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Microsoft's Minecraft + HoloLens Looks Great, but That's Not How It Will Really Look

Just how much of a Minecraft world can a HoloLens user see?


The constant drumbeat of marketing at E3 is all about spectacle. For years, gamers have complained about video game trailers that emphasize perfectly rendered CGI scenes over real gameplay.

At its E3 press conference Monday, Microsoft showed that it’s also blurring the line between vision and reality with what is sure to be a killer app for its HoloLens smart glasses, Minecraft. The hugely popular 3-D game from Mojang, which Microsoft bought last year for $2.5 billion, got a live demo onstage, followed by rapturous applause from the audience.

Here’s the problem: What was shown onstage wasn’t what Minecraft HoloLens will look like, unless Microsoft can make a major breakthrough in glasses technology before the HoloLens’ release.

Eric Johnson

To accomplish the demo, Microsoft told attendees, it was using a special camera that would show everyone the same HoloLens graphics that an onstage demo-er would be seeing. The end result was impressive, with the demo-er interacting live via HoloLens touch and voice gestures with another player, Mojang’s Lydia Winters.

However, those who have tried HoloLens say it has a much smaller field of view than what that special camera was seeing. Slashgear described the experience of using current prototypes as “roughly the same as looking at a 60-inch TV from perhaps 6-8 feet away.”

In other words, explained Gartner analyst Brian Blau, what a Minecraft HoloLens player would actually see would be a rectangle-shaped slice of what the camera captured.

“That camera was showing a very wide field of view, but I’m positive that what the guy on the stage was seeing was a narrower field of view than we saw in demos at Microsoft Build and at the launch,” Blau said. “He would see a little moving window of the graphics.”

Blau added that Monday’s demo suggested Microsoft was making Minecraft a “more serious” selling point for its AR smart glasses.

“I think the big question is whether Microsoft is going to pursue other game content for HoloLens, and how much of it,” he said. “They certainly haven’t talked about a release date or a price, all of those kind of things.”

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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