Microsoft-owned Mojang is to pull down the shutters on Minecraft Earth, citing the "current global situation" as a factor in the decision to axe the augmented reality game.
Launched back in 2019, the game featured heavily in Microsoft's last major in-person event, Ignite 2019, as CEO Satya Nadella took to the stage to deliver a keynote bookended with a slightly toe-curling attempt to play the game while showing off the company's Azure-powered augmented reality and spatial anchor smarts.
Launched amid the Pokémon Go phenomenon, Minecraft Earth was, according to Mojang, "designed around free movement and collaborative play" – two activities somewhat frowned upon thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Rather than wait out the virus, Mojang has opted to pull the plug and end support from 30 June 2021, at which point the servers will be turned off and players shown a Sunset information screen.
Players have until then to gather, virtually, around the campfire, sing songs and tell stories of the game's impressively short life. Mojang emitted an update last night "to make your time in Minecraft Earth as fun as possible"... "while staying safe indoors."
The update also strips out real-money transactions and drops in "all completed, unreleased content currently in our pipeline."
One can almost hear hands being wrung as the team said: "We have made the difficult decision to re-allocate our resources to other areas that provide value to the Minecraft community," and, of course, the existing Minecraft cash cow won't be going anywhere as long as one has that all-important Microsoft account. After all, 2021 is the year of the great migration.
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The Minecraft behemoth has rumbled on regardless, as an early FAQ observed: "Minecraft Earth has a separate team dedicated to its development, so that both it and vanilla Minecraft can get the love and care they deserve."
That "love and care", for the former at least, was a short, sharp shove off a cliff when the going got tough. It's a shame and some have suggested that perhaps the game had been less profitable than hoped. It was also easier to play Minecraft Earth without leaving the house (if you were so inclined) than the likes of Pokémon Go.
Minecraft Earth is not alone. The augmented reality and location-based Ghostbusters World was axed in 2020. Pokémon Go, however, has continued to rake in the billions.
No flowers, pixellated or otherwise. ®