Minecraft hits 132 million players per month, 'massive' caves update announced at Minecraft Live

Microsoft says Minecraft has soared further in popularity as the COVID-19 pandemic has kept many people indoors, reporting a 90 percent increase in multiplayer sessions and nearly 132 million monthly players.

The company says the hit sandbox video game has been played in every country on Earth this year, including Antarctica and Vatican City.

Those milestones were announced during Minecraft Live 2020, an event created to celebrate the franchise with developer panels, expansion announcements and a community vote on future changes to the game.

"This year has been one of uncertainty and challenges," says Helen Chiang, head of Mojang Studios, the company behind Minecraft.

"During constant changes brought on by a global pandemic and the onset of demands for social action against longstanding inequities in our communities, we discovered ways to support those around us in tangible and meaningful ways." 

Those ways include releasing free Minecraft: Education Edition content during the pandemic and supporting charities including Black Lives Matter and the Equal Justice Initiative.

Chiang also notes that in 2020 Minecraft Dungeons was released, PlayStation VR support was added and a partnership with NVIDIA enabled ray-tracing and bleeding-edge visual fidelity to the game on PC.

Among the announcements at Minecraft Live is a "massive" cave and cliffs update that will markedly upgrade the game's caves and introduce new blocks like stalagmites, along with new mobs like the Axolotl.

Minecraft: a dripstone cave included in the upcoming caves and cliffs update.
A dripstone cave included in the upcoming caves and cliffs update. Photo credit: Microsoft / Mojang Studios

A new global build championship has been announced for Minecraft: Education Edition which will challenge students to design and build a space that supports a healthy environment for both humans and animals to coexist.

Education Edition is also introducing lessons on racial equity and history, hoping to teach kids about social justice and historic civil rights movements.

Minecraft Dungeons is set to have cross-platform multiplayer added, so PlayStation, Nintendo, Xbox and PC players can all play each other. 

'Howling Peaks' is also coming to Dungeons as DLC, as part of a "robust calendar of content updates and new features planned".

More information on all the announcements is available on minecraft.net.