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
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
Minecraft with raytracing on Xbox? The latest Minecraft Preview is optimized for Xbox Series S / X and has early raytracing support 👀 pic.twitter.com/cqH0cuGbtSMinecraft with raytracing on Xbox? The latest Minecraft Preview is optimized for Xbox Series S / X and has early raytracing support 👀 pic.twitter.com/cqH0cuGbtS— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) March 28, 2022March 28, 2022
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:
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
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.
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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. Unfortunately, Minecraft doesn't take advantage of the hardware on offer in Xbox Series X|S at all, and it's not clear if it ever will.
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Is the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate the best value in all of gaming? It's possible. Ultimate bundles your Xbox Live Gold subscription, Xbox Game Pass for Xbox consoles and PC Game Pass for Windows devices, and Xbox Cloud Gaming for on-the-go fun. Minecraft is included, but it won't blow your mind on Xbox Series X|S.
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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.