Free copies of popular building block game Minecraft are to be given to every secondary school in Northern Ireland as part of a project put together by the annual CultureTECH festival.

Funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, copies of the MinecraftEdu educational version of Mojang's game will be given to 200 schools across the region as well as 30 libraries and community organisations (via The Guardian).

"The level of engagement is the first thing you notice," said Mark Nagurski, CultureTECH's chief executive. "This is work that the kids really want to do and if you're able to harness that enthusiasm, energy and creativity you end up with a pretty significant learning opportunity.

"The other exciting thing for us is the scalability and 'sharability' that Minecraft offers. If someone creates an engaging way of teaching, say, ancient history, using Minecraft, that can immediately be shared with all the other teachers using the game. You can already see that [happening] with things like Computercraft and we hope this project will add significantly to that resource."

Released in 2011, Minecraft has to date sold more than 60 million copies across PC, consoles and mobile devices. It's a bona fide worldwide phenomenon and it didn't take long for its educational potential to be realised.

Educational game developers in the US and Finland formed a company called TeacherGaming to create a version of the game for classrooms. The company claims that MinecraftEdu is already in use at hundreds of schools around the world.

The game's success eventually led to Microsoft purchasing the IP and Mojang for $2.5 billion (£1.7bn), allowing Minecraft's creator Markus 'Notch' Persson to leave the company and pursue other interests.