Nintendo has announced its first official smartphone “game,” The Wall Street Journal reports. Expected to debut in March 2016, the first new release by the famous video game developer will be titled “Miitomo” and will be a free-to-play app with in-app purchases that can be used to buy “attractive add-ons.” According to Nintendo CEO Tatsumk Kimishima, future iOS games released by the company will be pay-to-download titles — the company still plans to release four other apps by March 2017.
It’s not entirely clear whether Miitomo should be called a game, per se, as it appears to be more focused on allowing users to design their own avatars — Nintendo Miis -— to communicate with other users. In this sense, Miitomo appears to be more of a social app than a game, and Nintendo Executive Shinya Takahashi noted that the company is building the app to try and find ways to encourage shier users to talk and share things about themselves in the app. For example, it appears that Miis will automatically communicate with other Miis without your knowledge, helping people who are hesitant to talk about themselves to participate in the social aspect and “reveal a side of your friends you never knew.” It also appears that Mii avatars can be ported back into games on Nintendo hardware, suggesting this new release may be designed more as a companion app for current Nintendo fans rather than an entirely standalone experience.
Interestingly, Nintendo notes that the smartphone games will be operated by DeNA as part of the the company’s new partnership, while Nintendo will remain focused on “ways to guide users to its hardware.” Specifically, Kimishima stated that Nintendo’s goal is to use smart devices such as the iPhone and iPad primarily to guide users back to its own hardware and increase sales. As part of this initiative, Nintendo also announced a new online membership service that will be used to connect users of its hardware, PC, and mobile applications, and will likely be used to transfer data such as the new Mii avatars between mobile games and console games.