Microsoft’s ‘Minecraft Earth’ AR game will shut down in June

Microsoft Corp. announced Tuesday that its augmented reality game “Minecraft Earth,” a game based on the popular building-block game by Mojang Studios, will shut down in June.

According to the company, the decision was prompted partly by the global pandemic making the game untenable. “Minecraft Earth” is an AR game that uses mobile devices to overlay Minecraft building blocks, creatures and monsters onto real-world landmarks and objects, which requires players to walk around outside. With the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been asked to stay indoors and avoid crowds as much as possible for safety.

Initially developed by Mojang AB in 2011, “Minecraft” is a voxel-based sandbox game that allows players to modify the world around them by carving out pieces of it and placing them however they like. The game saw worldwide popularity for years and maintained a massive following on YouTube. That popularity led Microsoft to acquire Mojang in 2014.

There is one remaining update, already rolling out to gamers, before the end of support for the game, which will make the game more enjoyable for solo players. For example, the update will remove real-money transactions, drastically remove in-game currency costs, reduce time requirements for all crafting and smelting and pretty much give everyone the ability to make anything in the game rapidly so that they can experience more of the game between now and June.

On June 30, Microsoft will discontinue all content releases and service support for “Minecraft Earth.” That means that all development will end. And after that date, the game will no longer be available for download. It will also become unplayable and all player data related to “Minecraft Earth” will be deleted.

All players with paid ruby balances, the in-game currency, will be refunded with Minecoins, the premium cash currency that can be used in the Minecraft marketplace to purchase skin and texture packs, maps and even minigames. Also, any players who have ever made a purchase in “Minecraft Earth” will receive a free copy of “Minecraft: The Bedrock Edition,” so they can get goodies in the marketplace.

“Minecraft Earth” initially launched into beta test mode in July 2019. It followed in the footsteps of other AR games that use mobile devices such as Ingress from Niantic Inc., which paved the way for this sort of outdoor gaming phenomenon.

Ingress itself laid the groundwork for extremely well-known “Pokemon Go,” which managed to dominate the game’s industry market during 2016 and helping the market log a staggering $91 billion in revenue. “Pokemon Go” itself has spawned other mechanically similar games such as “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” also from Niantic Inc.

For more information on the “Minecraft Earth” sunset process, Microsoft has posted a Frequently Asked Questions page.

Image: Microsoft

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