When Nintendo first revealed they'd be moving into mobile apps and games, many were worried about what it meant for the traditional Japanese console manufacturer, with nightmares of beloved Pokemon games riddled with micro transactions, ad-supported Mario Kart tournaments and other such atrocities dancing in their head. And while the micro transaction-filled Pokemon titles have unfortunately become a reality (only on a 3DS rather than a phone), the rest - thankfully - hasn't really come to pass. Instead, it seems Nintendo is taking a slightly gentler approach to the mobile space, with their first app now just a few weeks away from launch. And it's not even actually a game, so much as a social media style communication app - and, perhaps more excitingly, it'll be launching alongside an all new, reworked rewards program.
For many years, Nintendo have run a rewards scheme for their loyal players, giving them 'points' cards in exchange for buying Nintendo games, which could then be exchanged for real life gifts, like stuffed Yoshis, Kirby-themed frisbees or golden Mario Kart trophies. A great way to encourage people to buy your games, and a good way of getting funky can't-find-anywhere-else merchandise, the scheme, dubbed Club Nintendo, was sadly axed as of last year, with Nintendo promising a replacement service would follow at some point.
This follow up service, called My Nintendo, will be launching this March, and lets you earn points in much the same way as before - by buying software and game add-ons. Intriguingly, though, this time round you can also "earn points by playing games", perhaps by reaching certain in-game milestones while playing. How this will work in reality remains to be seen, although comments at a recent investor meeting may help shed some light on the service:
Miitomo, meanwhile, also set to launch in March, is Nintendo's first mobile venture, and is a social media app of sorts which uses Nintendo's Mii characters, and asks users unusual questions, such as "What song has been stuck in your head lately?" , "Do you believe in aliens?" and "If you saw a nose hair sticking out of your friend's nose, what would you do?". By answering these questions, you'll be able to discover 'surprising' information about you and your friends, in a traditionally quirky Nintendo style. Reminding us a lot of the Wii's Everybody Votes Channel, which let users vote on all kinds of essential issues like the above, then collated the results to show which was the most popular option, with more than a tinge of Tomodachi Life, it seems Miitomo will work on a much more personal level, keeping things solely between you and your friends.
"For example, an Animal Crossing character called Isabel may send some information or a present to those who are playing with that game, Mario Kart players may receive a notice about add-on content and we may also send a message that enables the recipient to purchase some software at an attractive price point on his or her birthday."
What strikes us as odd though is that Nintendo have elected to make an entirely new social network app that seems to have nothing to do with any of their current consoles. Wii U users, and to some extent 3DS owners, may be familiar with their game-themed social media Twitter-alike, Miiverse, which lets folks post questions, doodles and comments about their favourite games to message boards, interacting with other like-minded players. There is no official Miiverse phone app though, which seems like a bit of an oversight, especially now they've effectively filled the niche with something totally separate. Of course, there is a chance that this could all be part of Nintendo's cunning plan for their new console the NX - and perhaps, instead of a competitor to Miiverse, Miitomo could in fact be its successor?
Both the My Nintendo rewards program and Miitomo will launch on Android and iOS devices in March this year, and both will be able to connect to each other. Players who create a Nintendo Account in preparation for the launch, from the 17th February, will also receive a "special Miitomo bonus", whatever that may be. Nintendo also revealed that they planned to release five or so smart device apps over the next year or so, with a more familiar Nintendo outing planned for their next release.