Over the last couple days I’ve started to get into Miitomo, which is Nintendo’s first attempt at a mobile app. In wanting to get into that market, Nintendo both have to admit that their handheld line of consoles isn’t getting them everything they want, and they also have to make something cool without driving people away from the 3DS.
Miitomo is a social chat app, but isn’t like WhatsApp, Line, or Telegram; you create a Mii (like you did on the Wii, WiiU and 3DS systems) and answer questions that have been defined by Nintendo. You have 200 characters to do so, and weirdly for the company developing the app, there doesn’t seem to be any filters for language.
From there, you add friends either via QR code, proximity or by connecting social networks to find them. You then can see their questions, “like” or comment on them, and see your Miis mingle with others.
In-game currency is earned through Liking and Commenting, but also through answering questions and signing in on consecutive days. You also get bonuses for connecting other social accounts, which is standard reward-for-information that most apps do these days.
Essentially, that’s it; you answer questions, see others’ answers, and play dress-up. You can take goofy photos once you’ve got new outfits, share them, and save them on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
But for some reason, it’s actually really fun.
Nintendo has a way of conveying character in relatively mundane concepts. Miis have a wealth of customization options, from voice pitch and cadence to height and weight, and can be assigned a “personality” based on a pentagram of qualities you set yourself.
This is more personal than a horoscope, and never really sounds negative to the user; you can see other peoples’, and it’s a harmless way to see how they perceive themselves.
Having a decent amount of clothing options and new items added to their store daily (for now?) means that there’s a reason to sign in and get your bonuses, and enough of my friends are Nintendo fans that it means I’ll be able to see new content fairly often.
This kind of eliminates the quirks of new social networks who try to compete with pre-established juggernauts like Facebook and Twitter: they do too much of the same thing, so there’s no real incentive to join.
Miitomo is different enough that it entices a different experience, and it’s strangely refreshing after living with what I felt was a fairly ingrained flow.
As a friend noted, having Nintendo direct the conversation with questions without giving you the option of posting your own “status” message means there’s something driving conversation, and they’re rarely boring enough that you don’t want to answer. You’re being handheld and railroaded, but it’s not a bad thing: you have other networks for where you need to be verbose, serious, or political.
Something as simple as “what is your favourite type of bread” means that you’re having debates with friends over responses; there’s no need to be world-breaking with what you’re saying. You get to see little snippets of how people can be witty with innocuous questions, and some deadpan responses (especially read in the Mii’s voices) can be funny.
Ultimately, there’s no pressure to be someone cool or do the normal posturing that happens on “regular” social networks, because man, it’s a Nintendo game. Doing otherwise would be simply trying too hard, and I get the feeling it would be really evident.
Miitomo will probably be one of those services that has a great launch, but unless there’s a steady stream of content of new minigames (preferably multiplayer?) and clothes it will likely burn out within six months.
However, in gaming circles where there’s a shared love of the company’s brand, I have enough of a friend userbase that it’ll be cool to check in every once and a while, answering new questions and seeing who’s around. I actually look forward to notifications I get from Miitomo, and I think that’s as good enough a litmus test as any.