Minecraft has become a popular tool to teach children about countless subjects including art, geography and computer science. A tweaked version of the game called MinecraftEdu has long helped educators with this task, but now it has a new owner: Microsoft. The company, which bought developer Mojang and Minecraft for $2.5 billion in 2014, is now working on a new version called Minecraft: Education Edition. It'll be available as a free trial this summer, before individual and group pricing models are introduced for institutions that want long-term access.
The new game will include features not found in the vanilla version of Minecraft, such as enhanced maps with a coordinate system to help teachers and students navigate together, digital portfolios and simple world importing and exporting. Some of these were available in MinecraftEdu, but Microsoft stresses that it's been working with its creator TeacherGaming on new tools, including a second screen experience for teachers. Educators that were using MinecraftEdu can still do so, at least for the time being, but to encourage adoption Microsoft will be offering them 12 months of free access to Minecraft: Education Edition.
Outside of Minecraft and its Xbox business, Microsoft has always supported educators through Windows. It makes sense then for the company to embrace and ultimately sell Mojang's incredibly successful game as a platform for teachers. If Minecraft's success continues to grow, it could become a revenue stream that rivals Office in schools. Slowly, that colossal acquisition from two years ago is starting to make more sense.