When newly minted OS proponents Microsoft announced the acquisition of Mojang – the company behind Minecraft – and by extension, the world’s third largest gaming fan base – for $2.5 billion back in September, there was widespread concern that the .Net behemoth would take swift action to eliminate purge the Java from the sandbox. Fortunately for the massive legions of mod happy Java devs around the world, this hasn’t come to pass, however, this week’s reveal of Minecraft Education Edition may be signal the end of an era for young coders.
Microsoft’s release of MinecraftEDU comprises a “new and expanded” version of the original originally developed by Finland based TeacherGaming LLC. This hugely successful game utilised a bespoke version of the Minecraft especially for classroom learning, and has been devoured by children in more than 40 countries across the world.
Unique features for enhanced learning include enhanced maps for students and teachers to navigate the game in tandem, a portfolio feature for students to document their work and learning, and enhanced multiplayer features for classrooms of up to 40 students.
It’s stated Microsoft’s amped up version, which will launch as a free trial this summer, will “build on the learnings from MinecraftEdu while offering an expanded set of features. And in support of MinecraftEdu customers, they can continue to use MinecraftEdu and we will offer the first year of Minecraft: Education Edition for free.” After the free trial expires, the team are aiming to keep the price level at around $5 per user per year.
Moreover, the release will be supported by a community of educators online at education.minecraft.net. These community pages will host learning resources such as lesson plans and a new Minecraft Mentors page for experienced users to initiate fellow teachers into the world of block building and exploding sheep.
Traditionally, along with gently introducing programmatic thinking, Minecraft has served as a potent gateway into the world of Java itself, with many making their first foray to places like Eclipse to collect sweet new code to feed their modding obsession. However, in the official release from Gates and Co., there’s scant mention of how the new software will run. In fact, the one concrete thing we know is that mods are not currently supported – leading devs to speculate that this game almost certainly won’t run on Java.