Microsoft is working on a new version of Minecraft, built specifically for the Hololens augmented reality headset. That’s a dry way of describing the most tangible and surprising moment of their conference; and that, in turn, is a dry way of saying, ‘by Odin’s mighty shits, did an actual wizard create this?’
It was a notable moment, specifically because it represents an entirely new way of interacting with games. We’ve seen virtual reality before, but this was the most vivid demonstration of how augmented reality works. The description of Minecraft as living Lego has never felt more appropriate; a sea of building blocks to play with, and zero need to clear them up afterwards. It’s exciting because progress, but also because Minecraft could be the killer app for Hololens: what could be better than shoving your face through blocky recreation of Westeros, or perhaps more likely, tittering at a stonking great cobblestone wang only you can see.
There are some concerns, though; firstly, this looks too meaty for Xbox One to handle. Secondly, Hololens is a flashy piece of tech, likely to be outside the pocket money price range of younger Minecraft enthusiasts. It leads to the question, ‘who’s this actually for?’ Sadly, it’s a question without an answer; one we’ll leave hanging there, like toilet tissue stuck on the back of your pants.
Another concern is that it looks light on play. The intro was surprising and bold - a Minecraft world rising from the sand, like magically unearthed Incan city (albeit one with snow and balloons and a giant man leering through the walls). What followed, however, was fiddly. Aside from some directed lighting strikes, perfect for summoning zombie pigmen, it’s hard to see where the actual game is. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. If YouTube has taught us anything other than what happens when you put ham on cats, it’s that Minecraft is a game more people watch than play. It’s uniquely captivating. If that same spirit of voyeurism and creativity can be revitalised, millions of people will suddenly have a reason to invest in Hololens.
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