Apple Arcade Launches NHL Game That Lets You Put Athletes From Other Sports on the Ice

Ultimate Rivals The Rink - Apple
Courtesy of Apple/Bit Fry Game Studios

Now you can see NBA superstar LeBron James facing off against NHL great Wayne Gretzky in a fast-paced hockey game.

In an innovative fantasy mashup for sports gaming fans, Apple Arcade is launching “Ultimate Rivals: The Rink,” a hockey game that lets you pit NHL players against athletes from other sports. The game is available exclusively in the tech giant’s game-subscription service.

The two-on-two hockey game lets players combine athletes across hockey — including NHL great Gretzky — as well as basketball, football, baseball and soccer into a single officially licensed video game. It’s the first time a game has brought together multiple sports like this, according to Apple.

The game is developed by Bit Fry Game Studios, which landed licensing agreements with nine major pro sports organizations: the NHL, NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA), NBA, National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), MLB, MLB Players Association (MLBPA), NFL Players Association (NFLPA), Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), the USWNTPA, as well as Wayne Gretzky.

In “Ultimate Rivals: The Rink,” players choose from among more than 50 superstar athletes for their two-person squad. For example, you can pit the NHL’s Alex Ovechkin and soccer player Alex Morgan against a duo of the NBA’s De’Aaron Fox and Major League Baseball’s José Altuve — or the WNBA’s Skylar Diggins-Smith paired with Gretzky.

The different combinations of players will unlock unique ways to play and win against the game’s AI or other gamers in online multiplayer matches.

“We are ripping up the sports video game rule book and rewriting it for a new generation,” said Ben Freidlin, CEO and founder of Bit Fry and the creator of “Ultimate Rivals.” “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.”

According to Freidlin, Bit Fry’s developers took the strengths of each athlete and applied them for how those traits would translate to hockey. For example, football players may be slower-moving but harder to body-check, while baseball players may be faster but not as accurate in passing.

In the spring of 2020, Bit Fry Games plans to launch a second title on Apple Arcade, “Ultimate Rivals: The Court,” an NBA-licensed game that applies the same concept to mix-and-match athletes in hoops matchups.

In September, Apple launched Apple Arcade, priced at $4.99 per month, which provides access to over 100 games. Other titles on the service include “Lego Brawls” from Lego/Red Games, Annapurna Interactive’s “Sayonara Wild Hearts,” Ustwo Games’ “Assemble With Care,” Konami’s “Frogger in Toy Town” and Ubisoft’s “Rayman Mini.” The service is available on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac platforms.

“‘Ultimate Rivals: The Rink’ is a great new addition to Apple Arcade and we are excited for everyone to try it out,” Phil Schiller, senior VP of worldwide marketing at Apple, said in a statement.

Additional athletes will be added to “Ultimate Rivals” over time, according to Bit Fry. Players can choose two gameplay modes: online multiplayer or single player against artificial-intelligence opponents using touch controls or Bluetooth-connected console controllers.

Freidlin, a former software engineer who also worked on Wall Street, founded Bit Fry Games in 2013. The studio has about 50 employees and is based in Portsmouth, N.H., with an office in New York City.

Bit Fry’s investors include former Boston Red Sox owner and vice chairman Les Otten; former NBA Commissioner David Stern; Ed Fries, Xbox co-creator and managing partner of 1UP Ventures; MLB All-Star and World Series champion Ryan Howard; private equity fund Dugout Ventures; co-founding partner of March Capital; Barclays’ head of equities trading for the Americas Todd Sandoz, and Bitkraft Esports Ventures.

“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,” commented Stern.