Soapbox features enable our individual writers to voice their own opinions on hot topics, opinions that may not necessarily be the voice of the site. In this piece, editor Dom takes a look back on the forgotten first child of Nintendo's mobile marriage and why its surprisingly the semi-social network even survived this long...
The poor old Mii is a dying breed. Once envisioned as a personal analogue for Nintendo’s hardcore audience - and the influx of the mainstream that followed Wii’s success like a tidal wave - the cutesy avatars are slowly but surely dwindling in number. You can see still find them living bizarre lives in Tomodachi Life, engaging in epic quests in Miitopia or milling about in Mii Plaza on 3DS, but they’re far from the energetic haunts they once were. Even Nintendo Switch has kept them at arm’s length, using them for mere profile pictures at best.
Taking all of this into account, it was hardly a shocker to hear Nintendo officially announce that the Miitomo app, the big N’s debut first-party experiment in the monster-filled deep of the mobile market, will be put to the digital sword on the 9th of May - just over two years after its initial launch. It was a gamified app built with the best of intentions, but it was years behind the times and remained popular and relevant for less time than the average meme.
Thing is, Miis were never that cool to begin with anyway, and beyond the enduring appeal of StreetPass, they’ve always felt like an over-simplified attempt to give the social media generations a Nintendo-themed identity when playing something in 3D or with motion controls. Right down to their looks they were indicative of Nintendo’s appeal to that casual mainstream - all blocky haircuts and minimalist expressions - and when all that red hot hype for Wii finally cooled, the Mii’s appeal went stone cold with it.
I’ll give Nintendo its due - there were some interesting ideas at work in Miiverse, but being tied to console like Wii U was a slow death in itself. When its servers were finally switched off last November, the real sense of loss was for the social space itself rather than the bland avatars that roamed its ever lonelier rooms. So it was only a matter of time before Nintendo looked at all its current first-party efforts and officially-licensed successes and accepted Miitomo was never going to be one of them.
As a lifelong Nintendo fan, even I felt my initial curiosity begin to crystalize as I tried to find some sense of appeal in Miitomo’s remit. Everyone I knew had downloaded it and we were all genuinely excited to see Nintendo doing the impossible and developing a game outside of its own hardware. It certainly had its hype - 3 million users in 24 hours and 10 million within a month is nothing to sniff at. It was fun, for a brief time, but there was too much limitation and far too little innovation, and those numbers started to thin. It should have been a revelation; instead it was a stunted attempt to be one part AskFM to two parts Facebook. An oversimplified concept made worse by the intrinsic babyish-ness of the Mii itself.
You could only pose/respond to questions; you couldn’t create your own content; you couldn’t even use GIFs. How I meant to use a form of social media if I can’t respond to someone’s post without my go-to deck of pictorial quips? And what about that friends list limitation which prevented you from adding too many contacts, something which surely flies in the face of social media in general? Okay, I may have gone full hipster there for a moment, but you get where I'm coming from. It’s no wonder everyone scarpered after a while.
Nintendo thought it was onto a winner - take the team that worked its magic on Tomodachi Life and attempt to capture the same lightning in a bottle (that just happens to be shaped like a social media timeline). Perhaps Ninty felt the brand association of the word ‘Mii’ and the use of social media would be enough of winning combination to ensure success. If only it had taken note of all those other social media apps that have unwisely attempted to usurp Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or the fact the Mii ‘brand’ lost its relevance years ago.
Whatever the reasoning truly was, Nintendo has finally taken off its rose-tinted glasses and seen Miitomo for what it’s always been - a cute little experiment that was destined to fail from the start. And we should count ourselves lucky - Miitomo’s inferior concept could have scared Nintendo off mobile gaming for good. Thankfully, it stuck it out and worked with Niantic to make Pokémon GO a success that’s still going in 2018, as well as giving us Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp - all more worthy downloads.
Godspeed, Miitomo. We hardly knew you. Mainly because we didn’t really want to.
That's Dom's take on Miitomo, now it's over to you. Let us know your thoughts on Miitomo, how long you played for, whether you ever went back, and if you'll miss it when it disappears for good on 9th May. Go on, drop us a comment or two...