Everything you need to know about Minecraft for Xbox Series X

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Minecraft Nvidia Ray Tracing

Source: Mojang Studios / NVIDIA

We all know it’s coming: Microsoft’s next-generation gaming console, the Xbox Series X is set to release later this year in 2020, and it’s practically inevitable that Minecraft will be making moves to fully support and take advantage of its powerful hardware. Even if we don’t know all of the details, there’s a lot we can be confident of, especially that Minecraft, the world’s most popular game, will absolutely not be left behind by the Xbox Series X, the world’s most powerful console.

Here’s everything you need to know about Minecraft on the Xbox Series X.

A gaming masterpiece

Minecraft

Available everywhere you play.

Minecraft is an inarguable and complete success. It has sold copies in the hundreds of millions, has a huge following of dedicated players, and lets you unlock your every creative desire. It’s also available on every platform imaginable, including Xbox One, Windows 10, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch. Play with anyone, and play anywhere.

What is Minecraft on Xbox Series X?

Xbox Series X Reveal

Source: Microsoft

The Xbox Series X represents the beginning of a new generation of console gaming, with new powerful hardware pushing groundbreaking features that we haven’t seen in the console space yet, like super speedy SSD storage, ray tracing, and more reliable performance even with upgraded visuals. Minecraft, being one of Microsoft’s biggest and most successful franchises, will work on the Xbox Series X day one, even if it doesn’t immediately support all of the latest features that the Xbox Series X can utilize for next-gen games.

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Don’t expect a “Minecraft 2” or even a specific version of Minecraft built from the ground up for Xbox Series X. Instead, Mojang Studios will leverage the power and flexibility of Minecraft: Bedrock Edition, which currently spans Xbox One, Windows 10, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android, and iOS with one code base and feature set across all platforms. This is all possible due to the Bedrock foundation, and the Render Dragon engine, which allows Minecraft: Bedrock Edition to dynamically conform to whatever platform you’re playing on, with the same great experience and the gameplay you’re familiar with.

The Bedrock Edition will expand to encompass the next-gen gaming consoles, with some console-specific upgrades for the Xbox Series X. The exact delivery for this hasn’t been totally confirmed yet, nor the timeline, but we can be nearly certain about a lot of things. Here’s all that we know so far.

What next-gen features will Minecraft gain on Xbox Series X?

Minecraft NVIDIA Ray Tracing

Source: Mojang Studios / NVIDIA

The next-gen is all about making gaming more seamless. This means less time waiting, and more time playing. Right out of the gate, Minecraft should benefit from these immediate advantages of the Xbox Series X. You can expect much faster loading times due to the ultra fast SSD present in the Xbox Series X, more consistent performance (possibly at higher framerates, since Minecraft isn’t very resource hungry), smooth animations, greater draw distances (how far away you can see at once), and better stability when lots of things are happening on the screen, like explosions or large fights with multiple mobs.

Minecraft should also benefit from Quick Resume, which means you can have multiple games and applications suspended in the background, and nearly instantaneously resume them at a moment’s notice, without sacrificing performance. All of this should be present in Minecraft day one just due to running on the superior hardware of the Xbox Series X, but Mojang Studios can carefully optimize the game to take advantage of the Xbox Series X, making these benefits even more prevalent later down the line.

The most obvious feature Minecraft can take away from the Xbox Series X, however, is ray tracing. This revolutionary technology allows games to track the path of light beams in real time, leading to much realistic reflections, shadows, environments, and more. Mojang Studios has been working on ray tracing for months now.

What is ray tracing for Minecraft on Xbox Series X?

Minecraft NVIDIA Ray Tracing

Source: Mojang Studios / NVIDIA

Ray tracing is one of those vague gaming terms that the vast majority of gamers won’t concern themselves with, but when properly used can have real effects on how a game looks, particularly in the atmosphere department. On games that are already meant to be photo-realistic, ray tracing allows them to take it to the next level by accurately portraying lighting instead of simply “guessing” as was commonplace before. It’s very complicated, but fortunately you have us here to explain it to you!

Related: Everything you need to know about Minecraft with ray tracing

Ray tracing, down at its core, requires three things to work: capable hardware, supported drivers and software, and a game built with ray tracing in mind. With Xbox Series X, all three of these things will absolutely be present, with ray tracing being touted as an important next-gen feature for both the Xbox Series X and the Playstation 5. Minecraft should be one of the games to take advantage of this feature.

Now, it should be noted that Minecraft with ray tracing already exists, and it looks incredible, and completely alters the look and feel of this over ten year old game. However, Minecraft with ray tracing is in early beta, and it only works on Windows 10, with a select few high-end NVIDIA RTX graphics cards. This makes the tech extremely impressive, but limited in how many people can get their hands on it.

Up until this point, NVIDIA has been the sole pioneer of ray tracing technology, working together with Microsoft to create a powerful set of tools game developers can use to bring the tech to their own games. Minecraft: Bedrock Edition is the perfect platform to show this off because the Render Dragon engine supports modern technologies like DXR through Microsoft DirectX 12. However, the Xbox Series X does not use NVIDIA graphics cards, so it doesn’t support ray tracing, right? Well, at least not in the way we’ve seen it so far.

The Xbox Series X is using custom designed AMD hardware for its CPU and GPU, and will utilize the full power of DirectX Ultimate (Microsoft’s suite of developer-centric tools and API’s) to bring ray tracing to console game (and AMD hardware) for the first time. Because of this, however, it might be a little longer before we see Minecraft with ray tracing on the Xbox Series X. As is, Minecraft with ray tracing is awesome, but is missing tons of textures, features, and suffers from inconsistent performance and stability. It’s getting better, but it’s still ages away from being ready for primetime.

There’s no telling how far behind Minecraft is on the Xbox Series X, seeing as they’re preparing ray tracing on new, as-of-yet untested hardware from AMD, a new arrival to the ray tracing field. In Austin Evan’s early hands-on preview of the Xbox Series X, he does show Minecraft with ray tracing in action on the Xbox Series X at the 2:41 mark, and it looks awesome, as expected. Microsoft also made it clear to us, after the fact, that this was a technical demonstration of ray tracing on the Xbox Series X, and in no way was a product announcement.

If you want all the details regarding Minecraft with ray tracing, be sure to check out our resource here.

Will Minecraft gain next-gen features in a free update on Xbox Series X?

Xbox Series X Top

Source: Microsoft

There’s absolutely no reason to expect Minecraft do anything but release a free update for Xbox Series X that enables the new features. Microsoft has been very clear about their stance here, and have even told developers that they recommend providing next-gen upgrades in a free update for existing games, rather than a separate DLC or a new game. Since Minecraft is a first-party Microsoft title, it’s all but confirmed to allow players to enjoy new features on Xbox Series X by simply installing a free update to their game.

Will Minecraft use Microsoft’s Smart Delivery feature on Xbox Series X?

Xbox Series X

Source: Microsoft

A continuation of the last question, will Minecraft use the new Smart Delivery feature on Xbox Series X? This technology allows games to intelligently download only the parts of a game that is necessary for the platform it’s being played on. Someone playing on the Xbox One doesn’t need the 4K assets and textures of the more powerful Series X, so foregoing those assets leads to much smaller download sizes, and even potentially better performance.

Like mentioned above, developers are encouraged to offer free updates to existing games to enable new next-gen features, but at the end of the day the final decision is up to the developers, and even if they decide to offer a free upgrade (which a lot already have), the method of delivery is up to them as well. The most straightforward one so far has been Microsoft’s Smart Delivery, as it means publishing a single game and then having the players’ consoles download what they need to deliver the best possible experience to the player.

I fully expect Minecraft to also take advantage of Smart Delivery, being a first-party title. While it hasn’t been confirmed, it would genuinely be shocking of Microsoft ignores its own advice and chooses an alternative upgrade path for players downloading Minecraft on their Xbox Series X.

Will Minecraft remain cross-platfrom and keep cross-play on Xbox Series X?

The world comes together

Source: Windows Central

Minecraft has been a poster child for cross-platform support, and was one of the earliest games to offer cross-play across platform lines as well. While many people feared that Microsoft would take Minecraft away from other platforms in favor of Xbox and Windows, that fear never came to pass, and Mojang Studios has continued their cross-platform love by releasing the Bedrock Edition for Playstation 4. Even Minecraft Dungeons, an all-new IP for Mojang Studios that expands on the Minecraft franchise, launched simultaneously on Xbox One, Windows, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

Even going next-gen, Minecraft should absolutely remain cross-platform. In fact, I firmly believe that Minecraft will still push for cross-play as well, at the very least between Xbox One, Windows and the Series X, although I’d also expect other platforms to remain compatible with cross-play with the Xbox Series X as well. Minecraft only makes sense when everyone can jump on and play, and this shouldn’t change with the next-gen consoles.

Will I keep all of my progression and purchases with cross-save for Minecraft on Xbox Series X?

A nice cobblestone tower

Source: Windows Central

Since the version of Minecraft you’ll play on the Xbox Series X will be the exact same as the version you’ll play on other platforms, and will all be synced through your Microsoft Account, Marketplace purchases should still carry over. Your maps should also carry over from Xbox One as long as you have cloud saves turned on, so you can download your maps and enjoy all the greatness that the Xbox Series X has to offer.

This is the benefit of taking advantage of features like Smart Delivery, because instead of having to figure out how to connect two entirely separate games (if a developer even bothers), Mojang Studios can use all the existing features in Minecraft that protect your progression. That means it should be easier than ever to keep all of your information moving forward, and ensure any money you spent purchasing new maps, worlds, or packs in Minecraft doesn’t go to waste on Xbox Series X.

When is the release date for Minecraft on Xbox Series X?

It's a jungle out there

Source: Windows Central

Even if Minecraft isn’t ready to implement next-gen features the day the Xbox Series X launches, it’ll still be fully supported day one using the power of backwards compatibility, meaning you can play Minecraft just like it was on an Xbox One X, but with some extra juice from your new Xbox Series X. Whenever next-gen features for Minecraft are released, Smart Delivery should ensure that an Xbox Series X downloads and installs the latest updates with all the goodies it can offer, while older consoles will play it safe.

The release date for Minecraft on the Xbox Series X is the exact same date as the Xbox Series X. The release date for Minecraft fully supporting the Xbox Series X, including with ray tracing, is yet to be determined. We could be surprised and get a fully fleshed out Minecraft immediately upon launch, but I would expect the update to come later on down the line.

Will the Playstation 5 also see something similar to Minecraft on Xbox Series X?

Playstation 5 Console

Source: Sony

So what about the Playstation 5? Sony’s next-gen console boasts many of the same benefits as the Xbox Series X, albeit with a little less power, so will the Playstation 5 also get a next-gen Minecraft? The answer here is a little bit more muddy, because Sony hasn’t been as clear on things like next-gen upgrades, or backwards compatibility. Minecraft will probably be backwards compatible on the Playstation 5, meaning you can play it exactly as it was on the Playstation 4, but we can’t be certain.

As for taking advantage of next-gen features like ray tracing on the Playstation 5, we’re not so sure. Microsoft may choose to hold back on fully supporting the Playstation 5 in order to make sure the best version of Minecraft is on Xbox Series X, or things like ray tracing may be much harder to implement on Playstation 5 without things like DirectX Ultimate. We just don’t know right now, mostly because Sony hasn’t been very forthcoming with that information.

In a perfect world, Minecraft will be backwards compatible on Playstation 5, will receive a next-gen upgrade for free on Playstation 5, and will still fully support cross-play with all other platforms, including Xbox Series X. However, there are a lot of unknowns here, so we’ll have to wait a little longer to get a definitive answer.

Are you excited for Minecraft on Xbox Series X? Are there any questions you’d like us to answer? Let us know in the comments below!

A gaming masterpiece

Minecraft

Available everywhere you play.

Minecraft is an inarguable and complete success. It has sold copies in the hundreds of millions, has a huge following of dedicated players, and lets you unlock your every creative desire. It’s also available on every platform imaginable, including Xbox One, Windows 10, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch. Play with anyone, and play anywhere.

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