Miitomo is the very beginning of Nintendo’s newest relationship: that with mobile games and apps. Its success or lack thereof will color all of their future mobile dealings.
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Platforms: iOS, Android (Version reviewed)
Release Dates: March 17, 2016 (JP); March 31, 2016 (Worldwide)
Anyone remotely familiar with Nintendo’s promotional efforts knows they have a penchant for silliness. Goofy pictures, Direct presentations featuring Muppets, phrasing that turns into Internet memes; you name it, they capitalize on the giggles. Knowing that, everything that is Miitomo makes perfect sense. It’s a social app, but to compare it to Facebook or Twitter would be an inadequate representation of its purpose. Miitomo isn’t for sharing news or political grandstanding or forming groups. The pure and direct purpose is to connect you with your friends through sharing personal tidbits that might not otherwise come up, either on social media or regular conversation.
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You begin by creating a Mii, which you can automatically generate through a photo, or customize to your liking. Beyond the typical roster of Mii options we’ve seen before on Nintendo’s other devices, Miitomo also presents options for voice (presented in rather accurate, albeit computer-modulated, vocal sounds) and personality, which can be scaled based on traits such as extroversion and expressiveness. Once created, your Mii will then ask you a series of questions about yourself. These questions range from the inane (What’s your favorite color?) to the unexpected (What’s your favorite type of bread?) to the in-depth (What kind of person were you like as a child?) to the probing (What do you believe are the secrets to a happy life?).
In the last five days with the app, I’ve found the questions to have a wonderfully broad range and are mercifully skippable when I don’t have an answer. Some of the questions will be repeated (What did you do last weekend?) on an incremental basis, and you can change your answers at any time. But what to do with all this information you’ve just given a virtual version of yourself?
By limiting the options of what people can talk about through direct questions and response threads, Miitomo has actually expanded the range of conversation.
Pass it onto pals, of course. Using Twitter and Facebook, you can add other friends who also have downloaded Miitomo, and once you have a few pals, you’ll be prompted to add friends of friends, too. Here, the app is lacking, as there’s no way to add strangers or non-mutuals from Twitter. While this option is understandably desirable to protect privacy, some have suggested using QR codes to share friendships as well (currently these only share a copy of your Mii to use as a template). Undesirable friendships and requests in the app are easily terminated, and even blocked, with a quick button push as needed.
From there, all that’s left is to share. Your friends will show up to converse with your Mii, who will then pass on the information he or she receives to you. They’ll also hear the answers to your questions, and you can respond to everything via hearts (likes), text comments, or Miifotos. Updates to conversations you’ve already joined will appear in a feed of Recent discussions, so you can continue to participate and update answers at a later date. And every time you answer questions, comment on other answers, change outfits or otherwise interact with others, you receive in-app currency (which can also be obtained through in-app purchases). This currency can be used to purchase new outfits for your Mii to wear while talking to you and others, as well as in Miifotos.
Miifotos can be shared as standalone portraits or as replies to conversations. Miifotos are images of your Mii, which can be created on the spot in a thread, or at your leisure from images of your Mii, your friends’ Miis, stock backgrounds, photos from your device, and a handful of stamps. All Mii expressions and poses are customizable from a robust stock of options, and new backgrounds can be shared among friends. The app will periodically provide you with some basic, all-purpose Miifotos of your Mii, prompting you to create more and use them more frequently.
Though Nintendo will likely produce a seemingly endless stream of conversation options, I have my doubts as to how long the app will stick around.
All this serves Miitomo’s sole purpose: starting conversations. And this is a purpose it accomplishes well. By limiting the options of what people can talk about through direct questions and response threads, it has actually expanded the range of conversation. I’ve learned more about my Miitomo friends through five days with the app than Facebook or Twitter ever taught me about them. Scoured of an endless litany of shared articles and advertisements, what remains are genuine, organic conversations. Whether I was debating the merits of cats with my feline-hating friends, or learning about the French meaning behind my favorite speedrunner’s username, there wasn’t a moment with Miitomo that wasn’t at least moderately entertaining.
My only concern is its longevity. Though Nintendo will likely produce a seemingly endless stream of conversation options, I have my doubts as to how long the app will stick around. I can only stand to listen to my friends tell me pizza is their favorite food so many times before it starts to get tiresome, and aside from the endless stream of Q&A, there’s not much else to do with the app. That being said, there’s promise in loading it up once or twice a day, just to see what zany responses and meme-worthy Miifotos my pals have gotten up to.
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