Miitomo was always, it seemed, a divisive first app to come from the Nintendo / DeNA partnership. For some the idea of Nintendo being directly involved in smart device downloads is a form of blasphemy, while others were surprised at the choice of brand and approach. With Mii characters at the fore and drawing some inspiration from Tomodachi Life, Nintendo opted to start its mobile adventure with a social app, as opposed to dropping a Mario runner with pay-to-play incentives splattered all over it. The latter would have followed trends set by rivals, in any case.
This is Nintendo, though, so it goes its own way, and with Miitomo now two months old - 2.5 months in Japan - we can take a step back and assess its progress to date. Sure, two months is a short landmark, but in the ultra-competitive iOS and Android markets it's long enough.
First off, Nintendo seems relatively happy with progress, trumpeting major download landmarks - it's long since passed ten million global downloads. It's not been hugely lucrative financially, though, with Nintendo making next to no noise on this score even when given the chance to with financial reports. Such is the nature of the app and its limited monetisation - with easily ignored or earned play coins - that this is an area that evidently wasn't a priority in its development. Also launching as an accompaniment to My Nintendo, and as a first step for getting the Nintendo brand onto smart devices, Miitomo downloads seem to have been the focus over profits.
Early signs also showed the app successfully digging its heels in with these millions of users; App Annie and Similar Web were among analytics companies highlighting early plus points for the app after a week on the market. The app was leading charts for a number of days and showing impressive retention rates; in other words is wasn't following the fate of so many apps, downloaded and then deleted within days. Statistics seemed to point to lots of users enjoying it, and the flood of Miifotos doing silly things on the likes of Twitter reinforced this.
It's important to recognise these positives, and that it gave Nintendo some valuable positive press; getting media attention - of both the social and conventional kinds - is vitally important, and Miitomo did the job. Yet it's an app that appears to have long-term issues - it's a social app that dictates and limits the rules of interaction, while also lacking the immediacy and pace of conventional social media. Yet it's not exactly a game either, with Miitomo Drop quickly losing its appeal unless you're an outfit collector. Forums and online chatter seemed to drift off with the passing of weeks, with the long term appeal of Miitomo in question.
SurveyMonkey Intelligence sought to bring some data to the table to reflect the general tone of online discourse, suggesting a heavy decline in usage as the weeks have passed. We asked you for your thoughts and usage habits on Miitomo, and in general the numbers were mixed. There wasn't an overwhelming rejection of Miitomo in the Nintendo Life community, but nor was there a swathe of enthusiasm. The results could best be summed up as "meh, it's fine", with some sitting on extreme ends of the scale.
To what degree has Miitomo fallen off the radar in two months? Well, a look at #Miitomo on Twitter shows there's still a flow of Miifoto posts, about one a minute, so there are people engaging with that part of the app in decent numbers. A look at some App Annie chart data, though, shows that it's drifted well away from the top of the charts, following the trajectory of plenty of apps that have come before.
Those aren't exactly surprising trends, but let's turn to user engagement, a key barometer for any social app. Following the previous report SurveyMonkey Intelligence kindly gave us access to its full dashboard of data - focused on the US market, specifically, it nevertheless provides some perspective on broader trends beyond download numbers and chart positions. The data at present runs up to 16th May.
First of all, we mentioned above that monetisation clearly isn't a game-changer with Miitomo, likely as it wasn't a primary target. Nevertheless, SurveyMonkey's data for the US shows that the app is typically earning between $10-15 thousand a day in recent times, following a peak at over $40,000. Of course this data is based on estimates, so that should be kept in mind.
With that out of the way, let's shift to engagement, particularly weekly and monthly average users (WAU and MAU). Let's start with the monthly trend, which reflect the number of users that have used the app in the last 30 days for each data point. This shows a steady growth in the first month (through April) when the buzz was strong, but there's been a fairly drastic fall away (in the US, at least) as May has progressed.
The WAU, which naturally has a more frequent updates to the data, tells a harsher tale, with an even bigger fall-off.
This is reflected further in the 'Weekly Churn' estimated figures, showing a gradual increase in users that stopped using Miitomo from one week to the next, eventually hitting over 50% on 1st May, then wavering between 49-54% in the following two weeks. On 16th May SurveyMonkey Intelligence also updated its charts showing the biggest declines in weekly and monthly average users, with Miitomo coming second in both, losing the engagement of over two million users - sizeable figures - by either metric. In the weekly average user results it's only behind Clash of Clans, but the difference is that the Supercell behemoth has been out since 2012 and, notably, its sequel (Clash Royale) is now distracting a lot of players.
A lot of users, put simply, have stopped using Miitomo. It's not all bad, though. When focused on the current audience (rather than those that have left), the usage trends are pretty solid; there's a core of happy Miitomo players/users out there. 'Average days used' - for example - are going the right way, with a number of users evidently maintaining usage of the app.
The tale is one of an app with a relatively loyal core base of users, even if large numbers have ended their flirtation with it in less than two months. This writer is one of the lapsed users that's drifted away, despite strongly advocating it in the early days. The repetition of old questions and less updates from friends simply made it an inessential part of the day, but it did at least show that Mii characters can charm millions and lead experiences. Nintendo may have also succeeded in targeting audiences that it sees as key to its future - SurveyMonkey reckons that 70% of users in the US are female, with 40% of all users in April being 18-29 years old, and 35% being 30-49 years old. People with disposable income, in other words.
Looking to the future, and to Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem games, in particular, Nintendo will hope to convert that initial brand power - which served Miitomo well - into longer-term success. Animal Crossing is perfect for this, with New Leaf on 3DS showing that the IP can be popular on social media, and the ever-evolving (and endless) nature of the gameplay suits a sustained audience. It'll also suit monetisation with outfits and more, but that will seem distasteful to some. Finding the balance will be key, as the free-to-play app will likely aim to make a lot more money than Miitomo.
Fire Emblem will be an interesting one. Will it be a campaign of sorts with a definitive beginning and end - like conventional series entries - or a spin on the franchise? Some of the most profitable iOS and Android games are strategy titles that pit players against each other and milk microtransactions by tapping into the player's competitive and impatient instincts. If Fire Emblem on smart devices is a mix of the My Castle idea in Fire Emblem Fates with the usual turn-based strategy, it'd fall into competition in a particularly lucrative segment.
It'll be a tough job for Nintendo and DeNA, whatever approaches they take with the next apps. Nintendo fans are instinctively resistant - it seems - to heavy free-to-play monetisation, which will surely amplify with these franchises. Yet the audience Nintendo's targeting is wider, and there's little denying that - however much some will resist - these are brands with the potential to go big on mobile.
Nintendo and DeNA will have no doubt taken various positives and lessons from Miitomo, and it'll be interesting to see what they do next.