While it takes a few unlocks to play with friends online, hopefully the future of Playgrounds Online is brighter

NBA Playgrounds: How to Start Playing With Friends

While it takes a few unlocks to play with friends online, hopefully the future of Playgrounds Online is brighter
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Since its release on May 9, players of NBA Playgrounds have noticed one vital feature missing from the game — a true online mode that allows them to play with or against friends. NBA 2K and most other sport games have normalized the fact that when you get a modern sports game, you’re going to get online play, too. But as of right now, Playgrounds users can only engage in random-match online game modes or a classic offline co-op mode with friends.

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Yes, you read that right: you currently cannot play with your friends in online mode — only in the local offline co-op.

So until a true online co-op mode appears, players can still get comfortable with the local multiplayer feature to challenge their friends on the basketball court. For those who would rather ball solo, you can participate in ranked play (unless playing on the Nintendo Switch). 

How to Play With Friends in Offline Co-Op for NBA Playgrounds

The classic fun with friends around one TV is brought to life in Playgrounds. To access this local mode, head to the the main menu select an Exhibition Match. From there, you’ll see be four spaces that you can choose, which represent the four characters in the teams. Players will then choose a team and a player, and then you can start the fun.

If you have played a single-player Exhibition Match previously, the characters you choose may already be pre-selected, so just press the circle/B button until all four boxes are cleared.

How to Unlock Online Play in NBA Playgrounds

If you want to hop online and test out your skills against people other than your friends, there’s a mode for that! But to play online in NBA Playgrounds, you first have to unlock the mode. Unlike a lot of a games that have you go through tutorial runs before you can access some of the game’s core features, NBA Playgrounds requires a full unlock.

First, you need to unlock Tournament Mode in order to get online, but that won’t be too difficult. To unlock Tournament Mode, you need to reach level two, then open the player pack you receive.

From there, you only need to reach round three of the tournament. With the tournament finished, you’ll be able to take on friends or participate in ranked play for online modes.

Will Online Mode Ever Let You Play With Friends?

Saber Interactive promised to include a full-fledged online mode a few days after launch — but now two weeks later, players are still on the bench. We hope to see a patch in the coming months that will upgrade online for the Switch, but can’t say for sure if that’s actually going to happen. 

 As you wait and grind through Playgrounds, check out our other guides to get ahead of the game:

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Nick Lee
Writer, host, and barely a video editor studying PR at the University of Florida! If it's Star Wars I probably wrote it.