LOS ANGELES—As expected, Xbox’s official E3 press conference included a major Minecraft segment, but the company’s biggest cash cow had two surprises up its sleeve: a massive visual overhaul, and a pledge to unify all versions of the game across all of its platforms.
The first of those surprises, the “Super-Duper Graphics Pack,” will be downloadable “this fall” as a free upgrade for the game. The brief trailer shows the game’s existing blocky elements and early textures untouched, though some of the blocky shapes now have smaller blocks chiseled out. More importantly, the game’s complete visual pipeline has seen a substantial upgrade, meaning Minecraft might finally look impressive on your shiny 4K TV. A completely redone lighting system exposes more shadows but also includes physically based light sources, which means characters running up to surfaces will reflect little bits of light in impressive fashion.
Meanwhile, the Mojang team confirmed plans to bring all versions of the game to parity, which it will achieve by connecting those various games—including many not on Microsoft platforms—via the Xbox Live service. Mojang brand director Lydia Winters pledged to unify the games’ versions on “mobile, VR, PCs and consoles.” There’s no telling exactly how Microsoft plans to inject Xbox Live connectivity into rivals’ systems, and we look forward to clarification on this seeming technical hurdle.