Last week, Nintendo launched Miitomo to the Japanese market, marking their entry into the smartphone gaming market.
…Except it’s debatable if Miitomo even qualifies as a game or has any retaining power at all. Miitomo is at its core a cuter version of social networks such as Ask.fm where people answer questions that are thrown at them, except unlike Ask.fm, your friends aren’t able to ask you questions directly. All of the questions are pulled from a big family-friendly list someone at Nintendo wrote.
There are also some questionable choices: by default, you can only listen to ten of each of your friends’ answers each day. If you want to hear more about them, you’ll need to feed them candy, which you can get as a consolation prize in the Miitomo Drop minigame or as a daily login bonus. This means that if you have very few friends, you’ll blitz through all of the available content very quickly and then there isn’t really a point to check in with Miitomo multiple times a day. It also doesn’t really scale well. While it encourages you to add as many people as possible because that helps Nintendo spread the word, and ramps up their monetization, you’re likely to care most about your closest friends’ answers, but they’ll be buried under a sea of noise from people you care less about.
Clothing plays a big role in Miitomo. Every action you do in Miitomo gets you coins (which are different from points, more on that in a sec) which can be used in one of two ways. You can use them in the Miitomo Shop, which sells clothing and accessories and rotates its inventory on a daily basis. You can also put them towards Miitomo Drop, a pachinko-like mini game where you drop a Mii from the top of the screen, and get whatever item your Mii lands on top of. The items available via Miitomo Drop also rotate out, except these seem to be on a weekly basis as opposed to on a daily basis. Changing your clothing raises your style level, which will gain you more bonus items. You can show off your fashion chops with Miifoto, which is almost a second app built into Miitomo, allowing you to create collages with you and your friends’ Miis and stickers atop various backgrounds, including any of your photos. This is probably the only part of the app that is going to have people coming back regularly, because Miis are really popular. Unfortunately, Miitomo outfits do not appear like they’ll ever be made to carry over to your 3DS or Wii U Miis, which sucks because Miis without clothing items look incredibly generic once you’ve seen them being fashionable.
Miitomo launched hand in hand with My Nintendo, the long-awaited replacement for the Club Nintendo rewards program. If you stay engaged to a certain threshold with Miitomo on a daily basis, you can get Miitomo points, which can be redeemed for any reward in the My Nintendo program that can be purchased with Platinum points. Currently, the eligible rewards include coupons for rebates on downloadable games, Miitomo outfits and in-app purchases, and even a 3DS downloadable copy of WarioWare Touched. It’s still unclear how often rewards will be cycled, or what rewards will end up looking like over time, but the fact that you can convert time with a Nintendo smartphone app to free stuff on your Nintendo consoles is actually pretty sweet.
But that’s also pretty much all the appeal it has. Beyond being an adorable and heavily polished way to farm for My Nintendo reward points, there’s nothing really substantial behind Miitomo. I don’t think I’ll find myself using it very often unless there’s something I desperately want to redeem from My Nintendo’s reward pool in the coming months.