Saber Interactive offers a varied catalog across PC, consoles, and mobile, including the NBA Playgrounds series; even though its mobile catalog doesn’t offer the best Android games, Saber is a well-respected publisher in all other matters. Well, after years of testing, it would appear that the mobile interpretation of NBA Playgrounds is finally available in the US as an early access release. It’s called Basketball Playgrounds, and it has been in beta under the names NBA 2K Playgrounds (2K published the second entry in the Playgrounds series on PC and consoles) and Basketball Playgrounds: Clash of Dunks over the last three years. I’m not sure why the game has taken this long to reach early access in the US, but perhaps Embracer Group’s 2020 acquisition of Saber Interactive delayed things a bit.
The brief trailer above illustrates that Basketball Playgrounds is a 2v2 freestyle basketball game that exudes the cartoony over-the-top gameplay the Playgrounds series is known for, all in a bite-sized offering. The touch controls are simple enough, with a movement thumbstick on the left and shoot, pass, and dash buttons on the right. There’s no controller support, as the entire game is built around touch input. Still, at least the controls are simple to grasp and relatively responsive. So as far as the core 2v2 gameplay goes, it’s no-frills but intuitive, meaning just about anyone can compete on a fair playing field, and compete you will as this is a competitive online multiplayer game.
Basketball Playgrounds is currently available in early access, so it appears to be a work in progress still. However, all the awful mechanics you’d expect from a free-to-play sports game are already here, including in-app purchases that range up to $100 per item.
First off, the forced tutorial blocks viewing the game’s monetization and settings until it’s complete, which is incredibly annoying. Once you get out of the tutorial that shows you how to press three buttons, you’ll see that this is a gacha game where you buy cards (how original) to unlock new gear and characters. These card packs can be purchased outright with the game’s premium currency, which means the game is indeed pay-to-win. There’s also a secondary currency and a rewards system, but at least you don’t have to pay for a battle pass to earn the rewards (at least not yet).
So there you have it. Saber Interactive has brought its NBA Playgrounds series to mobile as Basketball Playgrounds. Even though the development period has lasted for years, it appears that the company is finally ramping up for a release in the US with an early access build that’s available right now. Sadly sports games are often rife with horrible monetization that border on gambling, and Basketball Playgrounds is no different. The game is aggressively monetized with multiple currencies, a stamina system that forces you to wait to play, and loot boxes that reward better gear and players, which is a shame as the simple 2v2 basketball game could have been fun, but instead, it’s a money trap.
New year, new phone?
About The Author