In what is the worst-kept-secret leading up to it, Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, was in Singapore for his Southeast Asia tour. Coinciding with the announcement of Apple’s plans to invest over SGD250 million into growing its campus in Ang Mo Kio, Cook visited the recently-opened Apple Developer Centre to meet with developers, students and Apple Design Award winners. Esquire Singapore was one of the few invited media outlets to cover the session.

The indie gaming showcase consists of four developers from around the region. Chin Yong Kian and Jiang Tongyu are from Singapore while, P’ng Yiwei and Jakob Lykkegaard are from Malaysia and Thailand, respectively. Cook took time to listen to them as they talked about the background behind their games, their experiences as a developer and working with Apple.

The Developers

Apple CEO Tim Cook tries out Tambourine Story, a rhythm game by Swift Student Challenge Winner Jiang Tongyu.
Yong Chin Kian—lecturer by day, indie game developer by night—demonstrates hurling sawblades at a pixelated chicken. (It makes more sense when you see the gameplay.)
The brain behind King's League, P'ng Yiwei talks about his sequel.
Bangkok-based developer, Jakob Lykkegaard, presents his Apple Design Award-winning game, stitch.

The youngest of the lot, 18-year-old Jiang Tongyu won the WWDC Swift Student Challenge in 2023 and is a recent Distinguished Winner of this year's Swift Student Challenge. She presented Tambourine Story, the submitted game that garnered Jiang's Distinguished Winner title. Tambourine Story was inspired by a band Jiang formed with her friends in her youth. Capitalising on the iPad's accelerometer, players can wield the device like a tambourine and shake it according to the music's rhythm. Jiang created the demo all on her own, from the coding to the hand-drawn graphics to the GarageBand-composed music.

Cook talked with Chin Yong Kian (aka Chiny) who teaches game development while creating games for iOS. Among his myriad of games, Chin created Serious Scramblers (a vertical platformer where you can only descend), Jump Jerboa (a jerboa has to escape multiple levels of death traps) and his latest, A Slight Chance of Sawblades (you start out as a chicken who must avoid raining sawblades). A Slight Chance of Sawblades+ will be added to Apple Arcade in May. The "+" added to the title means that there are no ads or in-app purchases. A Slight Chance of Sawblades also holds the distinction as Singapore’s first "App Store Great".

Next up, P’ng Yiwei demos King's League II. P'ng is the founder and director of Kurechii, an indie studio based in KL. Although founded in 2009, it was only with King's League: Odyssey that Kurechii became better known in the industry. With 15 years of experience and numerous games under its belt, Kurechii continues to be a leader in RPG gaming in Malaysia.

The last developer at the showcase is Jakob Lykkegaard, founder of Lykke Studios. Originally from Denmark, the Dane made Thailand his home for the past 16 years. Lykke Studios is based in Thailand and Cyprus, has produced tint., lumen. and the Apple Design Award-winning stitch. Inspired by the geometric grid-based puzzle game, Shikaku, Lykke Studios skewed the mechanics to fit the embroidery theme. The game features over 200 levels and is accessible on all Apple Arcade platforms, including Apple Vision Pro.

What's Next?

During his international tour last year, Tim Cook said that "gaming is very important to Apple and not just a side project." With such ambitions for Apple's games, after what he had seen at the regional game developers showcase, Cooks seems encouraged.

"Well, I think it is flourishing," Cook said, "Gaming is a very important area for us and essential for the development community because so many want to design and play games. Gaming is one of the key things that really uses the Apple silicone chip in a significant way. I think that iOS is the best mobile platform on the planet; we put so much of ourselves and our resources into the engine of the product."

According to a Global Games Market Report, the video game market netted USD184 billion in revenue in 2023. And with TV adaptations of AAA video games (The Last of Us; Fallout), the market is only gonna get bigger. It'd be interesting to see what else gaming-wise Apple has on the horizon. Maybe announcements about the utilisation of the Vision Pro when it comes to gaming? Perhaps a return to the waters of a gaming console (anybody remember Pippin)? We'll see.