Nintendo unveiled its first-ever mobile game late on Wednesday evening. It doesn’t star Super Mario, or feature the world of “Pokémon.” Instead, it’s called “Miitomo,” and it’s a social experience with some game-like aspects.
Confused? Allow me to explain.
Miis basically look like little people. You can create your own Mii from scratch, or you can use the camera on your Wii U gamepad to snap a selfie that will then be used to create a Mii of yourself.
Here are a wide variety of examples from Wii U’s “Mii Maker” app:
Despite the mass popularity of Nintendo’s games — from “Mario” to “Donkey Kong,” and everything in between — Miis make a lot of sense for Nintendo’s first mobile game project, “Miitomo.”
During an investor presentation in Japan on Wednesday night, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima offered light details on Nintendo’s first foray into mobile gaming. First and foremost, “Miitomo” is a free-to-play game being developed in partnership with Japanese mobile game company DeNA. It launches at some point in March 2016 — a delay from the original late 2015 release window.
But, uh, what is it?
How will “Miitomo” work?
As expected, the first thing you’ll do with “Miitomo” is create a Mii. We’re guessing you’ll follow a similar process to those found on the Wii U and 3DS consoles from Nintendo — either create your own from scratch, from a template, or by using a selfie.
Next, “Miitomo” asks you a bunch of questions. Your answers to those questions become the automated responses your Mii gives to friends. For instance, your Mii might ask another Mii “Where are you from?” And then your Mii might automatically reply, “Funkytown.”
But who is your Mii communicating with? Not just anyone — only folks who you’ve designated a friend through Nintendo’s online service. Nintendo actually introduced two new services Wednesday night named “Nintendo Account” and “My Nintendo,” which will carry your digital Nintendo life across various devices (smartphone, PC, and game consoles). By using these services, friends from the console will hopefully carry over to “Miitomo” seamlessly (and vice versa).
This passive form of communication is being called “Conversation Starters.” Here’s Kimishima explaining the concept:
Another unique characteristic of “Miitomo” is that you may be able to find out unknown aspects about your friends or unexpected commonalities you share with your friend because Miitomo may pick up the topics that you usually do not discuss but would be willing to answer if asked. What we would like to realise is, through such communication, you will be able to deepen friendly relationships and have more people with whom you can play games.
It looks like “Miitomo” will act as a form of catalyst for expanding real life friendship into Nintendo’s digital world.
Both “Miitomo” and Nintendo’s new cloud-based service, “My Nintendo,” are planned for a March 2016 launch. It’s not clear if that applies to Japan only for now, but it seems likely to launch worldwide. The only information Kimishima shared on that front is this broad statement about all of Nintendo’s mobile games: “In principle, we will release each application globally, but the specific countries in which we will release each one will be determined in terms of each IP [intellectual property] to be deployed.”
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