Minecraft has been available on tons of different devices in the past. Now, Microsoft is finally bringing all those platforms together with the “Better Together” update, which is rolling out today for Xbox One, mobile devices, and Windows 10 PCs. The Nintendo Switch is still set to get the Better Together update, too, although that’s been delayed until later in the winter.
The update essentially takes the different versions of Minecraft that have been available on PC, Xbox, iOS, and Android, and consolidates them into one master version, with the same features, functionality, and content no matter where you play. That means that the console versions of Minecraft on Xbox One (and eventually, the Nintendo Switch) will now run the same version of Minecraft as PCs, mobile, and VR, built on what Microsoft calls the Bedrock Engine.
But the biggest advantage to creating a single version of Minecraft across all these platforms is that cross-play will be possible between Minecraft games. This means that you’ll be able to play Minecraft on your PC with a friend playing on an Xbox, while your buddy joins in from their Android phone. Microsoft is calling this the first time a game has offered cross-play across all these platforms, and with the addition of the Nintendo Switch to the mix, Minecraft could be one of the first true platform-agnostic titles, which is an incredible thing.
You may notice that the PlayStation 4 is glaringly absent from that list. That’s because Sony has — once again — decided to sit out on cross-platform play, an unfortunately familiar refrain from the company this console generation. Similar issues have come up with Rocket League, and most recently Fortnight, which accidentally enabled Xbox One and PlayStation 4 cross-play before pulling the feature. Sony has offered numerous explanations for avoiding cross-play in the past, including citing concerns of protecting children online, but given that the console still has a considerable competitive lead when it comes to users and sales, it’s unlikely that it will be budging on that issue anytime soon.
In an interview with Engadget, Microsoft Studios CVP Matt Booty commented, “We just flat-out couldn't get those two completely in sync,” in regard to getting Minecraft cross-play with the PlayStation 4. Although, he noted that Microsoft is continuing to talk with Sony on the issue.
Also missing are the Mac and Linux versions of Minecraft, which will continue to exist alongside the original PC version as the renamed Java Edition for now. It’s supposed to continue to receive updates and get them along a similar time frame as the Bedrock Engine version.
That said, the unified Bedrock Engine version will be the canonical Minecraft title moving forward, with the original PC title and older console-specific versions getting appended “Edition” names like Minecraft: Wii U Edition and Minecraft: Java Edition to tell them apart from the core Minecraft title.