For a school project, I had to write an article in the style of a news story. The topic I chose was one I knew a lot about: Minecraft. More specifically, I wrote an article about Mojang's announcement of the Better Together Update for Minecraft Bedrock Engine/Codebase.
One of the things I've noticed in the Minecraft community has been a bit of confusion as to the specifics of the Better Together Update and what it actually is. Knowing this, I tried to write this article as if I was trying to explain the whole thing to someone with only a limited knowledge of Minecraft… someone who didn't keep up with all the news and updates and/or didn't know the technical details of Minecraft on various platforms (such as the multiple codebase situation). I tried to explain all the most important details in a way that would make sense to someone who had played Minecraft but wasn't a complete expert or nerd about it.
As instructed for the project, I also tried to follow the standard guidelines for what is considered a "news story": use a lead with the facts listed in order of importance, use only facts in the article and not insert my own personal opinions/ideas, and try to keep the article focused on the subject… only diverging when necessary to explain something important, and so on.
After writing this article, I decided it was good enough to post here on my website, both to serve as a quick reference for any time someone asks about the update, and also because I don't like spending lots of time on a project and then not making good use of it. Because this version of the article is on the web, I've had the opportunity to add some pictures that I had previously made for illustrative purposes, which should make the article even more informative.
Also, yes, I know the update appears to have been delayed until fall, but this article is supposed to be written as if it were made shortly after the announcement had actually happened, so I won't bother changing it.
So without further ado, here's the article in its entirety! Enjoy, and let me know in the comments what you thought of the article.
A major update to Minecraft bringing cross-platform play, 3rd-party servers, Realms, and the Marketplace to Xbox One and Nintendo Switch was announced by Mojang and Microsoft Studios at E3 2017. The update, titled "The Better Together Update", is planned to launch this summer on all Bedrock Engine platforms.
To be clear, the update for Xbox One and Nintendo Switch is not actually an update to the version of Minecraft already on those platforms, but rather a separate version entirely called the Bedrock Engine (or Bedrock Codebase), which is being ported to the Xbox One & Nintendo Switch this summer.
The Bedrock Engine is the version of the game which already runs on Android, Apple TV, Fire OS, Fire TV, Gear VR, iOS, Windows 10, and Windows 10 Mobile. The Bedrock version of the game allows players on all of its platforms to play with each other via LAN, 3rd-party servers, or Xbox Live. This version of the game is being ported to Xbox One and Nintendo Switch and will allow the same freedom of cross-play via Xbox Live, though unlike all the existing platforms, online multiplayer on Xbox One or Nintendo Switch will require a subscription to Xbox Live Gold or Nintendo Switch Online, respectively.
The current version of Minecraft on consoles is called Console Edition, and is developed by 4J Studios, unlike the Bedrock Codebase, which is developed by Mojang & Microsoft Studios. The Console Edition consists of Xbox 360 Edition, Xbox One Edition, PlayStation 3 Edition, PlayStation 4 Edition, PlayStation Vita Edition, Wii U Edition, and Nintendo Switch Edition. Despite running the same core code, none of these editions have cross-platform play with each other (except PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita).
Owners of the Xbox One Edition or Nintendo Switch Edition will be able to download the new Bedrock Engine port for those platforms for free, and will still have the ability to play the Console Edition version if they so choose. Players will also be able to transfer and convert worlds over to the new Bedrock versions of the game, and most DLC is also planned to transfer over as well. Additionally, 4J Studios will keep providing updates to the Console Edition codebase on all platforms, including Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
Various features that have been present in Console Edition but absent from the Bedrock codebase are being ported over in the Better Together Update (also known by its version number: 1.2), allowing for world conversions from Console Edition to work without data loss. Conversely, the introduction of the Bedrock Engine on Xbox One & Nintendo Switch will also give players on those platforms access to features that have existed on the Bedrock platforms, but not Console Edition, including the aforementioned cross-platform play via Xbox Live and access to 3rd-party servers.
Another one of the Bedrock Engine features that Xbox One and Nintendo Switch players will now be able to access is the Marketplace, an in-game store that allows players to not only purchase official resource packs, world templates, & skin packs, but also community-made content, made by content creators who have partnered with Mojang/Microsoft to put their content on the Marketplace for sale – or for free, if the creator wants to give it away. The majority of DLC on the Marketplace is cross-platform, and tied to Xbox Live accounts, so players who purchase a Marketplace item on one platform will have access to it on all other platforms. (There are exceptions, like the Super Mario Mash-up Pack, which will only be available on Nintendo Switch.)
It should be noted that free, custom, user-made content outside the Marketplace exists on all Bedrock platforms (except possibly Apple TV & Fire TV – we weren't able to confirm about those). It is currently planned for custom content to be possible on the Xbox One & Nintendo Switch ports via some unknown method, though there is currently no guarantee that this will come to fruition. If it did, it would be the first time Minecraft players on any console got access to free, custom skins, add-ons, & world templates – up until now, they have only had access to non-cross-platform official texture packs, skin packs, & mash-up packs, in the Console Edition in-game DLC store.
The Better Together Update is also introducing a "server browser" which will allow players to easily access a list of large 3rd-party servers that have partnered with Mojang/Microsoft without having to manually enter a server address.
The update will also bring Minecraft Realms, Mojang's always-online multiplayer world hosting subscription service, to Xbox One and Nintendo Switch for the first time.
The Bedrock Engine was also planned to be ported to PlayStation 4 as well, but when approached by Mojang/Microsoft Studios, Sony declined the offer due to the requirement of Xbox Live being used for the cross-platform multiplayer, Realms, and Marketplace.
The Better Together Update also brings a name change to the various Minecraft editions. All the Bedrock Engine-based editions (except the special Education Edition), will no longer have different names like "Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition", "Minecraft: Pocket Edition", and etc. Instead, all of them will be renamed to simply "Minecraft". The original version of Minecraft – the one written in Java that runs on Windows, macOS, & Linux – is being renamed to "Minecraft: Java Edition", as it is being phased out of the position of being the "reference version". (It will continue to be updated by Mojang as it always has, however, as it still has a place in the grand scheme of things, being the only version to run on macOS & Linux, and currently being easier to mod due to Java being a more "moddable" language, which has been taken advantage of by the well-known 3rd-party Forge API, which has been used by players to create thousands of mods for the Java Edition.)
Mojang has also announced another update planned to come out in the fall, which will introduce various graphical improvements to the game (including 4K support), as well as an official resource pack DLC intended for higher-end devices called the Super Duper Graphics Pack, which will add higher-resolution textures and fancy shaders to the game, making the game look significantly prettier.