Niantic Partners With NBA for an AR Basketball Game
Pokémon Go developer Niantic is working with NBA to build an AR mobile basketball game called NBA All-World.
IN NBA All–World, you are immersed in streetball where you will be exploring your neighborhood to discover some of the top stars in the league such as James Harden, Chris Paul, and Steph Curry. You will be challenging and competing against virtual players in mini-games such as three-point contests and then recruiting the players into your team.
The mobile AR basketball game clearly borrows some of the gameplay loops in Pokemon Go and translates them into an augmented reality basketball game, a strategy that Niantic has used with some of its other games. In this case, basketball is rendered as both a sport and a lifestyle.
The free-to-play version of the game lets players collect NBA basketball stars and even buff and customize the virtual players with items that players discover and pick from their visits to real-world locations. This version also lets you go one-on-one matches against other players in the neighborhood courts along with other locations.
Players in NBA All–World can deck out their favorite NBA stars using custom apparel merch. Polygon reports that players will also be able to improve their squads using the items that they will discover in the wild, in real-world locations such as convenience stores and sporting goods stores.
Players will immerse themselves in contests where they will take on one another in one-on-one matches using swipe-based commands. These contests will take place in various locations such as on real-life basketball courts.
According to the game’s senior producer Marcus Matthews, NBA All–World brings together NBA’s gaming and lifestyle with a real-world metaverse. Matthews says the game will envelop the world around players into “a basketball universe”, literally transforming the real world around you into a virtual basketball theme park. It is a perfect example of Niantic’s “real world metaverse” approach in its content development.
Matthews came to Niantic in 2021 to oversee the development of NBA All–World. Niantic and NBA began discussing a possible partnership as far back as five years ago according to NBA’s VP for global partnerships Adrienne O’Keeffe. This was soon after Pokemon Go’s launch in the summer of 2016 when the mobile AR game exploded into a global phenomenon.
NBA All–World will leverage a database consisting of “hundreds of thousands” of real-life courts as well as various basketball-playing courts. It will also include stops at convenience stores and sporting goods stores players can discover, stop by and pick up virtual shoes for their virtual NBA stars. Players can also use the stops to boost their stamina for their next basketball game.
The NBA All–World street balling will feature “King of the Court” games that will be much like the Pokemon Go gyms and will include one-on-one contests where players use swipe-based commands to perform various actions including shooting, blocking, post-up, and faking.
Other challenges in the NBA All-World will include minigames such as the three-point contests. There will be real-world NBA stars in the AR basketball game and players will easily recognize them by their appearance and even behavior. Matthews says the experience in the game will push the envelope not just in rendering the augmented reality but also in bringing out the gameplay experience.
Players will collect rare or exclusive drops very much like in the limited-time events in Pokemon Go. Like the other Niantic game, this streetball experience will also feature “location-based map storytelling.” There will be some prior context to each of the courts that players will play in so they won’t simply be playing in some random computer-generated court.
However, Niantic emphasizes that NBA All–World is simply a casual sports video game and is not necessarily a core gaming experience. The studios want the game to appeal to both casual fans and superfans of the NBA.
Matthews says that the gaming experience will be anchored by one-on-one, leaderboards and will take place in real courts. But the experience will also incorporate elements of the metaverse. For instance, a player will be able to get an NBA star and kit them with merchandise such as digital shoes.
Niantic is currently working on several games such as Transformers: Heavy Metal which is currently in beta and is only limited to several countries at the moment. The Pokémon Go creator is also working on Peridot which is described as a modern rendition of Tamagotchi.
The developer hasn’t divulged when NBA All–World will be released but the new mobile AR basketball game is expected to go into a soft launch period soon. You can sign up on the game’s website for updates on its progress.