A little over a year after bringing Minecraft Earth in the US, Microsoft announced this week it will shut down the game later this year. Minecraft Earth players have until June 30th, 2021, to play the augmented reality title before Microsoft shuts down its servers and it's no longer available to download from app marketplaces.
Developer Mojang Studios blamed the coronavirus pandemic and all the changes to day-to-day life that have come with it for the shutdown. "Minecraft Earth was designed around free movement and collaborative play - two things that have become near impossible in the current global situation," the studio said. Like Niantic with Pokémon Go, Mojang had tweaked the game to make it easier to play at home. Those changes clearly weren't enough.
But if there's a silver lining in today's news, it's that Mojang plans to send off Minecraft Earth in style. The studio is rolling out one last update for the game it says contains changes "to make your time in Minecraft Earth as fun as possible." Among other tweaks, the update does away with real-money transactions and drastically reduces the time it will take for players to craft and build things within the game. It also offers players a chance to see all the content that Mojang was working on before today's announcement. "We hope these adjustments will allow you to explore, craft, and build more - while staying safe indoors," the studio said.
Once June 30th comes and goes, Microsoft will delete player data on July 1st. If you spent money in Minecraft Earth at any point during the life of the game, you'll get a token that will allow you to download the Bedrock edition of Minecraft to your mobile device. You can find more details on the shutdown on the Minecraft website.
For Microsoft, this is without a doubt a disappointing end to Minecraft Earth. When we first the game in action at WWDC 2019, it was clear the company had high hopes for the game. The fact Minecraft Earth couldn't survive through the pandemic, with all of Microsoft's resources at its disposal, isn't a good sign for the future of consumer AR applications.
"We're eternally grateful for the amazing talent in the Minecraft community," Mojang said. "This was not an easy decision, and we're doing everything we can to make sure you get the most out of Minecraft Earth before it sunsets."