Apple announced that Ultimate Rivals: The Rink, a casual hockey game that is the first in a series of sports games, debuted on Apple Arcade today with the images of licensed celebrity athletes.
The game is being announced at The Game Awards, and it is going live on iOS tonight. The game is one of more than 100 games on Apple Arcade, which is available on MacOS, iPad, Apple TV, and iPhone devices.
This is the debut for Bit Fry Game Studios, a new outfit that had a dream of making accessible sports games with licensed characters. There are 58 sports characters, but they’re famous athletes from a variety of different sports. Soccer stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are among those you can play — in the hockey game.
Morgan’s skills as a soccer player have been reimagined for hockey, so her character will have a lot of speed and shooting skill.
The athletes are from the NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB, WNBA, and U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. They will all take to the ice in Ultimate Rivals: The Rink.
“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,” said Ben Freidlin, CEO and founder of Bit Fry Game Studios, in a statement.
In the 3-on-3 matches, players can combine, for instance, the NHL’s Alex Ovechkin and Morgan against NBA player De’Aaron Fox and MLB star Jose Altuve or the WNBA’s Skylar Diggins-Smith and retired hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.
“Bit Fry is disrupting this entire category. I’ve always said that sports bring us together, and now Bit Fry is bringing all sports together. It’s bold and ambitious, and it’s never been done before,” said David Stern, former NBA commissioner and early investor in Bit Fry CEO (along with being an adviser), in a statement.
Different combinations of heroes unlock different ways to play and win against the AI or other gamers in online multiplayer matches.
On the ice, the action lives or dies on the players’ quick reflexes, with stylized visuals and immersive sound FX. This year’s game heralds an incoming NBA-licensed basketball game, Ultimate Rivals: The Court, which launches in the spring.
“With Apple Arcade, we are committed to delivering a curated catalog where every title offers players a new, innovative experience that pushes the boundaries of what a game can be. The Ultimate Rivals franchise does just that,” said Phil Schiller, the senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, in a statement. “Ultimate Rivals: The Rink is a great new addition to Apple Arcade and we are excited for everyone to try it out.”
The game plays at 60 frames per second and has pretty tight controls. I played the game in a preview and scored a few goals on the Easy level. You can play using touch controls or Bluetooth-connected console controllers.
Bit Fry Game Studios was founded in 2013 with its first investment coming from former Red Sox owner and vice chairman Les Otten, and now counts among its investors many leading names in sports and gaming, including Stern; Xbox co-creator and managing partner of 1UP Ventures Ed Fries; MLB All-Star and World Series champion Ryan Howard; private equity fund Dugout Ventures; cofounding partner of March Capital Gregory Milken; Barclays’ head of Equities Trading for the Americas Todd Sandoz; and BITKRAFT Esports Ventures.