Apple has changed the landscape of mobile gaming with Apple Arcade, its subscription gaming service that puts over 100 exclusive titles at its users’ fingertips for only $4.99/month, all without any disruptive ads or in-app purchases.
The quality of games on Apple Arcade have already proven to be well worth the price, and Apple has in fact set itself up as a de facto game publisher to make sure this is the case, providing over $500 million in up-front funding to indie developers, who by all reports are flourishing with the freedom to create titles that might have been impossible to monetize using the more traditional methods.
Now, it looks like Apple is upping its game even more, with the announcement that it’s just added a massive new sports game franchise that includes more than 50 officially licensed superstar athletes across four different sports leagues. Ultimate Rivals: The Rink from Bit Fry Game Studios, will bring together athletes from every major sports league — the NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB, WNBA and U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team — and put them onto an ice rink for two-on-two hockey matches.
While the obvious NHL superstars like The Great One (Canada’s Wayne Gretzky) and Russia’s Alexander Ovechkin are here of course, players can also mix things up by throwing in Women’s Soccer League players like Alex Morgan, NBA stars like De’Aaron Fox, or Baseball players like José Altuve. Each player character brings his or her own unique talents to the ice, and different combinations of players will unlock unique ways to play.
Players can challenge the AI or engage in multiplayer matches, and the game provides stylized futuristic visuals that look like something out of TRON, with smooth 60 fps graphics so things keep moving smoothly. The games are designed for short sessions with arcade rules that offer a fun “pick-up-and-play” experience.
We are ripping up the sports video game rule book and re-writing it for a new generation. We’re starting with the gamer first and empowering their imagination to create the ultimate team of athletes across sports, in a way only they can envision.Ben Freidlin, CEO and founder of Bit Fry Game Studios and creator of “Ultimate Rivals.”
Bit Fry Game Studios also promises that new athletes will be added in future updates to keep the game interesting, and it’s also only the first in a series, with Ultimate Rivals: The Court, an NBA-licensed version, scheduled to arrive next spring. It seems likely the franchise will continue into other sporting venues as well.
While licensed sports games have been around for years, Ultimate Rivals represents the first time a studio has combined licenses from all player unions and four leagues into a single gaming franchise. To bring Ultimate Rivals to fruition, Bit Fry was able to secure groundbreaking licensing deals from the NHL, NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA), NBA, National Basketball Players Association (NBAP), MLB, MLB Players Association (MLBPA), NFLPA, Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), USWNTPA, plus Wayne Gretzky himself.
While Apple’s deep pockets no doubt had much to do with securing these deals, Bit Fry isn’t without its own contacts and resources — it was founded in 2013 with former Red Sox owner and vice chairman Les Otten as its first investor, and has since attracted investment from many other leading names in sports and gaming, from NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern to Xbox co-creator Ed Fries.
Ultimate Rivals: The Rink is available now on Apple Arcade across all platforms — iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac. The game can be played with either touch controls or Bluetooth console controllers.