Minecraft shuts down the Beta Program
At the end of May, the Minecraft Beta program will be closed down for good
Minecraft is a game that thrives on player feedback for development. For years both Minecraft JAVA Edition and Minecraft Bedrock Edition have given players early access to new features and updates during their development cycles alongside the stable release of the main game. However, it’s not all been plain sailing, especially for Minecraft Bedrock edition.
Since the inception of Minecraft JAVA edition, the game came with a launcher that allowed the player to choose any version of the game they wanted to play. That could be the current stable release, the latest development release or even an older version of the game with the list of available versions going all of the way back to the original alphas of the game.
This has allowed the player base of JAVA edition to very easily switch between stable and development versions, firing feedback to the developers and ensuring the majority of game breaking bugs were patched out of the game prior to stable release. This was always possible as JAVA edition is a game developed for desktop PCs capable of running apps developed within the JAVA programming language. Mojang, the developers of Minecraft, always hosted the game files themselves, making it easy to publish new versions and fixes, without having to worry about app store certification or third party authorization.
...it's back to square one...
Sadly however, Minecraft Bedrock Edition, which is an evolution of the earlier Pocket Edition version of the game, doesn't share those similarities. It's developed in the C++ programming language and published to a massive range of platforms and devices including Windows, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Sony Playstation, Xbox and more. Due to this, it's not been easy for the developers to push out new updates or hotfixes quickly, due to most of these platforms having an app store or marketplace gateway controlled and run by that particular platform.
Take Apple for example. On iOS, the Apple App Store is run and maintained by Apple who have very strict guidelines as to what is allowed to pass onto the store for public consumption. Whenever Mojang wants to update Minecraft Bedrock Edition, they have to send the data to these platforms to be checked and certified before they're allowed to be listed on the stores. This process not only takes time, but it's a huge headache for Mojang when they're trying to push out a new update of the game, across all platforms on the same date and time. If just one store blocks the update due to a certification issue, it's back to square one, starting the process again.
So that explains why Mojang are seemingly not so fast at pushing out stable release fixes, but how does this affect them sending out development versions of the game?
Well, until very recently, the only way they could do that was via Microsoft's own Xbox Insider program which forced players to sign up to this system with their Xbox Live accounts so that they could download the Beta (development) version of Minecraft. This prevented players being able to play the stable release on the same devices which meant they had to choose.
...Beta system is massively flawed...
Follow a complicated method to play an unsupported, often broken development version of the game which was limited to single player worlds, cutting them off from more than half of the content available in the stable release, or stick with the stable release and let other people worry about the development versions.
Of course, the majority of players chose the latter, meaning that the number of players actually joining the insider program and playing on the beta, was very small. As a result, there was nowhere near as much feedback getting back to the developers about issues and game breaking bugs, and because of that, the stable releases of Minecraft Bedrock edition have historically been buggy, broken and in severe need of extra work.
It wasn't until these broken stable releases were published to the entire player base,that the developers really got a good understanding of what needed fixing. And you could argue that by that point, it's a little late in the development cycle to be learning about this level of problems. Especially considering how long it takes to push out fixes (as explained above).
So the Beta system is massively flawed, and you could argue, almost pointless. Other than a handful of players hopping in to see what juicy new features were on their way to the game, and a bunch of content creators like myself exploring in order to make videos of that content, the beta didn't get much love for its actual purpose and this was beginning to hurt the game. It also didn't help that joining the Minecraft Beta via the Xbox Insider Program had a nasty habit of locking player's Xbox Live accounts into the Beta system and preventing them leaving, which meant they could never get back to playing the official stable release of the game.
...stuck in the beta program...
I had first hand experience of this on several of my Xbox accounts and can say with experience that it's one of the most frustrating things I've had to experience as a long time player, content creator and partnered developer of the game. My main Xbox live account as well as two alt-accounts, which I created so that I could still play the stable release, all ended up locked into the beta program. The two alt accounts, never even joined, but because they tried to play minecraft on the same PC as my main account which was locked into the beta, they also became locked in and as a result, I've had to resort to using unofficial methods to download stable releases of the game, just so I could play the game that I had now purchased at full price on several accounts.
Contacting Mojang about this got me nowhere. After a long and tedious, “did you turn it off and on again” process, they eventually passed me on to Xbox directly, claiming the issue was at their end. After another grueling round of “did you read this document telling you which button to click”, several times over, Xbox eventually decided the issue was with Mojang and not them. Needless to say, over three years later... that's right THREE YEARS LATER, all three of my accounts are still stuck in the beta program and unable to download the stable version of the game!
...things aren't exactly what we expected...
Enter the Minecraft Preview. Back at the beginning of 2022 Mojang announced the release of a brand new way players could get early access to development versions of the game that didn't have the same flaws as the beta and could be enjoyed across more platforms.
This sounded like music to my ears, as well as the rest of the player base. Mojang promised the Minecraft Preview system which wasn't just a new name and a fancy new logo for the Beta system, it was an entire new game that installed alongside the stable version of the game as a separate app so you didn't have to worry about losing your worlds or being locked out of the stable release by checking out the Preview.
They announced this would come to Xbox consoles, Windows, Android and iOS, although not at the same time, and would enable players to enjoy both the stable release and development release at the same time.
This, in theory, is a fantastic ideal. However today, four months later, things aren't exactly what we expected. Starting with iOS, it turned out that Apple don't allow in-dev versions of apps to be listed on the app store, so again, the player base had to join Apple's version of the Xbox Insider program and sign up to be one of 10,000 people (500 of which are reserved for Mojang employees) who could actually even get a chance to download the game. Apple has “slots” available for in-dev apps, ensuring only a small number of people can access them.
The reason for this is to reduce the number of people “accidentally” downloading unfinished works and then writing bad reviews or putting in complaints or refund requests directly to Apple, taking up valuable support time and finances.
When the Minecraft Preview launched on iOS, it launched with around 500 of these 10,000 slots available, with the promise of more to be released. Bear in mind the Minecraft Bedrock Edition player base is in the hundreds of millions, 500 slots is such a miniscule, insignifiant number, it makes you wonder if it was even worth the effort Mojang went to to even bother getting this pushed out to Apple.
To make things worse for anyone lucky enough to get a slot was told that unless they actually regularly play on the Beta, their access would be revoked and the slot designated to another user. At the time of writing, all of the 9,500 slots are now available, meaning there's far more to choose from, but for the sake of numbers, if a conservative 1% of a conservative estimated active player base of 10,000,000 Apple devices players, wanted to try the preview, 90,500 of them would be in the queue waiting!
..unable to install it..
As of writing the system has come out to iOS and Xbox users as well as Windows 10 and 11 users, but there's still no sign of anything for Android users yet and there are no confirmed plans for this system to come to anyone playing on Playstation or Nintendo Switch consoles.
iOS woes aside, on Xbox and Windows, the Minecraft Preview isn't too difficult to get access to. Whilst it's not actually listed within the Microsoft Store, if you have already purchased the game or if you have Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or Game Pass for PC, you can follow a link provided by Mojang to a hidden listing of the Minecraft Preview and download it.
As soon as this became available for Windows 10, I jumped onto their website, found the link and downloaded it and it worked as expected. Just like the Beta, it's a playable version of the development version of the game, yet it loads up alongside the stable release of Minecraft as a separate app that doesn't interfere too much with your existing worlds and settings.
However, I did notice that the Preview switched the default program settings from Minecraft to the Minecraft Preview for files like downloadable add-ons, worlds and resource packs which meant it was quite tricky trying to install those on the stable release of my game. And also trying to uninstall it again was impossible. A sentiment I've heard from others also unable to install it from their systems.
...nothing officially stated...
But, aside from these minor quibbles, it does mean that not only is the system a little easier to access, slightly more people can also access it which should mean that future stable releases of Minecraft should be slightly less broken and riddled with bugs.
I say slightly here a lot, because although the Xbox player base plus the 9,500 people on iOS can now access the Preview, the millions of Android players who could access the Beta are not able to access the Preview and with the Beta being officially slated for cancellation at the end of May, it feels like there's actually less people with access to development versions of the game than before.
I can speculate that perhaps the reason the Preview hasn't come to Android devices yet is due to Google's stance on in-development applications. Perhaps they don't want customers to be confused by having Minecraft, Minecraft Beta and Minecraft Preview all available to download via the app store. So perhaps, the Preview will be available once the Beta is retired. To be honest, I don't know. There's nothing officially stated about this in the available documentation from Mojang, so we can only hope that they're still working on getting this feature over to Android users as promised, otherwise that is a lot of people who are suddenly losing access to development versions of Minecraft for seemingly no other good reason.
Article Author: FoxyNoTail
Foxy is a Minecraft player, content creator and official Marketplace Partner. He's been playing the game for over 13 years, delving into the code creating datapacks, add-ons, resource packs and other tools for the Minecraft player base and communities to use and enjoy. He also hosts The Minecraft Update weekly podcast. You can find Foxy on Twitter @foxynotail
Publisher: Minecraft Update News
The Minecraft Update News is produced and published by author FoxyNoTail as part of the foxynotail.com website. Sourced directly from working as a content creator, player and officially partnered producer, FoxyNoTail has the facts and figures at his disposal to ensure news articles are current, relevant and factual. Foxy has 13+ years experience in not just playing Minecraft, but creating content, videos, streams, data packs, servers, add-ons, packs, podcasts, licensed content and now news. Revered by the community as a trust worthy, reliable and honest source of news and opinion, Foxy's data is trusted and acknowledged regularly.