Since launching in 2016, Pokemon Go has driven enthusiasts to chase their favorite monsters in delivery rooms, at funerals, and even inside the White House. Soon, we’ll see how far hoopheads will go in search of their favorite players.
Niantic, the makers of Pokemon Go, announced a partnership with the NBA Tuesday, with plans to launch a similar mobile game featuring NBA stars.
NBA All-World is set to debut later this year, hoping to draw fans around the world to real-life locations with a mobile app featuring minigames and the ability for users to build teams of their own. Existing basketball courts will host virtual leaderboards while certain brick-and-mortar retailers will become areas to pick up in-game items.
Rucker Park, for instance, could one day become crowded with phone-holders trying to add the likes of Kevin Durant to their in-game roster by winning a one-on-one battle against a digital KD. NBA All-World will also incorporate person vs. person competitions, more randomized encounters for those who might not live within walking distance of multiple basketball Meccas and some at-home capabilities, as well as in-app purchases. The game will launch with the likenesses of 65 NBA players.
“NBA All-World will provide fans across the globe the opportunity to fully immerse themselves into the energy and excitement of the NBA,” Matt Holt, the league’s head of consumer products, said in a statement. “Evident in the name of the game itself, we look forward to engaging with our fans around the world through this immersive experience.”
Niantic uses augmented reality tech to create phone-based experiences tied to physical locations. It burst onto the scene with Pokemon Go, which quickly racked up over 500 million downloads in 2016. By the end of 2021, the game had surpassed $5 billion in total revenue.
Development of NBA All-World began soon after Pokemon Go’s launch. “The idea of gaming and the metaverse isn’t necessarily new to the NBA,” Adrienne O’Keeffe, the NBA’s head of digital consumer products, said in an interview. “I think this brings it to a new realm, and we’re always looking for ways to meet our fans where they are.”
The NBA is also looking into integrating NBA All-World into existing tentpoles, from the NBA Draft to its international games.
“We really think that this is an on-ramp into basketball,” Niantic senior director of global marketing Glenn Chin said in an interview. “We’re not asking people to play hours at a time. It’s… Play for three or four minutes and enjoy yourself. Or before you know it, maybe you walked for 15 minutes and you got some good exercise.”