Minecraft and Mojang Studios shared this week that, after just over two years since its release, Minecraft Earth, a mobile-based spin-off of the wildly popular sandbox game Minecraft, will be coming to an end later this year, much to the dismay of fans of the Minecraft franchise.
In case you aren’t familiar with the title, Minecraft Earth is an augmented reality (AR) game that made its debut back in 2019. The title incorporated elements of the pop-culture sensation Minecraft, with augmented reality gameplay, and allowed players to collaboratively build Minecraft worlds on their mobile devices using the real-world as their sandbox. While the idea was well-received, being that the concept relies heavily on the collaborative real-world play, Minecraft Earth, like so many other things, has suffered as a result of the global pandemic that started at the beginning of 2020.
In a post on the Minecraft blog on Tuesday 1/5, the Minecraft Earth staff commented that:
Minecraft Earth was designed around free movement and collaborative play – two things that have become near impossible in the current global situation. As a result, we have made the difficult decision to re-allocate our resources to other areas that provide value to the Minecraft community and to end support for Minecraft Earth in June 2021.Minecraft Staff
While Minecraft Earth’s ending has been planned for later this year, Minecraft commented that there is still one update for the game, which was introduced the same day as the announcement and represents the “final build” of Minecraft Earth, and that the update contains changes were intended to help to allow users to “explore, craft, and build more – while staying safe indoors.”
The announcement rings the death-knell for Minecraft Earth, with the announcement specifying that effective July 1, 2021, Minecraft will “delete any Minecraft Earth player data unrelated to Character Creator and Minecoin entitlements.” Additionally, on June 30th, all content will be discontinued and service support will end, bringing to a close completely and totally any ability to play the game whatsoever. It seems users who have downloaded the game will no longer be able to load or play, which is not surprising given the share-experience nature of a game which, as a result, has no “offline” mode. More details on Minecraft Earth’s ending were made available on the Minecraft Earth Sunset FAQ page.
While endings are sad, Minecraft announced some exciting key changes being made to help fans enjoy the last 6 months of the game, including:
- Removing real-money transactions
- Drastically reducing ruby costs
- Including all completed, unreleased content currently in our pipeline
- Reducing time requirements for crafting and smelting
- Replacing unused crafting & smelting boosts with radius boosts of the same level
- Granting a set of Character Creator items to players who sign in between January 5 and June 30
Of course, existing players might naturally be concerned about past purchases made on their accounts and existing inventories of virtual goods that they have invested in. Minecraft noted that for players that have made past purchases:
All players with paid ruby balances will be granted Minecoins, which you can use on the Minecraft Marketplace to purchase skin and texture packs, maps, and even minigames. Plus, if you’ve ever made a purchase in Minecraft Earth, you will receive a free copy of Minecraft (the Bedrock version) so you can get a fresh start while grabbing some goodies from the Marketplace!
While good news that existing inventories of ruby will not be lost altogether, it does come with the concerning caveat that it will only bring value to players who play Minecraft in other forms. Even for players who have never played Minecraft on a different device, it is a positive outcome for Minecraft to compensate those players with a free copy of the base game and credit for their purchases in Minecraft Earth.
In the long-term, it is certainly possible that, given the popularity of Minecraft, Minecraft Earth or some derivative of this title might one-day resurface. After all, despite Minecraft’s age, it continues to be a pop-culture and game industry success, with millions of fans, new and old, continuing to be absorbed in one of the most successful sandbox games of all time. Will Minecraft Earth see a resurrection when, one day, the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 fades into memory? Only time will tell.