Nintendo's first mobile app is all about 'Mii'
Posted May 8, 2016
Nintendo’s first foray into the world of mobile gaming is here, and it doesn’t feature Mario, Link or Donkey Kong. Instead, it’s all about Miis.
Here’s everything you need to know about Miitomo, including how to play, who it might appeal to and why some parents might not be OK with it.
What is it?
Miitomo is a mix of a few different things. It's part social networking app a la Instagram or Snapchat, part mobile game. It’s already a huge hit in Japan, where it launched in early March and managed to rack up more than a million downloads in just three days (via engadget.com).
What does Miitomo mean?
The name of the app is a portmanteau of Mii (more on them later) and the Japanese word for friend, “tomo.”
Who is it for?
Miitomo will probably appeal most to Nintendo fans — not because there is a lot of Nintendo-specific content but because of the integration with other Nintendo devices. That said, it offers enough to do that even somebody who has never played a Nintendo game in his or her life might find it amusing enough.
How much does it cost?
Miitomo is a free download for iOS and Android smart devices. Like a lot of “freemium” apps, users can elect to purchase in-game coins to unlock extra features — in this case, to collect an endless variety of outfits and accessories to deck out your Mii. Currently, $1.49 is equivalent to 1,000 in-game coins.
What are Miis?
For the non-Nintendophiles out there, Miis are Nintendo’s customizable, cartoon avatars. Anyone who has owned one of the Japanese gaming company’s recent platforms such as a Wii or a 3DS will instantly recognize these little guys and gals.
In Miitomo, they act as social go-betweens and in-game avatars in a variety of modes, including chat and Miifoto.
How do you ‘play’?
Before getting to tinker with the Miis, the first step is either to sign in to an existing Nintendo Account or create one. This links Miitomo to the rest of the Nintendo ecosystem, meaning any consoles on which that Nintendo Account is active.
After that, users get to make their own Mii. This can be done in a few ways, including with the camera on a smartphone, which will instantly configure a Mii that may or may not hold a passing resemblance to the person in the picture. The Mii can always be tweaked afterward, along with its voice and personality. Miis created on a separate Nintendo device can also be imported.
Once the Mii has been set up, it asks questions. Answers are used to interact with friends’ Miis in chat mode to start conversations that, according to Nintendo, will hopefully allow users to get to know their friends even better and discover interesting things about each other that they might not otherwise.
Even when users aren’t directly chatting with their friends, the Miis, being the little chatterbots they are, will go and do the chatting themselves and come back and gossip about what they learned, adding a novel dimension to Miitomo that helps separate it from other social media apps.
There is also a feature called Miifoto, which, as one might guess from the name, is a photo editor, once again based around Miis.
Using Miifoto, Miis can be posed and inserted into pictures along with text, and the pictures can then be shared with friends. If it sounds overly simplistic, it’s not. In fact, this could wind up being the most popular feature of the new app.
Finally, there is a mini-game called Mii Drop, a pachinko-style game that involves dropping a Mii down a board with pegs in it and trying to hit special collectible items on the way. This requires coins to play.
Why use it?
Well, besides the obvious — that it’s fun and engaging all by itself — there is extra incentive in that the more someone uses Miitomo, the more he or she accumulates coins, which can then be used in-game for purchases (as mentioned above) or to play Mii Drop.
Likewise, performing specific tasks or missions through Miitomo results in Platinum Points that can then be exchanged for rewards through Nintendo’s new fan club called My Nintendo (the successor to the now-defunct Club Nintendo, online at my.nintendo.com), including digital titles and discounts on games.
Who can you interact with?
Miitomo links up with pre-existing social media accounts to find friends, and it is possible to add friends that aren’t already in a contact list.
In theory, interactions are limited to a user’s friends, which automatically makes for a safer environment than many apps. Should abuse occur, other users can also be reported and blocked.
What should parents know?
As of right now, there is no filter on foul language. While that isn’t unique among social media apps, it might come as a surprise to people familiar with Nintendo.
The same is true of photos.
For those reasons as well as reasons pertaining to data collection, the minimum age for use is 13, according to Nintendo.
Although Miitomo doesn't feature Mario or any of Nintendo’s other iconic brands (at least not right now), there is a good chance they will be making their way to future apps.
Later this year, Nintendo will release Pokemon Go, a free-to-play smartphone game that uses augmented reality software so players can capture, battle and trade their own Pokemon.
Miitomo is, in all likelihood, just the first of many Nintendo-created apps.
Jeff Peterson is a native of Utah Valley and studied humanities and history at Brigham Young University. Along with the Deseret News, he also contributes to the film discussion website TheMovieScrutineer.com.