I’ve been meaning to write about Nintendo’s new Miitomo smartphone app ever since it became available here in North America late last month, but, the truth is, it’s taken me more than a week to get my head around the concept myself. With that said, enjoy the following GeekDad guide to Miitomo–in all its bizarre glory.
What is Miitomo?
Miitomo represents Nintendo’s first proper sojourn into the realm of mobile apps, but, instead of simply being another game, it’s a social networking service.
Yeah, but what *is* Miitomo?!
Okay, you got me; that was a non-answer. Basically, Miitomo takes the social polling aspect or the Wii-era Everybody Votes Channel and the life-sim tomfoolery showcased in the 3DS title Tomodachi Life and marries them into an odd, avatar-based sharing platform.
What’s so social about it?
Think of Miitomo as the MMO equivalent of Tomodachi Life. You create a Mii avatar to represent yourself that, along with the others added to your friends list, helps populate a virtual world that, well, mostly consists of your cheery one-room apartment.
You are regularly prompted with questions, the answers of which are shared throughout your network–a practice that is visually represented by you and your friends “visiting” each other’s homes to chat. You can “like” these shared answers (represented by the obligatory heart icon) and even share public comments back and forth across each friend’s answer’s individual timeline.
But what about privacy concerns?
That’s really more a matter of personal opinion than anything else, but I’ve yet to encounter any questions of an overly personal nature. Primarily it’s things like your favorite food or your dream job as a child. Sure, you can easily go into over-sharing mode when confronted by a question like “What makes your heart flutter?”–but you can also choose not to answer… or to answer sarcastically. (I just put “cardiac arrhythmia.”)
The thing to remember is that your answers are your own. You can alter or delete them whenever you like, and they are only shared with your friends, which means both you and the other person/persons in question all have to agree to accept each other into this virtual social network. As you make more connections, you’ll have more opportunities to add friends of friends, but whether you do that or not is totally up to you.
And that’s it?
Not by a long shot. In addition to all this Q&A you can change your avatar’s clothes, personalize his greetings, and otherwise edit the Mii to your liking. You can then capture and share pictures using the Miifoto feature, which, as you can imagine, opens up all sorts of quirky fun all on its own.
There’s also an RPG element related to your Popularity and Style. As you interact with others and modify your wardrobe, you earn points that advance those Popularity and Style levels.
It’s freemium, right? How much will it really cost?
I’ve been using Miitomo since launch and have yet to pony up so much as one thin dime. Just participating in daily activities like changing clothes and answering questions (or even listening to others’ answers) rewards you with both “experience” (points for your growing Popularity and Style levels) as well as Miitomo coins and game tickets.
Coins are used to buy clothing from the in-game Shop and chances to use the Miitomo Drop minigame–think of it as Plinko, but your rewards are specially-themed clothing items. Tickets can also be cashed in for chances at the Miitomo Drop.
Coins, points, and tickets?!
Yeah, that’s sort of where Miitomo falters; it’s a multiple currency environment. Obviously, you can trade real-world money for in-game coins if you like, but that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.
Miitomo coins, as I said, are used for straight-up clothes shopping and playing Miitomo Drop, while tickets are currently solely for Miitomo Drop. But there’s also candy–a sort of consolation prize if you fail to land on that item of clothing you were eying on the Miitomo Drop board. Occasionally, while you’re digging through a friend’s answers, she’ll play coy with you, acknowledging the question but not actually displaying an answer. If curiosity gets the better of you, you can bribe her with candy to spill those proverbial beans.
But wait; there’s more!
Nintendo also wants you to connect Miitomo to their new loyalty program, My Nintendo. So much so, in fact, that the app also features My Nintendo missions, like connecting your Twitter account or answering three daily questions. Completing these rewards you with separate Miitomo-specific Platinum Points specifically for the My Nintendo service.
So it’s tied to the My Nintendo program?
Ideally, yes. These Miitomo Platinum Points coupled with the standard My Nintendo Platinum Points (which are garnered for things like linking other social media accounts to your My Nintendo or regularly visiting the Miiverse on your Wii U/3DS) and Gold Points (currently tied specifically to making digital purchases via the eShop) can be redeemed for various rewards and discounts.
But is it appropriate for kids?
Again, that’s totally your call as a parent, but, on Nintendo’s end, it’s stated that the app is only to be used by those 13 and older.
The amount of appropriate content (or lack thereof) essentially comes down to knowing your friends/family and how stringently you police your growing Miitomo network. Suffice it to say that my motley crew of Miis does not shy away from profanity–which is not censored within the app itself.
That said, if you and your geeklings are able to agree on not adding strangers and keeping that social circle tight–not to mention the whole potential in-app-purchase issue–it could surely prove a fun way to share and play without devolving into potty talk.
How do I make the most of my Miitomo experience?
For me, at least, it’s all about checking in daily. I try and answer a few new questions (or revise time sensitive ones like what I did last weekend), read and respond to some of my friends’ answers, and check out the Shop for new clothes. Changing your outfit every day is an easy way to pick up regular in-game rewards and character progress.
If you enable push notifications, the app will let you know as your friends leave you new replies and hearts, and I’ll admit I’m still rabidly checking the app to see what those reactions are.
The big thing, though, is just to enjoy yourself. Miitomo isn’t meant to be another digital drag on your free time; it’s a lighthearted and oh-so-very-Nintendo take on the social networking service.
So have fun. Dress like a ninja. Think about your biggest adventure or your favorite band–and share it all with your friends.