Microsoft now has 2 million licensed users across 115 countries playing the education version of “Minecraft.” But it had to develop a tougher version of the tutorial game because students were too skilled.

Share story

It turns out K-12 students are just too skilled at playing computer games. So much so, that Microsoft had to develop a tougher version of its one-hour “Minecraft” tutorial that helps students learn to code.

The company released “Hero’s Journey” this week, to line up with the upcoming Hour of Code event, which will encourage students across the world to complete a free coding tutorial in December.

Microsoft last year released an education version of the popular “Minecraft” game, which allows players to build and explore virtual worlds using block-shaped materials.

Microsoft said it now has 2 million licensed users across 115 countries playing the education version. Schools can buy licenses for $5 per user per year, or can get deals that lower the cost to $1 per user if they buy in large-enough volumes.

“We see a real appetite for game-based learning,” said Deirdre Quarnstrom, general manager of Minecraft’s education edition at Microsoft. The game lets students create their own avatars and learn to solve problems one step at a time, she said.

Microsoft bought “Minecraft” maker Mojang in 2014, and separately bought MinecraftEdu last year. “Minecraft” is just one piece of the company’s efforts in the education technology market, where it faces heated competition from Google, and to a lesser extent Apple.

Microsoft is a sponsor of Seattle organization, which organizes Hour of Code and develops curriculum to bring computer science education to more schools.

The new “Minecraft” lesson will add an optional feature — hidden diamonds on each level, which requires students to build additional code to reach the jewels.

“Something we’ve heard from students in the past is ‘This is just too easy,’” Quarnstrom said.

Teachers who tested it in their classrooms said students were spending more time on “Hero’s Journey” because so many students were opting to search for the diamonds. “We were like, ‘We’re OK with that,’” Quarnstrom said.

Microsoft estimates people have played nearly 70 million “Minecraft” sessions developed for Hour of Code since it launched two years ago.