Will Niantic’s NBA All-World Recreate Pokémon GO’s Magic?

Niantic’s NBA All-World was revealed to the public a few months ago—followed by the news of them canceling other game projects. Seeing as this game survived the culling, they must be pretty confident about it.

So, the question remains: Will Niantic’s NBA All-World recreate Pokémon GO’s success? When it comes to catching lightning in a bottle, so far, Niantic hasn’t been able to do it twice. However, this could be chalked down to the partners they were collaborating with on previous titles.

The National Basket Association (NBA) is a billion-dollar industry, and this will be an officially-licensed, free-to-play title for it. If NBA 2K22 is any indicator, the game quickly blasted over 8 million sales, with 1.9 million daily active players.

When it comes to IP and recognition, the NBA is definitely up there. It’s nearly on par with Pokémon for having a strong casual market, and also garnering the attention of gamers.

Aside from screenshots released by Niantic and a handful of descriptions, we haven’t seen a full gameplay reveal for All-World. The developers are being relatively hush, especially when compared to Niantic’s other upcoming title, Peridot.

From the information pieced together from other outlets, and the images—the game has serious potential. I’m not a huge fan of the NBA or basketball in general, but if Niantic executes the gameplay ideas well, I’d give it a shot.

Instead of catching Pokémon, they’ll be replaced by established NBA players. Niantic has already confirmed a few stars, like Steph Curry, James Harden, and Chris Paul.

The Senior Producer behind the game, Marcus Matthews, also released a statement that instils faith. It seems like the teams developing NBA All-World are genuinely passionate about basketball, and have experience in creating sports videogame experiences.

“Working on NBA All-World has been a dream for me… I was determined to make a career out of my two passions: sports and video games. NBA All-World is the culmination of those passions!” — Marcus Matthews.

Niantic’s NBA All-World aims to combine augmented reality with 1-on-1 basketball action to provide a one-of-a-kind game experience. The company also mentions there’ll be a huge focus on collecting gear and fashion.

This is what really intrigues me. An augmented reality game that goes deep on avatar customization with a wide range of clothing options available? Sign me up! They also mention sneakers in every other sentence.

Apparently, you’ll be able to collect other NBA players, form a squad, and even customize them to an extent with different apparel. This can also provide performance “power-ups”.

On the official website Niantic describes there’ll be a range of “mini-games” to compete in—with the goal being to become the “King of the Court”. So far, this sounds like a very different experience to the gameplay loop any of Niantic’s other titles offer.

If NBA All-World can deliver what they promise on paper when it comes to gameplay, I can see it being a success. The developers have said they’re aiming for hardcore NBA fans and casual gamers alike.

All-World could mimic what Pokémon GO did, drawing in non-fans or people who have no experience with the franchise. The gameplay just needs to be accessible, even for people without any prior knowledge of basketball.

A real step up from Pokémon GO would be if the game offers a variety of different content to do. Catching the same Pokémon over and over gets tiring. All-World could keep things fresh if the mini-games it offers are diverse and exciting.

It’s exciting to see where Niantic takes NBA All-World. I was extremely sceptical at first, and at a loss for words imagining what an augmented reality sports game would even look like. However, after researching and digging into the gameplay, I think it could be promising.

Peridot is still my most anticipated upcoming augmented reality game. However, that’s just because I’m a sucker for the Tamagotchi-esque style. Niantic has already confirmed All-World will be following their signature soft-launch process.

The game will be rolling out to select countries first as part of beta testing. As they tweak and perfect the gameplay, it’ll release in more countries. It is being co-developed by Niantic and HypGames in partnership with the NBA. You can pre-register for the game now.

By Camellia Hao Ren

Camellia Hao Ren is an Australian journalist and editor. When they aren't writing, they are usually playing games or reading.

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