Miitomo is not a game. It's fun, it's game-like, but to describe it as a game is just going to leave people disappointed. Not that it's by any means a bad product. Miitomo is an easy-going social app that accomplishes little, but charms and entertains in the short span it holds your attention. It's also a great omen for the future of Nintendo on mobile.
When Nintendo first announced its intent to enter the mobile space roughly one year ago, the decision was met with hyperbolic overreaction, of course, but also suspicion and concern. And so it should have been. The decision to start making mobile games was a historic one for the company that's synonymous with the video game industry.
Two concerns prevailed: first, that this was the beginning of the end for Nintendo making traditional games, and second, that the firm would develop the kind of cheap cash-in games laden with micro-transactions that litter the mobile gaming space. Nintendo remedied the former by announcing their next console, codenamed NX, and to ease concerns over the latter – here's Miitomo.
Miitomo is weird in that wonderful Nintendo way. Miitomo's launch supports the launch of My Nintendo – a new loyalty program in which users earn points to spend on games, discounts and cosmetic items, acquired through purchasing games digitally through the eShop and through games and apps like Miitomo.
In it, users create or import a Mii avatar that represents them, and then answer questions like "What is your favourite food?" and "What do you like most about the clothes you're wearing today?". They're innocuous and varied, and answers can be whatever you want. Answers are shared between friends added locally or through social networks like Twitter and Facebook, whose Miis than visit you, and ask you questions.
Answers can be liked and commented on. A certain amount of either each day will reward you with coins that can be spent on cosmetic items and access to a pinball-like game that offers cosmetic rewards that can't be bought (at least on that specific day). Buy clothes and change your Mii's outfit, and they'll take a photo of themselves to share online.
This is where the expression Miitomo offers gets fun. Your Mii, and those of others you've added can be posed and their expression changed, across a range of backgrounds and over photos of your own – which leads to images (called Miifotos) like these below, and many more. Twitter is full of them.
The complete lack of swear filter also produces fantastic results, as you'd expect for something that's not far removed from a modern take on the MySpace quizzes of my youth, but it is a very out-of-character design choice from Nintendo.
Miitomo is an oddity for sure, and it's hard to imagine people coming back to it repeatedly for very long, but as a work of design it's solid, has the feel of a premium app and crucially doesn't shove its micro-transactions (you can buy additional coins) down the throats of its users. In fact, it took me a while to figure out how to access them.
It looks great, with smooth animation and some intuitive design, but suffers from a noticeable slow-down between the various aspects of its menu and, annoyingly, between accepting or sending friend requests.
There's plenty here to be ironed out, and lots of room for new features (such as decorating Mii rooms, which are currently uniform), but as it stands Miitomo is a harmless and fun distraction, if not the kind of moreish app that will live long in the memory. It was the perfect idea to launch alongside My Nintendo and get people to sign up, but it's unlikely to be remembered for much more than that.