Microsoft has today opened a new category on Minecraft. Xbox chief Phil Spencer confirmed the company has added an “Education” category to the Minecraft Marketplace. This means children have access to more tools to learn from home as they remain in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the tools available are tours of the International Space Station and the ability to learn code on the block-building game.
Many countries around the world are in a state of national quarantines. Travel is restricted in those countries to just essential workers and for essential needs (supermarket and pharmacy). Millions of workers have been forced to stay in, either without work or working from home.
It’s a similar story with education, where kids are stuck at home and relying on virtual education infrastructure. Spencer told Xbox Wire staying at home is important and Minecraft can help kids keep learning.
“We are living in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of people around the world and changed the way we go about our daily lives. Here at Microsoft, we’re constantly asking ourselves what we can do to support people during this challenging time. To me, the most important thing to remember is that we’re all living and learning through this together. I have previously stated that I believe gaming has a unique power to bring people together, to entertain, to inspire and connect us, and I believe that’s even more true under these unique circumstances. Many are looking to gaming to remain connected with their friends while practicing social distancing, and we are seeing an unprecedented demand for gaming from our customers right now. With hundreds of millions of kids at home due to coronavirus-related school closures, more kids are going online to spend time with their friends, explore online worlds and learn through play. Families are trying to navigate the need to help their children with distance learning and balance that with taking time to have fun.
“That’s why we announced today that we are adding a new Education category to the Minecraft Marketplace with free educational content players and parents can download. The educational content we’ve curated lets players explore the International Space Station through a partnership with NASA, learn to code with a robot, visit famous Washington D.C. landmarks, find and build 3D fractals, learn what it’s like to be a marine biologist, and so much more. This is launching for free download today and will be available through June 30… With so many turning to gaming, helping everyone stay safer online is also a top priority for us. This is why we provide family settings that help parents choose the screen time limits, content filters, purchase limits, communication and sharing settings that are right for their families. While kids may be home from school, family settings can help balance gaming with offline schoolwork and other responsibilities… Stay safe and be good to one another.”
Last week, Microsoft confirmed Minecraft Education is now free for Microsoft 365 users. This free access will last throughout the COVID-19 outbreak and gives people access to all the tools of the specialized education suite.