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NBA All-World, the newest game by Niantic, the developer of Pokémon Go, has officially been released globally after a soft-launch in France during the NBA’s stint there over the weekend.

It’s very much a Niantic game and a sports game at the same time, with leading members of the team behind the title bringing experience from both EA and 2K, the two juggernauts of this genre. This combination made sure that there is a lot of love in NBA All-World: love for maps and love for basketball – the sport and the lifestyle.

You can break down NBA All-World into four parts: explore, express, compete, and manage.

NBA All-World: explore

Exploring is a part of Niantic’s DNA and just like you search your neighborhood in Pokémon Go on a quest to find that creature that keeps eluding you, you’ll roam your area in NBA All-World to make progress. Instead of PokéStops and Gyms you will find basketball courts, stores, and drop zones on the map. This is the base for all the other features the game is offering.

Screenshot of the NBA All-World map.

NBA All-World is built on the same principles as Pokémon Go.

If you pass a bank on your way to work or go to a nearby store to do some shopping, you’re able to grab some cash or items for free from these places in the game to help you along – that sure would be a neat feature to have in real life as well, huh? You can also explore drop zones, which is a little bit like an exciting treasure hunt. These areas will contain random items such as a new pair of sneakers or sunglasses, which you can pick up to customize yourself and your players.

NBA All-World: express

That’s where the express part of the formula kicks in. NBA All-World wants to be authentic to the entire lifestyle around basketball and the NBA – that goes for the in-game music as well as the shoes, clothes, and accessories in the game. You’ll be able to deck out your own avatar with all of those items but simple style points – and with brand partners like Adidas and Puma there is a lot of good stuff to find. The first big update to the game in 2023 will feature an AR mode for drop zones, which lets you search for free goodies through your camera.

NBA All-World: manage

But you’ll also be able to equip your players with all that drip, which isn’t just for show. You can also find NBA players running around on the map as if they were wild Pokémon, and if you can beat them – or rather their AI – in a minigame like three-point shoot-out, you can “catch” them for your ever-growing team of all-stars. At launch, the entire current roster of the NBA will be playable.

Legendary players from the NBA’s history might also make their way into the game in the future. Karl-Anthony Towns, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, and Jalen Green have all signed up to be ambassadors for the game.

NBA All-World features an RPG-like inventory and stats system. You can boost your players’ performances by decking them out with higher-level items and enhancing their initial abilities, which are based on their real-life performances. That’s the managing part of the game.

NBA All-World: compete

Why is that important? Well, for the competitive aspect, of course. Basketball courts dot the map and contain neighborhood leaderboards, which function kind of like Pokémon Go Gyms.

You go into the area and challenge a player on the board to a duel in one of a variety of minigames, which are all tap-and-swipe-based for easy playing on the go. Niantic’s CEO John Hanke tells us that they’re supposed to last between 30 to 60 seconds. If you manage to land on the leaderboard and maintain your position for a long time, you’ll earn important rewards for further in-game progress. Leaderboards refresh weekly, so there’s always going to be a clean slate to start from.

At launch, all of these games can only be played against the AI – there is no PvP or co-op in NBA All-World, though naturally that’s high up on the agenda for the future. The strength of the AI that defends your spot on the leaderboard depends on the stats of your players.

Over 100,000 actual real-world basketball courts are available as courts in the game, including the NBA’s arenas, which dominate the map and offer great drops for those who come by. In the future, they may even contain unique items based on the home team or a match happening there, but that, like many things about NBA All-World, is not certain at this point.

That doesn’t mean that areas without such locations are left hanging, though. Thanks to its previous games, Niantic can draw from a huge library of map data from which it can establish suitable points of interest, which are transformed into basketball courts in NBA All-World, even though they may just be a fountain or a statue in real life. That should help players in rural areas to play the game on equal terms, though just like in Pokémon Go users living in big metropolitan regions will always have more opportunities to make progress.

For example, courts based on actual basketball courts have a higher chance of better drops or stronger NBA players appearing. Niantic does want to connect players of its game to basketball, encouraging them to try out the sport and form new connections within it.

Naturally, Niantic also wants to turn a profit. NBA All-World contains microtransactions that will once again remind players of Pokémon Go of that game: You can purchase additional space in your inventory, boosters for XP and skill points, additional gear, and Arena Passes, which are used to access NBA All-World’s tournaments. You can participate in those regardless of your current location and gain big rewards for doing well in them, but they are locked behind a paywall.

The developers have a lot of love for basketball and it’ll be interesting to see how many of their ideas they can integrate into the game in the future. To them, NBA All-World right now is mostly a foundation for greater things to come.

NBA All-World is now out on mobile devices with iOS and Android.