Africa’s first game on Apple Arcade: a game changer for developers on the continent

Free Lives, the South African games development house behind renowned titles such as BroForce and GORN, has struck gold again with its latest offering Cricket Through the Ages, which is the first and currently only game on Apple Arcade built by an African developer. In Apple Arcade, Cricket Through the Ages is in the company of games built by industry giants such as Ubisoft, Konami, and CapCom.

Cricket Through the Ages is a single button physics game, which combines major milestones in human history, cricket, and a wild sense of humour that is the hallmark of all Free Lives games.

Prototyped over the course of a single game jam (the gaming developers’ version of a hackathon), the game was inspired by South Africa’s abiding love for cricket, although the connection to the sport is often warped within the game. The “bowler” can find themselves delivering anything from an apple to a snake, while the “batsman” hits the missile away with a club, sword, or whatever else is relevant to the historical period. Opponents vary from cavemen to astronaut, with dinosaurs even making an appearance.

“We're incredibly excited about the opportunity that Apple Arcade presents for independent game developers in South Africa,” says Free Lives founder Evan Greenwood. “It offers a home for premium mobile games, as well as financial support for making innovative experiences”. “Apple Arcade allows developers to make more contained, one-off games,” he adds. “It's not often that you get the chance to be outright experimental and financially successful, and that seems to be the space that Apple Arcade is creating”.

Cricket Through the Ages’ inclusion in Apple Arcade is a major coup for the South African game development community. A testament to the kind of development talent available in South Africa, Cricket Through the Ages’ presence on Arcade could be a much-needed catalyst for a local gaming industry that faces some serious challenges.   

“Few South Africans are able to afford the upfront capital required to get game projects off the ground, and most studios have to take contract or service work to sustain themselves,” the Free Lives founder says “That takes time and energy away from the process of developing original titles”.

And even when developers are able to build their own games, South Africa’s location on the world map can make promoting them a challenge.

“Most games-related conferences - where developers get the opportunity to show their work and tap into global networks - are hosted in the US and Europe, which are difficult to access,” says Greenwood.

“We'll certainly be encouraging local developers to pitch their work to Apple Arcade in the future, and we hope to see Apple's continuing support for independent games”.

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