From Left to Right: Tomo Yamazaki (Director & Product Management lead), Rika Nakajima (Senior Product Manager), Akari Sora (UX design)
Image: Zion Grassl / Nintendo Life

While having a strong and deservingly passionate fanbase, it's fair to wonder if the Pikmin series has ever received the commercial success it deserves. Yet, Shigeru Miyamoto-san and Nintendo continue to nurture these little fellas and let them bloom however they like.

The Nintendo Switch has just given us the long-awaited Pikmin 4 which has broken series sales records in Japan, so it's beginning to get there. Not only that, but the console is also now home to the entire mainline Pikmin series (Hey! Pikmin would like to have a word), and the little Pikmin have cleverly found their way into the Mario-centric theme park, Super Nintendo World.

In 2021, the studio behind Pokémon GO, helped to bring the little plant creatures to mobile with Pikmin Bloom. Even though we enjoyed it back when it first dropped, it seems that many seasoned Pikmin fans may have felt miffed by the lack of 'game' on offer in this daily life-focused spinoff. We're also aware there are plenty of folks out there that love Bloom to the Bulborb and back.

So back in June during Summer Game Fest Play Days, Niantic invited us for a sit down in person with some of the key developers on Pikmin Bloom: UX designer Akari Sora, Senior Product Manager Rika Nakajima, and Director & Product Management lead Tomo Yamazaki. We chatted about their goals for the future, the struggle of balancing a daily life app with gaming elements, the similarities to 3DS StreetPass, and why Bloom is so thematically different from the mainline Pikmin series.

Nintendo Life: What sort of new features have you added to Pikmin Bloom since its launch back in 2021?

Akari Sora: Ever since release, we have added quite a lot of features. One big one would be the Weekly Challenge. Now you can walk together with your friends — even ones that live far away — for a common goal during the span of a week. You also have the Flower Planting Challenge which allows you to plant flowers with your friends. Also, there’s been a change to the Mushroom Challenge where you can send off a troop of Pikmin to destroy the mushroom! *laughs*

Our newest feature is the Event Challenge where we offer special Decor Pikmin for every month; the month of June featured a Fingerboard Decor Pikmin. Naturally, if you play Pikmin Bloom, you’ll get the rewards and it's like a continual gamification cycle.

June Fingerboard Weekly Challenge
Image: Niantic

Ahh, does this work kind of like the request system in Pokemon GO?

Sora: Kind of, yeah! Very mini, lightweight tasks that you can do throughout the day. When you collect the reward, there will be a roulette and a slight chance that you might get extra seedlings for the core Pikmin too.

Our users are not only Nintendo fans, but also casual gamers and even people who don’t usually play games.

Rika Nakajima: Right now we have more than 300 types of Decor Pikmin. It's really fun to collect the different kinds of Pikmin that really tie in with where you visited. There’s Decor Pikmin for visiting a corner shop, barbershop, pharmacy, or even some for weather conditions, so there are a lot of different categories for earning new Pikmin. We just released Donut Decor Pikmin yesterday and this spawns from a sweet shop. Previously we had a Macaron Decor Pikmin, but this one has just been added!

So if you walk past a bakery is the idea that you might trigger the chance to earn a Sweet Shop Decor Pikmin?

Sora: There is a chance that you’ll come across one but it makes it more likely if you’re planting some flowers too. When you plant flowers there will be more fruits or seedlings spawning and then you can send off the Pikmin later in the day so that you can collect them. You don't have to be present with your phone walking all the time, you can just put it away and still play.

We recently started playing Pikmin Bloom again and we’ve been enjoying how minimal the gaming focus feels, whereas the goal seems more about getting you outside to walk.

Sora: Thank you! We love to hear that. Our users are not only Nintendo fans, but also casual gamers and even people who don’t usually play games. So it's really easy to go in and play the app, it’s one of our "uniqueness" points.

Can you talk about the future roadmap for Pikmin Bloom with adding new features or different events? Where would you like to see Pikmin Bloom go from here?

... we want to continue holding these real events to make people connected not only in Japan but also in the US and other countries

Nakajima: We are working on some new features, but we can’t share the details at this point. But you know, we want to make people more connected and continue to let them play together. So we’re planning to release more of those social kinds of features in the future.

We just held the very first IRL Pikmin Bloom Tour in Sapporo, Japan and that was a really great experience, not only for our users but for us as well! So we want to continue holding these real events to make people connected not only in Japan but also in the US and other countries. So hopefully we can deliver soon.

Tour 2023 Sapporo
Image: Niantic

We really appreciate how much games can keep us all connected. Funny enough, we actually brought our 3DS systems with us to this event in hopes of getting a StreetPass!

Sora: Ohhh my! Have you Passed with someone here?

Surprisingly, we’ve found a couple!

Sora: Oooh! We should start carrying ours too! That kind of non-synced, human connection you get from StreetPass is what Pikmin Bloom is about too. You’re not necessarily doing it at the same time or in the same location, but you can still have a little connection in between.

With Pikmin 4 introducing new breeds of Pikmin, can players look forward to new types being added to Bloom down the vine, err, line?

Nakajima: Stay tuned. *laughs*

Pikmin Bloom is a more peaceful game compared to the originals, you know. Our Pikmin aren’t going to die. *laughs*

A lot of our readers can’t stop thinking about the absence of Bulborbs in Bloom. Have you and the team ever considered a way to incorporate them into the game? Although, now that we’re asking this question out loud, we can see how their presence could be quite stressful for the player.

Sora: Haha, Bulborbs are very popular.

Nakajima: We’re always discussing ideas of what should be included in the Pikmin Bloom universe, but that kind of topic requires careful consideration. We have our own universe, and Pikmin 4 and the main series has their own too, even though we use the Pikmin IP. Pikmin Bloom is a more peaceful game compared to the originals, you know. Our Pikmin aren’t going to die. *laughs* That differentiation is always there so we’re always careful with what this experience should be like.

That’s a fair point. The traditional Pikmin series can be quite…uhh…intense!

Sora: Brutal, sometimes!

Zion's Bloom
Image: Zion Grassl / Niantic

Are there any particular elements of Bloom that you and the team are most proud of?

Sora: For me, I think it’s mostly that it's a hands-free experience. I play with my mom who has never played games before and even my grandma too! We’re always talking about which Decor Pikmin we’ve found and Grandma's been telling me she'll walk a bit more than usual just to earn more coins to buy costumes. It’s refreshing! It’s been a lovely game so far and I hope more people are able to join the circle.

Tomo Yamazaki: As you mentioned, the Pikmin console game is more of a strategy game, but our concept is more about daily life with Pikmin. So since we can walk with Pikmin every day, more people can become familiar with them and enjoy it! We’ve found a way to help people have more fun on walks and motivate them to collect Pikmin along the way.

It sounds like your focus with Bloom has been to truly make a game that everyone can enjoy, but there seem to be a lot of people out there who feel Pikmin Bloom doesn’t have much of a game to play. Has it been hard to balance keeping things approachable while not overcomplicating the app?

Nakajima: Yeah, it’s always difficult to balance out the game parts and the life-logging elements, so we’re always talking about if it’s too skewed towards one side or the other. We’re still trying to figure out how to balance between them.

With how much involvement Miyamoto-san has with the mainline Pikmin series, we’re curious about what kind of involvement he and the team at Nintendo have on Pikmin Bloom, and where the majority of development is based.

Nakajima: Our relationship is really close actually! We have conversations on a daily basis and Miyamoto-san is always giving us feedback. Not necessarily one hundred percent of them, but the majority of Bloom's marketing, operations and development happen in Tokyo, Japan too!

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Sending a pack of our Pikmin off to team Niantic to deliver a big thanks for giving us this opportunity. Akari-san, Rika-san, and Tomo-san were a delight to chat with!

Pikmin Bloom is available free for download now on iOS and Android with the next Community Day scheduled for August 12th & 13th. Have you been playing the Bloom yourself? Let us know!