The Xbox 360 LIVE Arcade Edition of Minecraft was initially announced by Notch at the 2011 E3 Press Event, at which time Notch confirmed that the Xbox 360 Edition would exclusively represent the game in the console realm, emphatically stating that there would be no Wii or PS3 version made. Shortly after that announcement he is rumored to have said that there will also be no PlayStation Vita Edition for the Pocket Edition of the game either, despite buzz that there would be, and this has since been confirmed.
After the announcement at the Microsoft Press Event before E3 2011 officially opened its doors, a very early build of the game was made available for play at the E3 Booth for qualified press. The Xbox 360 Edition is scheduled for a May 2012 release via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, and will present as a downloadable Arcade Title (despite its brief listing on Best Buy's Website last Fall with a AAA price), which means it will launch with 200 GP worth of Xbox LIVE Achievements.
As far as the LIVE Achievements go, in a developer interview with IGN recorded in November of last year, 5 of the 12 Achievements were revealed as the dev demo'd the game for the interview, revealing the following Achievements:
10G Getting Wood - Attack a tree until a block of wood pops out.
10G Taking Inventory - Open your inventory.
10G Benchmarking - Craft a workbench with four blocks of planks.
10G Time to Mine! - Use planks and sticks to make a pickaxe.
10G Time to Strike! - Use planks and sticks to make a sword.
Based upon that reveal, it is very likely that all of the Achievements from the PC Edition will eventually appear in the Xbox 360 version.
The version on Microsoft’s console will have at least some Xbox 360 Kinect motion controllable play options, though neither Mojang or Microsoft have specified just what gamers will be able to do with the motion-sensing controller -- the announcement that the console version would support split-screen multi-player play suggests that the Kinect's zone and depth sensing capabilities will likely factor into its use in the game.
A simplified control layout means that sensing hand motion will likely be a viable mode, especially when we consider that the console version of the game is abandoning the traditional requirements for gamers to know the recipe that they want to build and place each resource in the crafting window in favor of a drop-down crafting menu from which players simply have to pick the recipe that they want to craft, with the game then accessing the required resources from the player inventory before crafting the item(s).
-- Cross-Platform Play --
The Xbox 360 version will maintain full compatibility with the PC version to the extent that players will be able to connect to and play upon the PC-based servers online, however development of the Xbox 360 version will not be undertaken by Mojang Studios. At the last convention Minecraft's creator, Notch, confirmed that the console version will instead be developed by 4J Studios (Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, Ducati Moto).
While development of the title on the 360 will be largely handled by 4J, Notch will continue to function as the game designer for the Xbox and Pocket Editions, but will no longer be directly involved in the process of writing code for the game.
The confirmation that the 360 Edition would be fully compatible with the PC version for online play was quickly followed by confirmation that it would also share registration servers and services with the official Mojang account server rather than using the Xbox LIVE Gamertag as its account credential.
Notch confirmed this to be the case, adding that gamers who purchase the Xbox 360 Edition will also have full access to the game via the web interface and be able to use the same account to play using the PC version of the game client, which they can download online for free.
While there has been no official word from Microsoft on the matter, Mojang has confirmed that plans for updating the 360 Edition of the game will follow the same pattern as those in use for the PC Edition, which means that the game will feature a regular and free update schedule, though as all updates made via the Xbox 360 must go through the Microsoft servers, the timing on these updates may be considerably behind those for the PC version of the game unless Microsoft either waves the approval process for updates applied and delivered via LIVE or streamlines the process, which is what the code wizards at 4J are hoping for.
According to Paddy Burns, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at 4J Studios, while the launch version of the game for the Xbox 360 will be a full port of an earlier version of the PC build, it would be incorrect to think of the game in terms of the usual Xbox LIVE Arcade title -- which invariably is a fixed piece of software in a set form -- like the PC version, the console edition of Minecraft will remain a fluid and constantly updated game.
Burns believes that Microsoft understands the special needs of the game, and more important, be says that the company is moving in the direction of supporting code more aggressively, more responsively, going so far as to say in a January 2012 interview with Game publication Edge that "they are quite keen to move towards that -- they do see it as the future, so I think we might be the first to do constant updates."
In spite of the optimism he expressed in the interview, Burns cautions players against expecting the Xbox version of the game to have the same rapidly fluid update frequency -- something he is certain will not happen.
-- User and Community Created Content --
One of the major strengths of the PC edition of Minecraft has been the plethora of user-created content, from skins to textures and custom-created game mods -- an element that the Xbox 360 edition would clearly benefit from -- but there is no question of the addition of that open-source content being part of the 360 version, largely due to the very rigid approval system and requirements that Microsoft’s LIVE service applies to the games that it sells and distributes.
While there is very little chance for user-created content to make it quickly into the game, there is a very real possibility that content creators (modders) for Minecraft who are willing to go through the same process that Indy game developers do on the LIVE service might be able to get their content approved for distribution on the service. Or maybe not -- when we contacted Mojang for comment in preparing this guide they did not have anything to say one way or the other.
A confidential source close to the developer did tell us that it is very likely that value-added content from 4J Studios for the game, sold as DLC will likely appear on the horizon, and it would not surprise them, they say, to find that some of the more popular mod ideas may find there way onto the service as official add-ons for the game.