Miitomo brings Nintendo's trademark weirdness to the social app

Miitomo, the first mobile app from Nintendo, is more social network than video game — a social app without much of what makes current social networks tick.

Company's first mobile app is more social network than video game

Miimoto is all about playing around with your personalized Mii, a signature Nintendo style of avatar first introduced with Wii in 2006. (Nintendo )

Miitomo, the first mobile app made by Nintendo, is more social network than video game. A social app without much of what makes current social networks tick, it brings conversations with your friends and creativity to the forefront. 

At the same time, the number of features at launch feels sparse, and you might soon find yourself wondering what to do next. 

You can converse with friends, buy outfits, share photos and gamble for unique clothing in a Plinko-style game called Miitomo drop. That's basically it.

You won't be following current events, sharing links to other websites or checking out events. There are no videos or hashtags. You probably won't be working toward a friends count in the thousands.

Compared to the public ecosystem of networks like Twitter or Instagram, Miitomo might seem dour and pointless.

But that's clearly not the point of this app. It's a place for your friends — friends you likely already know on a first-name basis — to gather and chatter about daily minutiae.

All about Mii

Users begin by creating a Mii, the cartoony avatars first introduced with the Nintendo Wii back in 2006. 

You can use your phone's camera to create an approximation of what you look like in real life, and then customize it to your liking, including altering your personality profile, nickname and the intonation of the vocaloid that voices out everything your egg-headed caricature says. 
Miimoto is inherently a social app, designed to let users interact with their friends. (Jonathan Ore/CBC)

Unlike social networks where users post status updates that start with a blank slate, Miitomo starts off by asking you a series of questions, usually something benign like "What's your favourite food?"

Naturally, this can lead to some unusual interactions. Imagine a multitude of automated robot voices speaking out all of the comments in your Facebook feed, and you'll get a sense of just how weird Miitomo can get.

Sharing Miifotos

Creative types will spend most of their time with the Miifoto feature, where you can pose your Mii on background images and share them onto your other social media accounts like Facebook or Twitter.

Unlike other apps with "selfie" creation tools like Kendall & Kylie, you can upload your own photos as backgrounds. The end result in Miitomo's launch week has been a flurry of creativity and surrealism, piling on memes, jokes, a dash of Donald Trump and more raunchy humour than you might expect from a Nintendo-made game.

Indeed, Miitomo is only as work-safe as you and your friends make it. Miis' voices will say literally anything you want them to say. Don't be surprised to hear more than a few F-bombs when browsing through your friends' comments.

In-app purchases

Miitomo sports a platform that encourages creativity, playfulness and conversation. That doesn't mean it rewards these activities in traditionally gamey ways, though. 

Like most free-to-play games, you can buy coins (used to buy outfits and play Miitomo Drop) with real money. But so far the push to get you to pony up real cash isn't as strong as a Candy Crush. 

If you want to pay more to amass a giant wardrobe, then you can do that. But if not, there's nothing stopping you from just chatting with your friends and creating Miifotos, all for free.

Nintendo's mobile future

Recent Nintendo gamers will find Miitomo instantly recognizable. Players have been able to share photos, art and tips for games using the Miiverse network that plugged directly into games for the Wii U and 3DS systems for several years now.

Miitomo, by contrast, isn't connected to any existing games – yet. It looks poised to bring the Miiverse's unique flavour of online social interaction to the masses by making it available for free, on Apple and Android devices.

If you amass enough coins, you can go shopping for new outfits for your Mii. (Nintendo )

This might not last for long, though: in February, company president Tatsumi Kimishima said that he hopes to use mobile apps to foster interest in their dedicated gaming devices such as the 3DS and Wii U.

This might be the base for future online interactions on Nintendo's systems. Using Miis from Miitomo in Wii U or NX games wouldn't be unprecedented, and could better streamline the company's online offerings.

That said, we won't know more until Nintendo reveals information about the NX at this summer's E3 conference. 

Until then, players will be able to content themselves with the quirky and strangely intimate experiences offered by Miitomo — though for how long is up to you.


Jonathan Ore


Jonathan Ore is a writer and editor for CBC Radio Digital in Toronto. He regularly covers the video games industry for CBC Radio programs across the country and has also covered arts & entertainment, technology and the games industry for CBC News.