Expectations were high yesterday when word came out that Nintendo was set to announce its first mobile title at an investor briefing. The gaming community held its collective breath waiting for a Super Mario or Pokémon title, but instead the company shared its vision for a free-to-play social game with optional microtransactions called Miitomo based on a fusion of the Mii characters and the curiously popular Tomodachi Life for the 3DS. It's due out in March 2016. No Pikachu for you! But you know what? That may be for the best. Jeremy Parish at USgamer explains:
While Nintendo hasn't shared full details on the workings of Miitomo, it's easy enough to make some educated guesses based on early screens. As the name suggests, Miitomo makes use of Mii avatars, seemingly with the ability to mingle with the avatars of other people and interact directly with the player. That sounds, not coincidentally, a great deal like Tomodachi Life, a connection alluded to in the app's name. Tomodachi Life became a solid success upon its western release last summer, but it's been a monster hit for years in Japan. Goofy, fun social apps (most recently Line) tend to be far more popular in Japan than in the west as well. Combine the two and a massive hit seems practically guaranteed, at least in Japan. It's less of a guaranteed slam-dunk in the U.S., but the Nintendo factor should at least grab people's attention.
Nintendo's stock dropped following the announcement and the community complained that this wasn't the Pokémon Red port they'd just assumed would happen if everyone wished really hard, but Miitomo could work well for the company. Nintendo aims to draw mobile gamers into its own hardware ecosystem, and apps like Miitomo could do just that by whetting appetites and sparking curiosity about what Nintendo has to offer on its hardware home turf. Japan will eat this up, but North America and beyond could be a harder sell beyond app-loving kids seemingly born with an iPad in one hand. The company's new NX project is moving forward and I'm sure that it would love to capture some lapsed Wii owners to bring them back to the world of Nintendo. Like so many other things in this industry, we'll just have to wait and see what happens. However, to all of you out there who have complained that you want to play Pokémon on the go, then I have good news for you. Nintendo already sells a product that will let you do that. It's called a Nintendo 3DS and it's in stores now.