Change has been in the air over at Nintendo these past months. After the unconvincing performance of their latest platform, Wii U, the Japanese company are having to reinvent themselves once again as they attempt to get back on top of the pile. However, not many people would have predicted what they were cooking up ahead of this latest reinvention. Early last year a big partnership deal with Japanese mobile giant Dena was announced, and, for the first time, the Kyoto-based company opened up their IP to different platforms. The move already looks like it will be particularly successful, and as a result of the initial announcement, Nintendo's shares went through the roof, showing that the time was right for the company to make this important step.
Among the initiatives to support this shift towards mobile, and one of the first examples of this partnership with Dena, Nintendo recently announced Miitomo, a new social app that launched in Japan yesterday (there's still no word on when we can expect to see it over here, but we don't think it'll take too long to make the journey west). In a recent hands-on event, we had the opportunity to find out more about this app, which certainly is taking advantage from Tomodachi Life's (unexpected) success, and where players can create a Mii character on their mobile device, interact with their friends, and do many other things besides.
Miitomo isn't a proper game, it's actually a social app that lets you keep in touch with your friends, connecting your account to other popular social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, or to your Nintendo Account. Once you've downloaded the app you can create your character. The setup is basically the same as we've seen on both Wii/3DS/Wii U consoles and in Tomodachi Life. The user can choose whether to create a character from scratch, but they can also acquire one by QR code (as in the Tomodachi Life) or by taking a picture. You can also customise your digital alter-ego not only from an aesthetic point of view, or by changing the tone of your virtual voice, but also - as was the case in Tomodachi Life - you can choose the traits of their personalities, where certain elements of your character are connected to these choices.
The best part of the Miitomo experience are the questions. The app invites you to answer several different questions, and while a response isn't essential, if you do answer it will be stored in your app and randomly shared with our friends, who can "like" (or better, "heart") and comment. Also, every time you answer a question or, for example, comment on your friend's response, you gain in-game coins which can be used to further customise your character.
The most enjoyable thing about responding to these questions are the animations that are activated when your Mii reads the answers that you have typed (max 190 characters). As Nintendo explained to us, they can activate up to 9,000 triggers, each reflecting an animation or mood. For example, a hesitant "mmm" or an "hahaha" corresponds to an embarrassment animation or laughter animation respectively.
There was an interesting point that emerged during our hands-on session, that has also raised some doubt. At the moment it seems like there isn't any content filter on what you can share, and it could be problematic, especially as this app will certainly be very attractive to a younger audience. In response to this concern Nintendo replied that players are allowed to share their content exclusively with their friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Nintendo (and in this case there are restrictions on "who" is sharing "what"), but it's true that there isn't any kind of control over inappropriate language or images that might be shared. How this side of the app will take shape remains to be seen.
Miitomo is essentially a freemium app, and it means that players can download it for free, but if they want to further customise their Mii character with new clothes and items, they can choose between two options: use the in-game currency acquired by simply using the app, or use real money over in the Shop. Fortunately, the use of real money is in no way required, because you can unlock new coins simply using the app regularly. However, there are items or costumes that can be obtained only by connecting Miitomo to your My Nintendo account, the new rewards system which will replace Nintendo Club (which closed last year). Connecting Miitomo to My Nintendo is not mandatory, but it does allow you to also get extra coins and make your digital purchases without charge.
In addition to a series of mini-games and new daily challenges, there's another fun section in Miitomo, called Mii Photo. While playing, Miitomo automatically grabs screens of your Mii. You can choose to delete or edit these screens with some Instagram-like features, which also allow you to add comments, stickers, and more, and then share them with your friends. In addition to this, you can also use a Mii Photo to comment on your friends' activities... in short, social interaction is at the heart of Miitomo.
Taking advantage of Tomodachi Life's success and heading out in this new mobile-centric direction seems to be working. Miitomo is good fun, largely because it allows you to keep in touch with your friends in a very unique and accessible way. At the moment, we can't really say too much about the longevity of the app; it might be a flash in the pan or it could be something that will endure for a long time to come. The good thing is that Nintendo has promised to constantly update it with new and daily content, and this, in some way, reassures us on this front. What will happen in the coming weeks remains to be seen, with Miitomo officially available in Japan, hopefully it'll be available for our European mobile devices (iOS and Android) before too long.