Niantic unveils NBA All-World mobile game for ‘real-world metaverse’


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Niantic revealed a new mobile game dubbed NBA All-World that will let fans compete against other players in their own neighborhoods.

The game uses gelolocation to enable players to find other players and challenge them in a one-on-one multiplayer hoops game on a smartphone. It’s another title that expands the geolocation gaming genre that Niantic pioneered with Ingress and Pokémon Go. Niantic’s formula has been to create new geolocation games with famous brands such as Harry Potter or Pikmin, and it is also licensing its AR/geolocation platform to indie devs through a platform called Lightship.

San Francisco-based Niantic said NBA All-World is a first-of-its-kind game that will place NBA fans into the “real-world metaverse,” which layers computer animations atop the real world when viewed through augmented reality glasses or smartphones. NBA All-World is now in soft launch, with a planned global launch during the 2022-2023 NBA season.

Marcus Matthews, senior producer at Niantic, said in a press briefing that “real-world metaverse” means that instead of creating a virtual world that you explore, Niantic will overlay a video game environment on top of a map of the real world.

“And we want to use objects and items in the real world and locations in the real world,” he said. “And we can turn those into video game objects that you can interact and play with or against.”

NBA All-World is a free-to-play officially licensed geolocation basketball game where players can find, challenge and compete against today’s NBA ballers in their neighborhoods, then recruit them to their team before proving themselves on the virtual court.

“This is the evolution into the next generation of sports video gaming,” said Matthews. “This is where the NBA gaming and lifestyle meets the real world metaverse.”

You can collect players in NBA All-World.

For Niantic, the real-world metaverse is the envelope that it wraps around the real world to immerse you in a basketball universe, “or what I personally like to call turning the real world into a basketball theme park,” Matthews said.

In NBA All-World, basketball courts in the real world have been turned into courts where you can ball and compete with the best players in the league, virtually. You can move around the map as you walk around, looking out for Drop Zones with gear you can collect and use to customize your players. You can get gear such as sneakers and accessories at the Drop Zones.

“That sporting goods store around the corner is the place to pick up the latest brand name shoe to customize your players,” Matthews said. “We built this game around how players play basketball naturally. Basketball is a sport that’s played outdoors. And what we’re doing is taking a basketball video gaming experience and bringing it outdoors.”

You can explore shoes, jerseys, balls and accessories inspired by basketball culture. Players can also find, challenge and compete against today’s NBA ballers in their neighborhoods, then recruit them to their team before proving themselves on the court.

“Something has never really been done in sports gaming is map-based play,” Matthews said. “So we’re going to introduce a new style, a new way, a new flavor, to be able to get around that and to see sports gaming.”

Steph Curry of the Warriors in NBA All-World.

You can power up player stats with boosts in offense, defense and fitness. You can make sure you keep energy high with energy drinks and watch out for lower energy that makes it harder to score. You can challenge players and build your reputation.

You will control the player in the game using swipe gestures or taps.

“We want this to be a very quick, easy, accessible gameplay system, with short experiences that you can play out in the real world,” Matthews said.

The idea is to get people to go to courts and then play virtual basketball sessions in between the real-world games.

Matthews said you have to be at real-world courts to play with others. But he acknowledged that many communities may not have locations that are conveniently located. In that case, real-world parks might serve as substitutes for the competition locations.

The company has a database of hundreds of thousands of courts around the world, and Niantic’s intention is to try to increase foot traffic in those locations so that people will play more basketball in real life. You can also battle someone in your own home if you have a friend or sibling able to play in the same place through a feature dubbed nearby multiplayer. But you can’t find item drops that way.

“At the NBA, we’re always looking to provide new ways for our fans to connect with the league,” said Adrienne O’Keefe, vice president of global partnerships at the NBA, in a press briefing. “And we really see NBA All-World and this partnership with Niantic as a way to add an exciting new game to our portfolio that offers an entirely brand new experience for our fans with this AR real-world metaverse gameplay.”

“NBA-All World gives us the opportunity to bring NBA players into Niantic’s real-world metaverse, opening up paths for fans to interact with them in a new way,” said Josh Goodstadt, executive vice president of licensing for Think450, a representative of the NBA Players Association, in a statement. “Niantic has proven experience building games that encourage engagement in local communities, and having our players integrated into NBA All-World adds to that immersion.”

Additionally, NBA All-World will embrace the fashion of the NBA with the ability to outfit players in the game with custom apparel, Matthews said.

Players can sign-up to be notified when NBA All-World is available in their country by visiting this site.

You can play one-on-one battles against other players in NBA All-World.

“We would love it for folks to be able to use our game to start a real game of basketball,” Matthews said.

Glenn Chin, head of marketing for the game, said in a press briefing that the game can appeal to basketball players or “sneakerheads” who have their own connections to the sport. The game is a way to express your love for the sport and connect with other players. The game will offer AR experiences.

The game will add location-related facts, such as the courts where NBA players grew up playing basketball. That’s a cool feature that could inspire kids to be basketball stars.

Niantic CEO John Hanke is a basketball fan, and the high school basketball team that he played on won the state championship in Texas. The conversation started about five years ago after the debut of Pokémon Go, as the NBA took notice of its popularity, O’Keefe said.

“It was clear where this could go,” O’Keefe said.

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