The BBC this morning lifted the lid on the first Doctor Who game – but it won't be available in shops.
A brand new episodic title for PC and Mac called Doctor Who: The Adventure Games is being bankrolled by the licence fee and developed by leading UK talent.
Sumo Digital and Revolution Software's Charles Cecil, creator of Broken Sword are working in close collaboration with the show's production team to create games that are dubbed 'the extra four episodes' for the new 13 show run which started last week.
The BBC cannot charge for its content as part of its public service remit - instead The Adventure Games will be digitally distributed every few months via the official Doctor Who website. The Adventure Games will be released partly in tandem with the show and are billed as being an 'extra four episodes' for the 13 show run which started last week.
The BBC and Sumo hope to redfine what massmarket consumers and Doctor Who viewers think of video games as part of the release.
"This really redefines the perception of what a freebie is," said Sean Millard, creative evangelist at Sumo. "No longer will a freebie mean just some cheapy web game."
Cecil told MCV that he thinks the episodic delivery of the game can help build 'a new form of drama' by mixing the worlds of TV and games, and help encourage the show's mass audience to try new gaming experiences.
"It might put a few people’s noses out of joint and turn things on their head a bit given that it’s free," said Cecil. "But most importantly I think this can redefine what people expect of a computer game in terms of its story and really prioritise narrative as a part of the medium. That can only be a good thing.”
Doctor Who: The Adventure Games are nothing to do with sister organisation BBC Worldwide - which is global, and can have commercial interests - or the Wii/DS game Worldwide has purportedly commissioned which is expected in October.
However much like BBC Worldwide's ambitions to take games seriously, the new download-only game does herald a change in the broadcaster's attitude to games.
Until now, it has offered only occasional games coverage online, with content rarely on TV and little on radio. But today the broadcasters acknowledges that it must look to actual gaming experiences to keep engaging with its audience.
"People don’t want to just consume Doctor Who, they all want to have their own go at it," new lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat told us.
"Children love to make up their own episodes and invent their own monsters. The interactive quality of being inside an episode and contributing to its outcome is very appealing."
Simon Nelson, the BBC Vision controller who commissioned the game, added: "With Doctor Who: The Adventure Games we can hopefully get views to do something they’ve never done before and introduce them to new forms of content and interactivity. I hope this will help demystify gaming."
MCV sister publication Develop is running a series of exclusive features profiling the creation of Doctor Who: The Adventure Games over this week and the next.