Microsoft is making available to teachers worldwide an early-access version of Minecraft Education Edition today, June 9.
The early-access edition is a not-quite-yet-finished version of the product that is available for free for testing purposes. Minecraft Education Edition works on Windows 10 or OS X El Capitan and requires a free Office 365 Education account.
Minecraft Education Edition is based on MinecraftEdu. Microsoft acquired the MinecraftEdu learning tool from Teacher Gaming LLC in January for an undisclosed amount. The MinecraftEdu acquisition was a follow-up to Microsoft's acquisition of Mojang, the Swedish maker of Minecraft, for $2.5 billion in September 2014.
Minecraft Education Edition enables collaboration by classrooms of up to 30 students without a separate server required. The Camera and Portfolio feature allows students to take screenshots of their work and document development of their projects. Single sign-on capabilities are enabled, and there's a built-in "tutorial world" for guiding players on the details of Minecraft play.
The early-access version is based on feedback from the 100-plus schools and 1,700 students who've been part of the Minecraft Education Edition beta.
The RTM version of Minecraft Education Edition will be available for purchase in September and will cost between $1 and $5 per user per year, depending on the size of the school and qualification for volume-licensing offer.
Microsoft officials have positioned Minecraft not only as one of the company's productivity software and services offerings aimed at the education market, but also as a development tool. Microsoft is continuing to invest heavily in gaming as it is a big money-maker, especially in the mobile space.
Microsoft recently said there have been more than 100 million copies of Minecraft sold to date, making it the second most popular game, after Tetris.