Pokemon GO Creator Niantic Labs Is Trying Its Hand At An NBA AR Game

Though it's not making headlines anymore, "Pokemon GO" still has a strong following, especially now that people are able to go out and about again. That doesn't mean the rest of developer Niantic Labs' other endeavors are taking the mobile market by storm. It had a few ups and downs, including titles that were canceled even before they launched. That hasn't stopped the mobile AR experts from still trying to aim higher, striking up partnerships with big names and properties. The company's latest project may be its biggest one yet, and it is also probably the most perplexing. That said, it could also be Niantic's most successful one, too, considering how the basketball market is already primed for such an indirect experience.

"NBA All-World" is both similar yet distinctly different from what Niantic has tried to pull off so far. The AR developers have worked with established IPs before and incorporated mechanics that involved a good amount of walking and traveling, but those don't always work with the theme or nature of the franchise. You will still do some of those with this basketball-themed AR game, which Niantic announced on its blog, but it might make more sense here than in "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite."

The upcoming basketball game includes mechanics or ideas that might remind you of "Pokemon GO," at least based on Niantic's description. You don't collect monsters, but you might encounter popular basketball players who you have to challenge and defeat before you can recruit them to your team. Certain locations like basketball courts become trainer gyms where you can go one-on-one with another player just like you might do in real life. Of course, you don't play real-world basketball in "NBA All-World," but instead use swipe-based commands to shoot, block, or fake out opponents. Basketball fans are already used to playing games like this, so it won't feel too unfamiliar or awkward.

Niantic will combine the real world and virtual basketball

Just like with anything related to basketball and the NBA, there is also a commercial element in "NBA All-World," with an even bigger potential than any of Niantic's games so far. Visiting locations like sporting goods stores will give players access to accessories and items to put on virtual basketball players. Again, merchandising is something basketball fans are familiar with, and this could be a lucrative market for NBA, Niantic, and even advertisers.

To some extent, there is almost a metaverse atmosphere to "NBA All-World," one that is stronger than that of "Pokemon GO." In addition to the gaming aspect itself, the virtual space has plenty of opportunities for brands to advertise and profit in collaborations. There's also a serving of fashion in the experience, especially with shoes that people love to collect, whether in reality or in virtual reality.

At the moment, however, it's still all potential as "NBA All-World" doesn't have a release date yet. Niantic also has a few other games in the works, including its own Tamagotchi-like "Peridot" title. Whether "NBA All-World" will see success where others haven't remains to be seen, but all the elements are there for a nascent metaverse game.