Nintendo has long resisted the urge to enter the mobile app/game marketplace, but finally caved with Miitomo, the social networking app in which user avatars, known as Miis, can interact with each other.
Miitomo comes with a pachinko mini-game, and performing certain actions in the app while logged in with a Nintendo ID will earn various rewards for owners of other Nintendo devices.
Miitomo is free, and it’s available on iOS and Android. It contains a number of in-app purchase options, mostly focusing on cosmetic items like clothing for you Mii. The app was a hit when it launched in Japan in mid-March, with more than a million downloads in the first three days it was out — which led to a significant jump in Nintendo’s stock price in Japan.
Though Miitomo is the first mobile app from Nintendo, it won’t be the last. It’s already announced that future smartphone efforts will include more traditional Nintendo games that star well known Nintendo mascots.
The company was hesitant to enter the market in the past because it preferred to focus its efforts on its own handheld hardware like the 3DS. But lagging hardware sales and regular quarterly operating losses over the past few years demanded a shift.
The Mii avatars were first introduced in 2006 with the Wii console, Nintendo’s first Internet-connected console. A Mii is a personalized cartoon figure users customize at will, and it’s been at the center of Nintendo’s networking efforts ever since.