Doctor Who has always been a show about the future. OK, that isn’t strictly true. Doctor Who is a show that’s sometimes been about the future, but is also occasionally about the past and the present. That’s the problem with time-travel; it can be a little difficult to follow. What we mean to say is that the popular British television show has always had an interest in the technology and science of the future. If the Doctor were interested in making money, we’re sure they would have got into cryptocurrency from the very beginning. In fact, who’s to say they didn’t?
While our favorite Time Lord’s views on crypto and blockchain are unknown, the views of the company that owns the show’s intellectual copyright have become much more apparent in the past few days. That’s because the BBC has confirmed that it’s making a ‘blockchain-based game’ for Doctor Who fans, based on trading virtual cards. The game will be called 'World Apart,' and you're probably wondering how a simple card trading game could be connected to blockchain. So were we when we first read it to be honest, and having read the explanation, we're still a little perplexed, but we're going to do our best to explain it to you.
First, a little background. People who don't specialize in digital currencies tend not to know the difference between blockchain and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. That's an easy one to explain. Blockchain is the technology that makes the existence of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin possible. Cryptocurrencies are digital encrypted currencies that can be exchanged with real-world currencies and used in trading. Every cryptocurrency is generated by blockchain, but not every product of blockchain is a cryptocurrency. In recent years we've seen cryptocurrencies make inroads into mainstream services. You can, for example, now use Bitcoin to pay for your bets at online slots websites. There are even a few online slots websites that take other, lesser-known forms of cryptocurrency. We're not yet aware of a website that also allows you to withdraw your slots winnings in crypto, but the fact that they're accepted at all is quite remarkable. Today it's online slots websites; tomorrow, it will be McDonald's.
If you've got your head around that, the next part is working out how it all relates to this Doctor Who-themed card trading game that the BBC has come up with. According to the press release that announced the existence of the game, 'Worlds Apart' involves the player taking the part of the Doctor, and collecting and trading character cards with your friends to build up collections in what sounds a little bit like a 'Pokemon' clone. There will also be a 'battle mode' in which you and your friends can go head to head by having your character collections fight it out. So far, so good. The blockchain element, however, involves every card collected by a player being 'tokenized' and then secured on the blockchain as something called a 'non-fungible token.' That's the part where we lost track of this a little, so we went and did some reading.
Having done that reading, here's what we worked out. In practice, what's meant by the above is that every single collectible item in the game is totally unique. It has a singular identity and a singular value, and in theory, can't be cloned or stolen. From October, you'll be able to buy digital card packs for the game, and you'll be the only person in the world who holds that exact card with that exact identity. Realistically speaking, though, that doesn't mean all that much. There are only so many characters in the Doctor Who universe, and even if you've got someone as obscure as Dodo Chaplet, someone else will also have Dodo Chaplet. The fact that your Dodo Chaplet has a different digital ID than someone else's Dodo Chaplet isn't much more significant than the fact that the physical trading cards you own are different from your friend's physical trading cards because they have your fingerprint on them. Still, some of the 'limited edition' cards will be taken out of circulation when their run is complete, and will only be obtainable through trading after that point, so there's still a degree of exclusivity about some of what's on offer.
Confusingly, the cards will be released before the game itself. Interested customers can begin buying card packs from October onward but won’t have the full game to play until an unspecified point currently listed as ‘early 2021.’ It will be exclusive to PCs first, but a mobile version is scheduled to follow at a later date. Some cards won’t be released until the full game is available, but some limited edition cards will stop being published after the game’s released, and so there is a strategic advantage in getting cards early even if you can’t ‘do’ anything with them until the game comes out.
We’re not sure what to make of all this, and we might need to see the finished product before we can say whether it’s likely to be of interest to the general audience of Doctor Who fans or not. What we can say is that it will have to go a long way to beat the viral success of ‘Thirteen,’ which caught the attention of thousands of players this past June despite being little more than a re-dressed version of the logic-based number game 2048 dressed up in a Doctor Who theme. Despite being so simple, that proved to be a wonderful time-killer even if making it all the way to the Thirteenth Doctor proved to be all-but-impossible for everyone but the luckiest and most addicted players. We apologize to anyone who had only just got over their 'Thirteen' addiction and is already loading the game up on their phone to play again.
Even with this new game and the creation of the 'Doctor Who: The Edge of Time' virtual reality game last year, it's still been more than twenty years since the BBC published a 'proper' Doctor Who video game of any kind, and that feels like a waste of the license. If they can find their way to making blockchain games, is it too much to ask for them to consider making a big-budget Doctor Who game for the PC, PlayStation, or Xbox? We can't guarantee that they'll sell many packs of virtual cards for this blockchain experiment, but we're confident a full-sized game would fly off the shelves!