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Minecraft isn’t just that game your kids can’t stop talking about, it’s also a key piece of Microsoft’s most exciting new technology

Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella has confirmed in an interview with the New York Times that HoloLens was one of the major reasons his company spent $2.5 billion on the Lego-like block-building game Minecraft and developer Mojang. HoloLens is an augmented-reality head-mounted display that puts “holograms” right in the real world that you can interact with and walk around. When Microsoft first showed off HoloLens earlier this year, one of the first demos was a Minecraft-style game that takes over your living room and blew our writer’s mind. It showed how the technology intermingles with the real world. Now, Minecraft will serve as a centerpiece of the HoloLens platform moving forward.

Minecraft is one of the few properties in the world that has the power to convince a generation of tech consumers to adopt something new. Gaming is the biggest app category on mobile, which was the last disruptive space, and Microsoft realizes it will need to make gaming work on HoloLens if the impressive hardware is going to change how humans interface with computers.

Nadella said that his team was looking for something that could demonstrate the power of HoloLens when it went to make the Minecraft deal.

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“Let’s have a game that, in fact, will fundamentally help us change new categories,” said Nadella. “HoloLens was very much in the works then, and we knew it.”

Minecraft’s popularity is nearly unrivaled. Across PC, consoles, and mobile, people have downloaded Minecraft more than 60 million times. Despite first coming on to the scene in 2009 and releasing as a full game in 2011, the game continues to outsell most other software every month into 2015. It’s a phenomenon. Among the generation of children who grew up on it, it is like their Mario or Star Wars. It will forever shape their concept of what a video game is — and Microsoft now controls that and is using it to push ahead into something entirely new.

But combining Minecraft with HoloLens doesn’t just make sense because the game is popular and should benefit HoloLens in terms of sales. It makes sense because Minecraft is all about interactions and creations, and these are the concepts that Microsoft seems focused on when it comes to HoloLens. While the HMD is definitely capable of acting as a consumption device, Microsoft has spent much of its demonstration time showing how it works as a tool for productivity.

Minecraft, with its focus on building your own worlds, can potentially act as a great onboarding experience where young people who are intimately familiar with the workings of that game quickly learn the design and interaction language of working with holograms.

Seems like a good way to get the most of a $2.5 billion investment.

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