Technology giant Microsoft is considering buying the company that created the enormously popular game Minecraft for about $2 billlion, according to reports, a potential move that would couple two of the world’s most visible, and in some respects most different, players in the digital space.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Redmond, Wash.-based corporation is in “serious discussions” about an acquisition with Mojang AB, the Swedish company responsible for Minecraft, a game that has attracted a huge and devoted audience of players of all ages, and has been incorporated by some teachers as a supplemental educational tool in schools.
Unlike many of the most elaborate games on the market today, Minecraft presents players with a deceptively simple set of challenges. Players are invited to build things, from small objects to castles—breaking and placing blocks and acquiring and using a variety of tools as they go.
They can collaborate with other players and build for many purposes, simply to survive—protecting themselves against monsters, for instance—or to explore, or take on projects of their choosing on a customizable landscape. (See the video, below, for a sample.)
The learning possibilties of Minecraft have intrigued many teachers and administrators, who look at the game’s features and see a potentially captivating way to enhance students’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and creative abilities.
A perusal of Education Week coverage over the past few years offers examples of teachers and administrators weaving Minecraft and other games into lessons and curricula, and the incorporation of Minecraft within a learning management system to create a more streamlined integration of the game within classrooms.
Minecraft offers its own school-oriented version of the game, “MinecraftEdu,” which Mojang says was “created by teachers for classroom use” and designed to “fine-tune the Minecraft experience for learning.” Teachers in more than 40 countries are using that tool, in math- and science-focused classes, history, and other subjects, according to the company’s website.
Minecraft’s potential reach into K-12 is taking shape in other forms, too. Instructure, the Utah-based company that makes the Canvas learning management system, recently unveiled a suite of new massive, open, online courses (MOOCs), a few of which are devoted to helping teachers get to know Minecraft and use it to promote learning, as my colleague Ben Herold recently reported.
If Microsoft were to bring Minecraft into its line of products, it would represent a big step into gaming for the U.S.-based company, which currently sells games through products like XBox. Microsoft is also a big player in K-12 schools, as a dominant provider of operating systems for districts, and as a seller of myriad computing devices.
The potential marriage would on some levels seem to be an unlikely one, as the Journal notes. Mojang’s founder, Markus Persson, has kept the Swedish company’s operations small and has projected a fight-the-big-tech-corporation image, having publicly blasted major technology companies, including Microsoft.
Two years ago Persson took to Twitter to offer his opinions of Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system, urging the company to “stop trying to ruin the PC.”
Evidently, things change. And presumably, a Microsoft-Mojang pairing would allow both entities to reach new audiences in different ways—with implications for the gaming world, and possibly for schools.
Embedded video of Minecraft courtesy of the company.