Minecraft has earned itself an indisputable spot in pop culture history.
The video game appeals to children and adults alike, with its pixelized building blocks and endless landscapes allowing one's imagination to run amok. Minecraft is so popular, in fact, it was recently crowned by YouTube as the most watched interactive title in the 10 years since the video platform launched.
Microsoft bought Minecraft creators Mojang for $2.5 billion less than a year ago, and in addition to leveraging the gaming franchise for additional revenue, the software giant has set out to turn the game into a development tool for youngsters, priming them for content creation in a digital world.
This week Microsoft launched education.minecraft.net, a website designed as a sort of community forum for educators and players. As noted on the site, the virtual brick-building game has been lauded for sparking creativity, collaboration and experimentation in young students. It's also been credited with enhancing STEM skills.
Here's a excerpt from the Minecraft Education blog:
Very soon after Minecraft launched, we noticed teachers bringing the game into their classrooms. Often inspired by the passion of their students, they started using Minecraft to design history lessons, teach language classes, explore mathematics, physics, computer science, writing, and more. And, aside from students developing their knowledge of the subject matter, teachers saw other skills emerging. Students were solving complex problems through collaboration while learning about leadership and digital citizenship. Minecraft was helping them develop in many different ways.
So the idea with the website is that people who have come up with unique Minecraft-inspired lessons can post them to the forum, and others looking for inspiration can go there to find it.
The push to make Minecraft an educational tool is not surprising, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hinted at such an intention last year. But as altruistic as the website sounds, there are certainly some long term benefits to Microsoft in targeting today's tech-savvy youth.
"If we can get eight-year-old girls and boys building worlds and getting inspired by creating content digitally, as they grow up they'll want to create in PowerPoint, or Visual Studio," Jeff Teper, the "father of SharePoint" and VP of Corporate Strategy at Microsoft, said during a tech conference last year. "And in addition to being one of the few gaming franchises that doesn't have to be freemium, Minecraft can actually charge money. It turns out it's a great business with lots of upside."
Beyond that, Microsoft's core brand is Xbox -- at least to gaming youngsters. So if Microsoft intends to have an installed base to up sell as these children grow and consumer more technology, Minecraft is a good place to start.