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Microsoft demos first gameplay of augmented reality mobile game Minecraft Earth

Ahead of this summer's closed beta.

Microsoft has offered a first look at its augmented reality mobile game, Minecraft Earth, ahead of its planned iOS and Android beta launch this summer.

Minecraft Earth, which was formally unveiled with a fancy CGI trailer last month, is an intriguing mix of Pokemon-Go-like collecting (although, in this case, you're searching out building resources rather than critters on your local map) and augmented reality construction, very much like Microsoft's old Minecraft HoloLens tech demo.

It's this second element - which enables multiple players to build virtual Minecraft structures together in the same real-world space - that Microsoft has now revealed.

UPDATE: It looks like Apple has been on a YouTube copyright-striking adventure since I wrote this story, so you'll probably need to watch Microsoft's Minecraft Earth gameplay reveal via Apple's official WWDC 2019 keynote stream for the time being. Unfortunately, it's non-embeddable so you'll want to go here and skip to the 2:01:00 mark.

The four-minute-long demonstration took place during yesterday's Apple WWDC keynote, with Mojang employees initially working on a small-scale Minecraft build set on a table. This sequence was nifty enough, with presenters demoing Minecraft's familiar construction elements, and a number of other features, all while moving around the structure in real-time.

Things get just a little bit magical, however, when the build is scaled up to a much larger space - in this case, the whole stage. With the model now pretty much at a life-size scale, presenters were able to walk around the structure, super-imposed as if part of the scene (an iOS-exclusive feature, apparently) for those observing through their screens. It's gimmicky, sure, but there's undoubtedly huge appeal for builders in seeing their carefully designed creations coming to full-sized, explorable, interactive life.

Minecraft Earth is scheduled to launch in closed beta on iOS and Android later this summer, and those hoping to get in early can register their interest on the Minecraft site right now.

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Matt Wales

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Matt Wales is a writer and gambolling summer child who won't even pretend to live a busily impressive life of dynamic go-getting for the purposes of this bio. He is the sole and founding member of the Birdo for President of Everything Society.