It looks like Microsoft will finally make good on its promise to bring Minecraft to augmented reality, as foreshadowed via a HoloLens demo in 2015.
But there's a plot twist — AR Minecraft may debut as a mobile app rather than as a HoloLens experience. On Monday, in conjunction with Build 2019, Microsoft shared a teaser video that managed to give gamers a glimpse of what to expect while still remaining cryptic on details, hence earning its status as a teaser.
Judging by the video, it looks like Microsoft is working on serving up an experience that will enable players to encounter the game's trademark blocky characters in augmented reality and interact with them via a similar set of actions, with the familiar pictograph menu displayed on the screen.
But there are so many questions unanswered! Is this full-fledged Minecraft in AR? Or will it follow Niantic's Pokémon GO formula? Will it integrate with Xbox Live? Could the prop department not find a new smartphone to use in the video other than a Samsung Galaxy S from the physical home button era? Alas, the rest of the details will be unveiled during a livestream on May 17.
While there is a sense of irony that Minecraft is being primed to make its AR debut on mobile rather than HoloLens, the move is actually in keeping with Microsoft's recent business practices.
Though the company will continue to support Windows 10 Mobile through Dec. 10, 2019, the truth is that the company raised the white flag on its mobile OS and ecosystem long ago in favor of publishing mobile apps on iOS and Android.
That approach has extended to its augmented reality apps, as two of its enterprise AR apps will make their ways to the iOS and Android this year.
Considering that Microsoft is fully positioning HoloLens 2 as a business machine rather than a consumer toy, it's reasonable to imagine that Minecraft may not have made its way to AR for another two or three years if Microsoft's HoloLens product cycles hold true to form.
Minecraft AR on mobile may not be the experience AR gamers deserve, but it is the one they need right now. So we'll tune in on May 17.