface.

What we do know is that ray tracing was originally demoed on the Xbox Series X using Minecraft in March 2020. More than two years later, an early build fell into the hands of the Minecraft community that enabled ray tracing in Minecraft on Microsoft's current-gen consoles. We learned nothing in that two-year gap, and we have learned nothing since. It's time for Mojang Studios to come clean about its progress so far, and to tell the Minecraft community the truth about Minecraft and ray tracing on Xbox Series X|S.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.

  • Maybe due to performance suffering a big hit with ray tracing?
  • That definitely could be a reason, but my point isn't that I want Mojang Studios to release it no matter how ready it is. I just want to know what's going on.
  • This is probably at least part of the reason lots of games get released in an unfinished state, because people like you are constantly making comments like this and putting pressure on developers to release the games before they're ready. Just stop it, the world does not revolve around you nor does it care what you want.
  • What a weird take, he basically just says for them to be transparent and you complain about him forcing them to release an unfinished product. It makes no sense.
  • Zachary literally just said that's NOT what he wants. Dense.
  • Okay, I either read it incorrectly or somebody edited their comment. Either way, my mistake and I apologize. I may have reacted too quickly because I have seen so many comments where people are just complaining over and over that games take too long to develop and basically begging for it to release before it is ready because, "they want to play it already" and then rip the developer a new one when it gets released in an unfinished state. It's ridiculous and I thought that was another one of those people.
  • Don't apologize, the article tone was written as if it were a scandal.
  • I see you've corrected your mistake about the article below so I won't jump on ya too. (Edited my comment)
  • Ray tracing is clearly the "4K" of this generation.
  • What they really need to do is optimize Minecraft Bedrock for Xbox One. It is inexcusably bad, especially compared to the Xbox One Edition of the game it forcibly replaced. There's not excuse for a phone game of a few hundred MBs taking 4-5 minutes from launch to boots on the ground. That's seriously how long it takes to load up the game, get in a world, and start walking around on Bedrock on Xbox One. It's absurd.
  • Pretty disappointed with rtx on bedrock as a PC player. BSL shaders on java look better, and perform better if we ignore dlss, on a version of Minecraft that isn't as optimized for performance.
  • I agree. I've been waiting for an update on this for about 5 years; since the Super Duper Graphics Pack. I bought a Series X so that Minecraft would have a larger render distance and better performance. So I am shocked how little Mojang have talked about it yet.
  • Enhanced Graphics Minecraft on console is like GTA 6, it's a myth, it's not real 😂 (anybody remember the promise of One X upgraded visuals?)
  • Mojang advertised the "Super Duper Graphics Pack" 4 years ago for Xbox One X and it was complete vaporware. (They even spent thousands of dollars making a celebrity studded musical ad.) Next they did the stupid RTX stunt which is a stupidly slow method of achieving terrible lighting fidelity. Many thought the "Super Duper Graphics Pack" turned into RTX Minecraft. It didn't. RTX in Minecraft is still awful. The launch of RTX Minecraft was supremely lazy with initial releases only working in a select few maps. Then they used Minecraft to advertise the new raytracing support on the Xbox Series consoles. Surprise surprise. It's vaporware. At what point does this change from negligence in public communications to complete false advertising?
  • They definitely need to say something about the progress or lack of but, either way it's only fair to let us know whether or not to keep waiting for it or forget it altogether. Only way they'll say anything is if we keep making noise about it like this article.
  • Microsoft has to do something about improving games or even adding something to their owned titles. Minecraft on xbox succks and it looks like they do not even care. While Sony and nintendo makes sure that their games work and look the best on their consoles.