Niantic launched NBA All-World, its basketball-themed, location-based mobile game, on iOS and Android today. Ahead of this release, Digital Trends attended a presentation to learn more about how the sports AR title works.
If you’ve played any of Niantic’s games before, many elements of NBA All-World will feel quite familiar. The mobile game tracks players’ location and encourages them to explore. While doing so, players will find Drop Zones that grant them new gear. Niantic says Drop Zones will often be placed near real-world counterparts, so players can find money near a bank or shoes near a shoe store.
There will also be Player Encounters, where they can face off against current NBA athletes. Niantic tells Digital Trends that classic athletes aren’t currently in the game, but feels that idea “is a good one.”
In Player Encounters, users face off against athletes in one of four minigames: 3-Point Shootout, Beat the Clock, Around the World, and First-to-Five. While they feature some impressive and realistic animation for a mobile game, Niantic says these minigames only use simple swipe controls because the studio wanted to make something that is easy to play while someone is walking around their neighborhood. If a user wins a Player Encounter, they can recruit that athlete to their team, customize them with items found at Drop Zones, and upgrade them by playing with them. Players can also challenge players they already recruited again to earn more currency.
The title also includes “Rule the Court” neighborhood leaderboards, many of which are placed at real-world basketball courts, where players can compete for the highest score. Currently, there are no player-versus-player elements in NBA All-World, although Niantic understands players like competitive modes in their sports games and may add them in the future. In fact, many features are still in the pipeline for post-launch updates, including Niantic’s trademark AR support. Early in the second quarter of 2023, Niantic plans on adding AR support to NBA All-World to enhance the loot drops from Drop Zones to make it look like they’re happening in the real world.
One thing that will be in the game at launch is microtransactions, which Niantic says will be similar to the ones available in its other games and allow players to increase their athletes’ stats with Offense, Defense, and Fitness boosts.
Despite the undeniable success of Pokémon Go, Niantic has never been able to completely replicate its success with games like Harry Potter: Wizards Unite or Pikmin Bloom. However, the studio seems confident that basketball has the global mass appeal to make NBA All-World another massive hit for the company. The early footage we saw of the game does leave us optimistic for NBA All-World’s prospects, but we’ll ultimately have to wait and see if the game will make it past its rookie season.
NBA All-World is available now for iOS and Android.