It’s a good thing I’m nearing my goal of a (temporarily) complete Pokédex in Pokémon GO, because Microsoft and Mojang are dropping a brand-new augmented reality obsession for me to lose myself in on mobile. Minecraft Earth has been going live in various locations around the world for a little while now, but now it’s available for download on both iOS and Android in the US. Just search for it and hop on in.
The last major competition for Pokémon GO’s augmented reality crown was Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, also from Pokémon GO developer Niantic. That didn’t really pan out, but Minecraft Earth seems like it’s going to have a much better shot of making an impact in the space, even if it’s unlikely that anything is going to quite touch Pokémon GO.
This is still technically early access, but in the video game world a wide release is a wide release, particularly for an anticipated property. There is a more expansive version yet to come, but for now you can spend plenty of time collecting resources and building things, bringing that core Minecraft loop to…everywhere.
My only concern here is that mid-November is a…curious time to launch an augmented reality game. Pokémon GO and Harry Potter both launched in the summer, when the kids are off from school and the temperatures are a little more conducive to chasing after virtual prizes in the real world. This is a bit trickier: it was 25 degrees in Philadelphia this morning, and that makes me a little bit less inclined to pull my phone out and swipe around with my trembling fingers.
But I suppose that’s the release plan here: start out with early access here in the chilly months to keep populations under control as the developer hammers out implementation and technical issues, and then make a wider push when things start to thaw out in the spring. Minecraft has better name recognition than just about any other video game property on the planet, so that doesn’t exactly hurt. It also has a relatively wide and young fanbase, which might get at some populations that are both interested in playing a game like this but aren’t yet playing Pokemon GO, which seems to trend a little bit older.