Minecraft for iPhone and Android is about to get a lot better

Minecraft Add Ons Big Bad Alien
‘Alien Invasion’ is one of the first Add-Ons that will be available for Minecraft: Pocket Edition. Minecraft

It’s official: On October 18th, Minecraft Pocket Edition for iPhone and Android will get the so-called Boss Update, bringing new high-stakes battles with intimidating enemies like the Wither and the Elder Guardian.

Minecraft for Windows 10 and the Samsung Gear VR will get that update, too.

But while “boss” may be in the name, the biggest and coolest change is a little more subtle: This update will bring “Add-Ons,” which are custom modifications, or “mods,” that anybody can make.

In Minecraft developer Mojang’s own words, from the official blog: “By editing simple text files, anyone can tweak Minecraft itself to add enormous explosions to tiny chickens or make villagers run at lightning speed to chase away any new monster mob you choose to create.”

Mojang will also be providing example Add-Ons, like “Alien Invasion” and “Castle Siege,” that players can download and inspect. The Boss Update was first announced back at May’s E3 show, but Mojang is revealing more details at this weekend’s MineCon convention for Minecraft lovers.

This is exciting news — and the parents of Minecraft-loving kids should be especially enthused.

The desktop PC versions of Minecraft have supported fan-made mods pretty much since the game’s release in 2011, and it’s resulted in some weird, wild, and truly creative changes to the game: Everything from graphical improvements to the famously blocky game, to, uh, realistic cow breeding simulations.

Minecraft boss update
The Ocean Monument, home of the dreaded Elder Guardian. Minecraft

The possibility of making the next great Minecraft mod has inspired lots of kids to learn how to write code — a propensity that Microsoft, Mojang’s parent company, has fully embraced with the introduction of a special version of Minecraft intended for the classroom.

But lots more kids, including my nephews, play Minecraft on their iPhones, iPads, and Android phones, meaning they have been left in the dust. With the addition of Add-Ons, those kids can start hacking away at making their own perfect Minecraft worlds.

To be totally clear, it doesn’t sound like Add-Ons will be quite as intensive or powerful as full-fledged Minecraft mods, given the limitations of Apple iOS and Google Android. Still, Add-Ons remain a useful on-ramp in sparking the next generation’s interest in computer skills.

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