Months after announcing its partnership with mobile developer DeNA, Nintendo has finally revealed initial details about its first game for mobile phones: Miitomo. The project was revealed by a group of Nintendo's top executives during a recent investor strategy briefing in Tokyo (via The Wall Street Journal).
Although ostensibly a game, the ludic components of Miitomo are not yet clear, as it seems to be more of a social communication app than anything else. Players will be represented by their Mii avatars to communicate with friends. As a way to encourage shy people to come out of their shells, apparently players' Miis will communicate with each other unprompted to "reveal a side of your friends you never knew," according to Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima. Helping people to share more with their friends was a recurring theme of the presentation, with executive Shinya Takahashi underlining that Nintendo will focus on finding more ways to encourage people that are hesitant to talk about themselves to do so. Miitomo will be free, with "attractive add-ons" available for paid download.
Miitomo is to be the first of five smartphone titles released by Nintendo and DeNA before March of 2017. Although originally scheduled to launch by the end of this year, Miitomo has been pushed back to a Spring 2016 release. The delay is apparently in order that Nintendo can take more time to explain the game. Fans hoping for a mobile Mario (or Zelda, Star Fox, or any other of Nintendo's established franchises) will have to wait for news of the subsequent four mobile titles to be released over 2016 and the first quarter of 2017. Nintendo, famously protective of its beloved intellectual properties, is likely being cautious with them because this is a new and untested endeavor.
Nintendo is, of course, no stranger to formal experimentation with its games, having innovated many now-standard gaming conventions in its long history. "How can we make a completely different kind of game that nobody has ever thought of?" Kimishima asked. "It's the same issue we have always faced."
Along with Miitomo, Nintendo also announced a new, cross-platform membership service, prosaically called "Nintendo Account". This will serve as a bridge between Nintendo's established hardware ecosystem and newer efforts in the mobile and PC space. A cloud-based system will transfer data between mobile and console games, encouraging the Nintendo faithful to try out the new platforms. Creating interconnectivity between disparate platforms extends the trajectory of amiibos, which started the process of breaking down the barriers between discrete games to create a holistic Nintendo experience for fans.
Miitimo is scheduled to arrive on smartphones globally in March 2016. Promotion in earnest will begin after the year-end holiday season.