The Association’s partnership with the company behind Pokémon Go brings its first-ever officially licensed game to leverage geolocation, AR, and the metaverse.
The NBA and Niantic, the makers of Pokémon Go, announced a partnership Tuesday bring a new real-world mobile game called NBA All-World. The game will be the first one ever licensed by the NBA to enter the world of Web3.
NBA All-World is a free-to-play, officially licensed geolocation basketball game in which 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 court.
“We set a vision for something that hasn’t been seen or done before,” said Marcus Mathews, senior producer at Niantic, in a Zoom interview. “I feel like here at Niantic, seeing what they did with Pokémon Go and taking gaming out in the real world — when I heard that there was an opportunity to take sports gaming out in the real world, I knew it was going to be a game-changer.”
The game will additionally feature IRL experiences involving brands like Nike. If a player travels to a Nike store, they can outfit their avatar in new gear like jerseys, shorts, and shoes. Certain gas stations and convenience stores. will connect to the game as well, permitting players to purchase energy drinks to replenish their in-game avatar’s virtual energy.
The goal in doing all this is to encourage players to explore the real world around them to discover perks and powerups that can aid them within the game, something Pokémon Go will fully recognize.
“We are really to do something that is totally new and the goal is to make the real world a basketball universe. So when you go out and you open up our game, you’ll see courts that you can play on to become top of the leaderboard, or you will be able to get a new OVO shirt, for example,” Mathews said.
The game will be the NBA’s first venture into the metaverse’s ever-expanding mobile gaming world. The league rolled out NBA Lane through Horizon Worlds on Meta Quest 2 in May, but that experience will end at the end of June; activities within the game include a free throw shootout, a low-gravity dunk contest, enjoying the “Big Screen” ( a highlight room featuring player interviews), and some selfie time in the NBA Trophy Room.
“This adds a new genre. Now, we have location-based AR gaming,” said Adrienne O’Keeffe, head of digital consumer products at the NBA in a video interview. “This is a new and complementary genre to our portfolio. We’re excited about bringing this to market and to our fans. When we think of the future of basketball and the future of the NBA, we think it is going to be defined by digital innovation and our ability to bring directly to fans where they are on the devices they want and in the form they want.”
Added Josh Goodstadt, EVP of Licensing for THINK450, the innovation engine of the NBPA”
“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. 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.”
(This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Adrienne O’Keeffe’s name)