Niantic's Newest Game: NBA All World First Look

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Basketball; currently ranked the 3rd most popular sport in the entire world. For a huge portion of the population, this game isn't just a game; it's a lifestyle. And Niantic is back with plans to deepen that lifestyle just a bit. Announced not too long ago now, NBA All World is Niantic's new Augmented Reality game, and it's set to drop soon for the entire world. While this isn't exactly Pokemon Go, we thought that we'd take a look at this new upcoming game and give an overview, as Niantic was gracious enough to give us a bit of advanced information on this game and what it will have to offer. And I've got to say; it's looking pretty good on the surface. So let's dive into this game and take a peek at what exactly we can expect as Niantic invites us to take to the courts and take our place on the leaderboards!

NBA All World Overview

NBA All World will take place in an augmented reality format, and will use Niantic’s unique AR tech to take the gameworld and overlay it with the real-world via devices such as smartphones or tablets. In short, this game will follow the basic structure that all Niantic games thus far have followed by attempting to bring the gameworld to real life.

Niantic has partnered with HypGames, the National Basketball Players Association, and the NBA itself in order to create a game designed to encourage players to get out and explore their community. In keeping with Niantic’s mission, many of the in-game goals will revolve around in-person interaction and active play, with leaderboards and one-on-one games taking center stage at launch. 

NBA All World doesn’t just go into the gameplay of basketball. Instead, it digs deeper and takes a hold of the culture behind basketball and what makes it one of the most popular sports in the entire world today. In this game, players will be able to recruit NBA Players, level up their Players, customize their Players, and take to the court to crush the competition and prove themselves to be the best in their local area, if not the world.

Gameplay Mechanics

As already highlighted, NBA All-World is an Augmented Reality game that has its main gameplay shine brightest when players get out and explore their communities. Like Pokemon Go, the core gameplay loop at launch will be going out and gathering resources, customizing your player and team, and then taking a specific waypoint for yourself. In this case, players will be able to gather resources like energy drinks, avatar items, and cash which can be used to recruit well known NBA players to your team via Player Encounters. After gathering all that you need, it’s time to step up to local basketball courts to challenge the Rule the Court mode and score the #1 rank on the leaderboards. 

Outside of the overworld gameplay, actual basketball gameplay is stated to be an “easy to play, casual experience” and playable while walking around and exploring their local communities, according to the developers. Game modes will focus on screen swiping and tapping to control your player and get into advantageous positions in order to score.

Utilizing these core mechanics, gameplay modes focus on one-on-one gameplay, with promise for more team-oriented gameplay to be released in the future. In short, NBA All World will be about getting ready, recruiting your team, customizing, and dominating the court to show off all of your hard work.


Right off the bat, NBA All World seems to have a strong emphasis on theming and customization at its core. In fact, Niantic has partnered with several top brands for sporting apparel and accessories to bring an authentic edge to the game, including Puma, Adidas, Slam, Todd Snyder, and Stance. They have also worked with several musical artists and groups like Compton AV, T-Pain, and Tyga to create the game’s soundtrack and help to get players into the feel and pace of gameplay. 

Like other Niantic games, NBA All World will use Niantic’s Way Points as points of interest on the map, but they seem to want to make the integration a little stronger. In Pokemon Go, waypoints can be Pokestops or Gyms, and are semi-randomly thrown around the map. But in NBA All-World, these waypoints called Drop Zones, and are stated to be more tied to what each waypoint actually is. For example; players will be able to visit local convenience stores to pick up energy drinks to enhance gameplay, stop by banks to gather cash to use in-game, or take a detour to a nearby clothes store to grab new in-game gear. Players will also be able to utilize AR to get even more out of the game experience later this year, which will add another layer to the entire experience. And when this is all taken together, players will have a lot of options for customizing their team.

In conjunction with picking up NBA Players, players will also be able to nab Headwear, Eyewear, Socks, Shirts, Pants, Sneakers, and heck; even the basketball that’ they'll use! Most of this looks to be purely cosmetic, allowing players to pick their own unique style and show it off, but it appears that the choice of Shirt, Pants, and Sneakers will additionally grant stats, so it’s very likely that we’re going to see specific outfits that will show up on the leaderboards more often than others. Like we said earlier, these items are based on real-world brands, so chances are that the list of available customization items will become pretty comprehensive as the game goes on!

One of the core gameplay mechanics will be the opportunity for players to play against and recruit well-known NBA stars who have loaned their likeness to Niantic for NBA All World. The starting lineup that we know about thus far will include Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minesota Timberwolfes, Jordan Poole of the Golden State Warriors, Andrew Wiggens also from the Golden State Warriors, and Jalen Green of the Houston Rockets. NBA Players will spawn on the map and players will be able to tap to interact with them, and then challenge them to a mini-game in order to recruit them to their teams. All NBA Players recruited will have their own unique stats that are said to be based on their real-world basketball performance, which adds a nice touch of realism to gameplay and some strategy to who will work best on your team. Once recruited, players will be able to use resources gathered in-game in order to Boost their team to raise those stats and improve their performance on the court.

It’s unclear how the rarity of players will be determined at this time, but we do know that the starting roster will focus on current NBA players as outlined above, and it may expand to all-stars from the past and present at some point in the future. 

Based on how it’s shaping up now, the main gameplay goal of NBA All World will revolve around the Rule the Court mode, where players will be able to utilize all of the gear and players that they’ve gathered throughout their time in-game to tackle local leaderboards to score the #1 position. 

These rankings for Rule the Court mode will reset every week, and rewards will be given to players based on their rankings on any courts that they may have taken for themselves in that time. In this regard, the Rule the Court system seems to share a fair bit in common with Pokemon Go Gyms, but substantially more interactive as taking a high rank on a court will apparently involve more actual gameplay than Pokemon Go had at launch, with mini-games that are substantially more dynamic in nature and actual gameplay potentially mattering more than just dropping your strongest Dragonite or Blissey into a gym, as was the case with the early days of Pokemon Go.

To top this all off, NBA All World will also feature special events, including their Go All Out launch campaign that will provide players with various bonuses to help kick-start their gameplay. Events will also revolve around high-profile games that are happening in the NBA, adding yet another layer of depth to gameplay.

First Impressions

As a day-1 Pokemon Go player, I will say that I wish that my game had included the sheer polish that NBA All World will apparently sport on its release. Based on everything that I’ve seen to date, this game looks to be very well put together and has a very strong art style that lends itself well to the overall theme of the game.

And while I haven’t actually had a chance to play the game myself, it definitely looks to be more interactive than most games of this vein in terms of gameplay. In the currently available resources, it looks as though players will have to combine stats, strategy, and timing to score points, and I’d wager that some of these matches will likely get pretty heated at higher levels.

Potential Concerns

Let’s be honest for a second; we here at Gamepress have never pulled our punches when it comes to our reviews of different game mechanics. However, this game admittedly looks pretty solid from the outside, and we’re not going to be hyper-critical of a game that we haven’t yet tried hands-on. A lot of people have poured their hearts and souls into the development of NBA All World, and they definitely deserve credit for all of their hard work. However, we do have a few concerns based on the currently available information, and wanted to make mention of them here.

Rural Player Concerns

Historically, Niantic has not been “great” when it comes to supporting players outside of urban areas. As many Pokemon Go players can testify to, if you’re away from a major city center, your options can be pretty limited in terms of actual gameplay. This is especially troubling for NBA All World, as it’s confirmed that Niantic has mapped a huge database of basketball courts the world over and intends to use them as the basis for actual court-based activities in game, meaning players in areas that lack basketball courts altogether could very well be in a worrisome position. However, to address this, Niantic intends to implement a system similar to what we have with Gyms in Pokemon Go, where the game will assign courts to other Drop Zones if no actual courts are in the area.

This solves the problem, right? Well, no; It’s also been confirmed that players will get additional rewards from real-world basketball courts when compared to these make-shift courts that the game will assign to many areas. While this seems like a bonus for players who live near courts, it can just as easily be seen as a punishment for players who don’t, as their gameplay will be nerfed unless they make the trip to the nearest court, which may or may not be feasible for many. To be fair, Niantic has been addressing these issues more than ever in recent years in their other games, and may provide additional support for players who are a bit out-of-the way. We also don’t know just how much better the drops will be from real-life courts when compared to waypoints turned into courts, and it’s already been confirmed that Niantic has mapped over 100,000 real world courts as it stands, so time will tell just how much of an issue this will end up being once the game launches, if at all.

Light on Content on Release

The early-game of NBA All World is looking to have some genuine similarities to what Pokemon Go was at the same point: gather resources, take a waypoint, rinse and repeat as you wait for Niantic to drop more content. However, it undeniably seems to have more polish on release, and the exact amount to do seems to be a bit more competitive than Pokemon Go initially was, as the game seems to have more activity to its competitive gameplay than “tap the screen and occasionally hold your finger down” (remember; Charged Moves weren't activated via dedicated buttons at first!). Compound this with the fact that more content is definitely confirmed for the near future, and this concern may turn out to be unfounded.


NBA All World is set to launch soon, so it won’t be long until we’ll be able to see just how it will handle. This is a game with a fair bit of polish and promise, with a lot of potential for expansion moving forward. The stage is set for a strong opening to another long-term game, as the NBA’s roster is massive, and becomes monolithic if you include all of the long-standing legends that the league has had in the past. On top of that, this roster is also growing as more players are inducted into the league each year, meaning the possibilities are literally endless. For now, only one question remains;

How long until we get events featuring NBA Players in funny hats?

So what do you all think about NBA All World? Planning on picking it up once it drops? If so, would you like to see Gamepress cover what this game has to offer? Let us know in the comments, as we'd love to see what you think!

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About the Author(s)

Gamepress Pokemon Go site lead with a focus on theorycrafting and gameplay optimization and a background in business management and freelance writing.  A bit of a hermit, but also an outdoors enthusiast who loves cycling and hiking. Long-time Gamepress fan who is very proud to be a part of the team.