Talking Point: Going Mobile Will Give Miiverse a New Lease of Life
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
A true Nintendo social network
We think that many Wii U owners are likely to agree on one key point: Miiverse is a welcome and excellent new feature on the system. Nintendo was clearly aware that it'd be a major feature and selling point, giving the platform its iconic pre-E3 demonstration and reveal with the viral star, Non-Specific Action Figure. It's also the first thing you see when you log into your Wii U account, in one form, with hundreds of Mii characters flooding onto the screen to show you what they're playing, while sharing their thoughts and illustrations as they do so.
As a platform, Miiverse is a demonstration of one of Nintendo's strongest design principles — taking established ideas and giving them a twist. When exploring the console's app it can feel like a quirky twist on Facebook, Twitter and in all likelihood a few other social networks besides. It can feel on the one hand very open and flexible, while it's also kept clean by a remarkably efficient moderation system; the odd naughty post may get through for a short amount of time on occasion, but when browsing communities you're unlikely to see much, if any, profanity or questionable content.
In fact, what's arguably the most surprising aspect is how well Miiverse works, as in recent years Nintendo has often been considered well behind the curve in online and social areas. It's proof, along with the ever-improving eShop platforms and solid online infrastructure on Wii U, that Nintendo is becoming more capable of delivering in these areas, either through internal expertise or with well-chosen third-party assistance. There's also some evidence that the effort is worthwhile, with the Miiverse communities showing decent levels of activity, while many of you told us — in our big Wii U survey — that you've not only accessed Miiverse but also participated with 'Yeahs', posts and illustrations.
What's also hugely reassuring, as confirmed by Nintendo, is that due to Miiverse being a browser-based app it can be easily and frequently updated. Much like posting an article on this site, or making adjustments to buttons or layout, changes can be almost instantaneous, which allows the Miiverse team to continually read feedback and make subtle enhancements. We see it with new communities popping up regularly, the emergence of "authorised" developer accounts, and of course Miiverse notification posts from some of the company's most senior figures.
By using this kind of infrastructure, Nintendo has also made the job of bringing the service to smartphones and tablets much easier than it could have been with a more insular "app" setup on Wii U. It was confirmed at E3 2012 that Miiverse would come to smartphones, PCs and — which we hope is still the case — 3DS, with the concept video showing a friend browsing his timeline on his phone and keeping up with his pal's progress. And Miiverse is perfect for that kind of immediate engagement, with its use of messaging between friends, "following" other accounts and viewing a personal timeline of that content.
The problem with a lot of this is that, at the current time, plenty of activity can be happening that's relevant to you and you could be none the wiser. Using Miiverse on the Wii U is an excellent experience, and in many cases it's well integrated with games, but when you're not within 30 feet of the console with your GamePad, or even away from home, you become completely disconnected. That strips Miiverse of one of social networking's most important features — immediacy. We'd bet good money that when you look around on a bus, train or anywhere in public and see lots of people staring at their phones, a good percentage will be catching up with the latest on their Twitter or Facebook feeds.
By having Miiverse accessible in browsers — on phones, tablets and computers — Nintendo will go some way to encouraging Wii U owners to engage with the platform in a more regular and meaningful way. It could become quicker and more dynamic while chatting and exchanging messages with Nintendo friends, and provide a fun dose of Wii U gaming culture on the go. If its authenticity is to be believed, we can see an early version in the video below.
We hope that Nintendo does more than provide a basic browser-based recreation of Miiverse, however, and makes the necessary investment to create mobile apps, like the Twitter and Facebook equivalents. Ideally, it'll be possible to link your Miiverse account with an email address to enable notifications of interactions, while current Android and iOS apps for the big networks include immediate notifications that appear on screen, for example making you aware of a fresh interaction on Twitter. If that kind of information is provided right away, the potential for more enjoyable exchanges with Nintendo gamers is obvious to see.
By going mobile, Miiverse has the potential to develop from a fun diversion on Wii U, to a unique social network just for Nintendo gamers. Each console and manufacturer — including Sony and Microsoft — has its own flavour of userbase, and we occasionally read comments that being a committed Nintendo gamer isn't always something commonly shared on a lot of social networks. Perhaps it's because, since DS and Wii, Nintendo systems have become synonymous with such an alternative approach to their competitors, and so fans that profess to favour the big N often stand out. It's not always the case, but occasionally being a Nintendo fan in the wider world can make a gamer feel somewhat distanced from those with preferences for the offerings on Xbox or PlayStation.
That's not a bad thing, necessarily — it's good to have varied interests and for the whole gaming industry to be supported by loyal gamers of all types. But if Miiverse becomes a Twitter/Facebook-style service easily accessible and intuitive on any device, then posting about beating a level or "Yeah-ing" a Yoshi doodle will feel completely natural. It can be a social network unlike any other.