Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) spent more than $2bn on Minecraft, one of the biggest IPs in gaming, and the firm is set on getting its money’s worth out of the virtual world. The firm has already used Minecraft to try to sell the HoloLens to the world. Now it wants to teach kids through the game.
That’s the message behind a new campaign that tries to inform teachers about the game and how it might be used inside the classroom in order to teach kids about creativity, and much much more. The site, which is at Education.Minecraft.net, is just a platform for a trailer and an email sign up list right now, but it could grow into much much more.
Getting schools to pay for education
Microsoft has a failing tablet business, and the firm can see that schools are moving further and further away from PCs as a way to teach in the classroom. Tablets and smartphones have become the normal way for students to make contact with the web, and Microsoft is far behind on both fronts. It’s about to lose one of the marginal drivers of its success in the last two decades.
Back in the late 1990s Microsoft drove Windows, and the PC in general, as a tool for eduction. Even before the internet was common enough to ensure access to educational websites, Microsoft spent heavily on programs like Encarta-an encyclopedia on CD.
Programs like those did a couple of things for Microsoft. They resulted in direct sales of software licenses, for both Windows and Office, to schools around the world and they made kids learn what a PC was, and how Windows worked. That helped to ensure sales of Windows for another generation.
Now that’s slowing and stopping. In school and at home kids are more likely to come into contact with iOS and Android than they are with Windows 8. Schools are headed in the same direction, spurning the stuffy old PC for tablets, a cheaper and more familiar alternative.
Building for the next generation
Minecraft may be the single best way to reach kids in this generation, and Microsoft has got a hold of it. The $2.5 billion sum that the firm spent on the block-building game can at least be used to add some positive filling to the four squares, or blocks, that make up Microsoft’s Windows logo.
Education with Minecraft, when it finally comes out, may be the only way that Microsoft can get a school to pay a license in the tech world it finds itself in. Spending on PCs by schools is certainly on a downtrend, and the Windows 10 upgrade is going to be free for many of them anyway.
That’s a problem that Minecraft may be able to fix, but Satya Nadella and his team will have to convince teachers that it’s a tool for learning rather than just a pleasant way to spend time, before they’re able to diver part of the school’s precious budget in the firm’s gaming coffers.