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caption: A sample display of players on Minecraft Earth
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A sample display of players on Minecraft Earth
Credit: Courtesy of Microsoft

Minecraft Earth (think the new Pokemon Go) is free in Seattle and London

Remember Pokemon Go, when hoards of people ambled through cities, looking for creatures to capture with their phone?

Microsoft has released a version of Minecraft that might hearken back to that 2016 heyday. Minecraft Earth is an augmented reality game where players build worlds together.

Right now it’s a closed beta only available in Seattle and London on iPhone. Ars Technica tech culture editor Sam Machkovich said right now it takes a lot of jumping through hoops to get it.

How it works: You point your phone somewhere and then pull up what’s called a “build plate.”

“At that point an entire blocky world emerges through your camera on your floor or on your table. You hold the phone around to look at it from any angle and then tap on the phone to build all the little blocky pieces however you want,” Machkovich said, speaking to KUOW's Bill Radke on The Record.

Bill Radke interviews Sam Machkovich on 'The Record' Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

The features you would normally get while playing Minecraft on Xbox are available, so you may add a full pastoral scene complete with a herd of cows in downtown Seattle.

The real selling point is being able to work with other people.

“You and other friends can sync up using a QR code and therefore all build together in the same place,” Machkovich said.

He said the game is still very much a beta – wonky and glitchy. But Machkovich also said that’s how the original Minecraft got its start, too.

“It became a phenomenon because it was open ended – because kids weren’t just chasing a princess or following a specific plot. They could kind of do whatever they want,” he said.

Produced for the web by Kara McDermott.