Minecraft usually looks like it belongs on an original PlayStation. But a modder used Sonic Ether's Unbelievable Shaders (SEUS) Renewed to bring path tracing (a cousin to the ray tracing being pushed by many gaming companies) to the pixelated building game.
PCGamesN spotted a March 30 tweet from "notglacier" demonstrating SEUS on Minecraft in action. The videos hardly look like they came from Minecraft--the claustrophobic hallway in the first demo actually reminds us of the infamous P.T. from Hideo Kojima.
The second demo isn't as immediately impressive--dramatic lighting effects always look best in mostly dark environments--but they also showcase what SEUS can do. (So long as you ignore the jaggy pickaxe, interface, and crumbling blocks familiar to Minecraft players.)
Is any of this strictly necessary? Of course not. But using a fan-made shader in a familiar game might actually be a better demonstration of ray (or path) tracing's potential than big-budget announcements from the likes of Nvidia, Electronic Arts, and Epic Games.
Those new releases and tech demos will almost always look better than their predecessors. Most people aren't going to care how those improved graphics came to be; they're just going to enjoy all the pretty pixels. Changes to a game like Minecraft are easier to see.