Nintendo’s first mobile game is more Facebook than Mario

Yesterday, Nintendo announced its first foray into the world of mobile gaming, a free-to-play game called Miitomo (Mii friend), coming in March 2016. Far from the Mario smartphone title many were hoping for, the game is largely based on having your Mii avatar talk to other Mii avatars.

Nintendo’s first mobile game is more Facebook than Mario

It sounds like a cross between Nintendo’s 3DS game

Tomodachi Life and Facebook, or something like the teenage virtual social network Habbo. However, even though the game largely consists to talking to friends, you yourself won’t be doing the talking.

“Instead of the users proactively sending their own messages, Miitomo has a unique characteristic that can be called ‘friendly communication starters’ as your Mii will automatically dispatch the answers you gave to certain questions to your friends,” Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima explained in an investor briefing.1495072869501591589

Kimishima went on to explain that these “friendly communication starters” will help shy users communicate, and will mean you can find out things you never suspected you had in common with your friends.

“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,” he added.

Social focus

For the first in a series of five smartphone titles to be released by March 2017, a low-key communication sim doesn’t exactly capture the imagination in the way Mario or Zelda would. However, it does show that the company is willing to try something beyond its standard, cash cow staples.

The ethos behind the game also suggests that Nintendo is engaging with smartphones on a deeper level than just another game system – when you tackle a platform dominated by apps like Facebook and Twitter, it makes sense to play by some of their rules. When you consider that the app could be used not only on smartphone, but on platforms like Apple TV, the gentle virtual natter of Miitomo, along with in-app payments for new clothes and hairstyles, could end up proving popular.miitomo_nintendo

The closest game in Nintendo’s oeuvre is the life sim Tomodachi Life, and, while that title didn’t make a great impact in Western markets, it ended up as the best seller in the Japanese game market in the week of its release. There is a sense, then, that Miitomo is aimed more at Asian markets, and the global release is simply Nintendo taking a punt.

Miitomo, which is being made in collaborating with mobile games maker DeNa, is due to launch March 2016, will be free-to-play, but feature in-app payments. The mobile titles following Miitomo will reportedly be pay-to-download, and we’d expect these to cover more familiar ground with well-known Nintendo characters.  

Next: Read our interview with BioShock developer Jordan Thomas.

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