Niantic’s next AR smartphone game is like 'Pokemon Gó' for NBA fans

Is this something that hoop heads will actually enjoy, though?


Niantic, the developer behind Pokémon Go, has no intention of stopping its run of AR-based, exploratory video games. Back in November, the company announced a new platform called Lightship to help other developers create their own experiential projects. It arrived on the heels of Pikmin Bloom, which was less of a game and more a creative way to get people to take walks outdoors. Now, the latest project to emerge is focused on basketball and the league that makes up the world’s best players: NBA All-World.

The official press release notes that the game comes out of a new partnership between Niantic and the NBA, which fits in with the latter’s reputation for embracing emerging tech ahead of the other major sports leagues. As described in the release, NBA All-World will be a “free-to-play officially licensed geolocation basketball game where players can find, challenge, and compete against today’s NBA ballers in their neighborhoods.”

So Pokemon Gó but for hoops? — Basically, yeah. The official site for the game says users will be able to play against current NBA stars (well, their digital avatars) in games of 1v1, participate in mini-games, flesh out their own squads made up of the NBA players they beat, and collect various items around their immediate surroundings.

This is in line with Niantic’s apparent desire to get its userbase to literally touch grass, and it looks like NBA All-World players will navigate their neighborhoods with a map that has designated points of interest. “Now, places and objects in the real world will become video game items; the convenience store near you has become a location to pick up stamina for your NBA player, the sporting goods store around the corner is the place to pick up the latest brand name shoe to customize your players,” said Marcus Matthews, senior producer for the game, who also worked on the original NBA 2K.

Presumably, that includes the local outdoor court and whatever nearby deli stocks Gatorade.

As a basketball obsessive myself, I can tell you one thing: when it comes to enjoying the NBA, the last thing people want to do is heavily engage with their environment. They want to yell, cry, and try to have honest discussions with each other whether in a public setting, over Twitter, or in the comfort of their homes.

The big issue with NBA 2K is that it strayed away from a high-quality simulation game and moved toward a global lifestyle brand that functioned as pay-to-play. That statement above seems to suggest NBA All-World will incorporate some of the worst parts of NBA 2K, just without the high-quality simulation to go along with it. To take off the cynical cap for a minute, though, younger fans in the tween to early teen range might enjoy this sort of offering, especially since character customization seems to be a big part of the experience.