When Nintendo announced it was planning to make mobile games last year, it’s safe to say untold numbers of its fans were undoubtedly dreaming of a new mobile Mario or legendary longplay with Link. Things quickly changed when the fans considered that DeNA was involved given its open embracing of the freemium business model. Nintendo, sensing the apprehension, issued a statement that sought to reassure those concerned that the partnership would not realize those fears.
Things went a bit “weird” however, when it was announced towards the end of last year that the first “game” would be a spin-off of the mini-simulation series Tomodachi Collection, known in North America as Tomodachi Life. In fact, much like how Pokemon was first “introduced” to America, what arguably put Tomodachi Collection on the map for many mainstream ‘Mericans was a specific controversy involving a belief the game was discriminatory towards same-sex lifestyles.
Now that Miitomo has launched in Japan, Nintendo took to Twitter to tell all interested that the game has already been downloaded by over 1 million users in the first three days. The app was released last week, simultaneously on both Android and iOS devices. The figure corresponds only to downloads originating from Japan as the game itself has not been officially released outside the country – though interestingly enough the app has numerous languages already available in the option menu.
Curiously however, the Google Play Store – at least here in Japan – is still listing the tally at 100,000 downloads, but as was the case with the BlackBerry Priv, it’s difficult to say just how accurate – or timely – those calculations may be. Should they be accurate however, it would thus indicate that 90% of installs have come from Apple products. Given the fact that the iPhone is so popular here, it would indeed make sense.
What is Miitomo and is it any good?
Miitomo, which is free to download, is not so much a game as it is a kind of simplified, monetized, mini social network. Users design a Mii, essentially a cartoon version of themselves – or anyone in theory – by selecting from dozens of face parts and even speech patterns and diction. As the concept of a Mii originated from the Wii ages ago, it is also possible to export/import an existing Mii to one’s smartphone app for those that have a Wii U or Nintendo 3DS.
The game – as of right now – basically consists of your character walking around their “room” and asking an endless series of personal questions, including personal likes and recent activities which the user must type replies to. These responses are then made “public” and shared to any Miitomo Friends who may be linked on the app. After the first friend is made – either by linking a Facebook or Twitter account or “Face to Face” sharing – they will begin to visit your Mii and you will have to answer their questions, too.
The money-making-magic deals with clothing. The game has an expansive array of clothing and accessories to dress your mini Mii in, and while the app does provide in-game currency from answering questions and occasionally other tasks, real-world money is needed for any balance insufficiency. There is also a ball drop mini-game element which requires game tickets to play with the prizes being, of course, rare clothing. These tickets are also occasionally earned in-game, but are basically pay-to-play.
Will it make major money?
While the fact that Nintendo has managed to accumulate 1 million downloads in just three days is indeed a good sign of success, the real question – from a financial standpoint – is just how many of these users will in fact, make a micro-transaction. The fact that cold hard cash is basically buying virtual clothing that serves no other purpose than to change the Mii’s look and thereby in-game photos means that it will probably not see many hardcore gamers opening their wallets – assuming they would download the app to begin with.
Indeed Miitomo is a curious choice for Nintendo’s first mobile app. New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS, for example, allowed users to spend money to buy new score-attack stages. This would have translated quite nicely to a mobile environment as well, and would conceivable be a reason for “real” gamers to lay out cash. With Miitomo however, Nintendo clearly opted to try and appeal to the largest, decentralized group of people possible, but it’s earnings will ultimately depend on just how fashion-conscious – and perhaps impatient – one is of their virtual doppelganger.
Some users have already mentioned a specific intention not to spend any real money as they feel it would be encouraging Nintendo’s freemium strategy and perhaps ultimately serving to tip the respected company’s path down a direction not unlike that of Konami.
With one million Miis now inhabiting mobile devices, it’s safe to say the number will inevitably continue to climb in the days and weeks from now. Likewise, once the app is released in new territories in the coming months, the tally will get even larger. That Miitomo will be a profitable, bankable money making venture for Nintendo, on the other hand, will remain to be seen.
What are your thoughts on Miitomo? Does Nintendo have a winner on its hands? Will you be downloading it – or have you already? Be sure to leave a comment or two in the space below!