Minecraft has been a breakout hit since it first launched in 2009 and so far the game has sold 22 million copies, making it the best-selling PC game of all time.
While the game was initially popular with adults, children worldwide became interested in the game following its mobile release and the rise in popularity of Minecraft gameplay videos posted on YouTube. Now Microsoft is positioning the game to enter the education market with its recent acquisition of MinecraftEdu.
MinecraftEdu is a modified version of the game that has been altered for classroom use. It contains many additions to the original game including optional Minecraft classroom servers that allow teachers and students to play together. MinecraftEdu was developed by the startup TeacherGaming which Microsoft will also be acquiring. The modded version of the game is currently being used in over 7,00 classrooms in more than 40 countries.
In order to regain ground from Apple and Google in the education sector, Microsoft has decided to rebrand MinecraftEdu as “Minecraft: Education Edition” and to offer it to schools at $5 per student. The PC edition of Minecraft costs $27 while Minecraft: Pocket Edition cost $7 on iOS and Android so the Education Edition will allow students to play on larger screens with a mouse and keyboard for a much lower price. The initial release will take place in the US this summer and will hopefully expand to more countries later in the year. Students will also be able to access the game at home by logging onto their accounts.
Microsoft will also be working together with educators to help build a community within the game. Teachers will be able to design, upload and share lesson plans and maps they have created.
Hopefully Microsoft’s education based push for Minecraft will foster student creativity and encourage the use of new technologies in the classroom.