Nintendo Smartphone Game: First Free, Social App ‘Miitomo’ Launches In Japan

The first Nintendo smartphone game app launched in Japan on Thursday. Nintendo finally decided to join the ranks of other big name consumer electronics companies in offering smartphone apps versus only gaming consoles. But, according to TechCrunch, the new Nintendo smartphone game called Miitomo offers gamers a completely distinct experience from their gaming systems.

The idea for Miitomo comes from Nintendo’s popular Mii avatars that originated from other gaming consoles. Nintendo’s Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo DSi first exposed gamers to the Mii concept. Mii is a caricature, or likeness, that users can create of themselves, other people they know, invented characters, and even famous people. Users can then go on to play games as their very own Mii cartoon avatar creations, most notably on Wii Sports, the 2006 launch title for Nintendo’s Wii gaming console.

Nintendo has taken this fun blend of “Wii” and “me” and turned it into a smartphone game. Rather than a complete complex game, Miitomo is described as really only a simple social messaging app where Mii avatars can answer questions and encourage discussion among friends. The Miitomo Nintendo smartphone game asks users questions that generally don’t come up during normal everyday conversation and then shares the answers among friends via messages from Mii avatars.

Friendly conversation starters might include questions like what the user’s favorite TV show is, or what the user’s favorite color is, or even what the user hopes to be doing in the next 10 years.

Home console sales, as well as handheld console sales, for Nintendo have been slowing, and some critics say Nintendo needed the release of this first smartphone game app to successfully move forward as a competitive video game company. Nintendo competitors Sony and Microsoft already have both paid and free smartphone apps available for all smartphone operating systems. Miitomo is reportedly the first of five smartphone game apps Nintendo plans to release within the next year.

TechCrunch first reported in March 2015, that Nintendo partnered with and bought a stake in the Japanese mobile gaming firm DeNA to jointly develop games for all smart devices, including phones and tablets. Also headquartered in Japan, Nintendo, of course, released its first smartphone game in Japan this week, but Nintendo says Miitomo will soon be available in other markets.

Initially straying away from creating smartphone apps based on classic launch characters, Nintendo says they may eventually develop smartphone games around some of their most popular 1980s games, such as Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong. But, for now, Nintendo wants to develop mobile titles from the ground up as a way to combat comparison of old versus new and to ensure the quality of gaming experience that consumers expect, offering quality rather than a quantity of Nintendo smartphone games.

DeNA had been in talks with Nintendo for years prior to their business alliance in 2015 to develop smartphone gaming apps. In fact, the late Nintendo President Satoru Iwata admitted to TechCrunch that Nintendo had a difficult time deciding to transition to mobile devices, saying the nearly 130-year-old Japanese company was in denial that the business of dedicated gaming consoles was dead due to the growth of mobile. After five years of talks, Iwata said Nintendo finally decided that not considering smartphone apps would be a waste and ultimately hopes that Nintendo smartphone game apps will result in more Nintendo console sales.

“We have come to hold a stronger passion and vision for the video games console with this decision,” said Iwata.

Some critics say that even though Miitomo is nothing like Nintendo’s classic video games, this new smartphone game still holds true to Nintendo’s history as a toy company.

According to video game analyst Rob Fahey, the reason Nintendo makes video games is because them as essentially being the best toys they can build. “Miitomo fits the definition of a toy rather than a game quite well,” said Fahey.

Mobile phone users are used having access to free smartphone game apps, which Miitomo is perfectly structured for, but Nintendo wants to also assure their loyal classic game fans that eventually developing Super Mario Bros. into a Nintendo smartphone game is certainly not off the table.

[Image via GameXplain/YouTube]