In context: At Gamescom 2019, Microsoft and Nvidia announced ray tracing was coming to Minecraft for Windows. Mojang added it with version 1.16.200. Of course, users need an Nvidia GeForce RTX 20 series or AMD Radeon RX 6000 series or higher to enable it.
Recently, Microsoft started testing ray tracing for the Xbox Series X|S version of Minecraft. The latest preview available to Xbox Insiders has "limited" ray tracing support. The build is marked as "optimized," meaning that it's almost ready to roll out to regular users.
The Verge's Tom Warren has been testing it out and notes that it is a bit tricky to get it to work on Xbox at the moment. The settings are there in the preview build, but since it relies on an additional resource pack that users cannot download to the Xbox, the settings do nothing.
Minecraft with raytracing on Xbox? The latest Minecraft Preview is optimized for Xbox Series S / X and has early raytracing support ' pic.twitter.com/cqH0cuGbtS— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) March 28, 2022
The workaround is to host a game on the Windows version with ray tracing enabled, then join that game through the Xbox Series X (or S). Once in the session, the Xbox settings to toggle RT and set the render distance work as expected (above tweet).
Minecraft and its minimalistic low-res graphics is not the first title that one would think of as a ray-tracing showcase, and to be honest, it's not really. The effect is rather underwhelming.
That said, adding shadows and reflections to such a game does genuinely improve the overall look. Given a choice between playing with RT on or off, most people would probably prefer it enabled as long as it didn't hurt performance.