Author(s): Trevor Pardee
Nintendo has finally opened Pandora's box — it has launched its first app for iOS and Android devices. Interestingly, this app is different from what most observers expected. While many other Japanese video game companies like Sega and Capcom have released mobile versions of their most successful games, Nintendo has attempted something much more ambitious.
With Miitomo, Nintendo doesn't want to compete with games on mobile devices, it wants to compete in the social media space. When I first tested the app, that was what most surprised me.
The premise of Miitomo is that users create a Mii avatar and connect to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Players can answer questions that their Mii character asks and see their friends' responses, as well as heart (like) and comment on their posts. Nintendo offers incentives for these actions by giving users virtual coins, tickets and candy. These items allow players to perform actions, such as obtain new clothes for their avatar or play a pachinko machine that doles out prizes. This rewarding feedback loop encourages users to frequent the app and to like and comment more than they would normally be inclined to do.
Though this app definitely relies on the Nintendo brand, it has already seen a great deal of success, racking up 1.6 million downloads during its first four days in the US, reaching the top of the iOS and Android download charts. With this in mind, if Miitomo can sustain its momentum, it could very well create a niche in the social media landscape. However, I suspect a large portion of these downloads came from curious onlookers like me, who wanted to see what Nintendo's first app would be like, and I believe they're unlikely to stick with it.
Miitomo is a quirky and somewhat unexpected product from Nintendo. Its release has received more attention than mobile apps from other traditional video game companies. It will be interesting to see how one of the biggest names in gaming continues its unique path in the mobile space.