Miitomo is an odd app. Nintendo's pre-launch attempts to pitch it to investors left many scratching their heads, and even with its release plenty of commenters online have been relatively dismissive - lines like "I deleted after an hour" appear frequently. Yet on the flipside the app has captured the imagination of others, and also become a Mii-based meme generator thanks to Miifoto. In taking the wise move of not censoring the app, too, Nintendo has ensured that users of all types have enjoyed it in their own ways.
As for me, I've been strangely entranced by it - and I'm someone that normally makes minimal use of conventional social media because of its noise, time consuming nature and occasional ugliness. Yet I hop onto Miitomo for 15-30 minute sessions a few times a day and regret nothing; that's probably because it's far from being a typical social app.
I understand the categorisation and agree with it, I've used it myself, but it doesn't quite grasp what Miitomo is. As a result I think some users may be downloading what they think is a Nintendo take on Facebook and wonder what the heck is going on. Why is it driven by pre-set questions? What's with the clothes and the crazy Miifotos? What's the point?
Those criticisms, that it's not really a game but it's also not really social media in the conventional sense, are actually positives for me. It's taken me a day or two to figure out why that is, but I think I may have figured it out.
I recently wrote a fairly serious article on my own blog (which I won't link here because, well, that would be shameless) about the abundance of outrage (real and of the mock variety) that plagues online discourse. There are plenty of great parts of the web, and my little call to arms while on my soapbox was that we all need to change the internet economy. At present it thrives on negativity, with many of the most read articles and parts of the internet generally focused on topics to enrage people. And not important stuff that we should get angry about, either, but often minor and unimportant things that, frankly, we should treat with a bit of context and self control. Outrage and anger are everywhere online, and there's a danger it'll smother the wonders that the internet can bring.
It wasn't always this way. Before we all had smartphones and catalogued our lives with endless tweets and selfies, the internet was a scruffy, rebellious and silly place. Connections were slow and unreliable, and monthly usage limits meant most needed every click to count before their time was up. As a result it was a fun place to exchange ideas, often goofy and - yes - full of cat pictures. It was a place that was entertaining, not designed to increase blood pressure.
That's why I think I love Miitomo. It's typical Nintendo that it joined the smartphone age with an app driven by kindness and fun, and it's also brought Mii characters back to life. They'd become somewhat peripheral, yet here they become humorous versions of ourselves, happy to pose in hotpants, talk about types of bread or occasionally frown at a serious answer. Even the way the app drains my phone's battery (you can turn on Battery Saving settings to ease this) reminds me of the days when being online was a time-limited luxury. "Quick, answer a few questions before it wipes out the phone's battery!" (Perhaps not a great perk, battery saving is your friend)
It may be all in the presentation, but it just seems like it brings out the best in people. My friends in the app are a mix of 'real-life friends' and some that simply follow me on Twitter, yet in all cases people are at worst dull, at best absolutely hilarious. The line delivery from the Miis no doubt contributes to this, but this app (and the people in it) make me laugh out loud every day - what a gift that is.
There's plenty of room for improvement, which will inevitably come in updates. Miitomo Drop is only fun for about five minutes before it becomes irrelevant (I only played it when trying to get a certain outfit), and a little more customisation in terms of who we chat to would be welcome. The question-based approach is a success to me, and I genuinely feel like I understand some friends a little better after a weekend with the app, but a little more freedom to search for specific friends and have a conversation would be nice. Even an option to, for example, send a message to a fixed group saying "who's up for MK8 tonight?" would be interesting to see in the Miitomo world - Miiverse doesn't really 'work' for that. Features like these may come, or perhaps Nintendo doesn't want that level of freedom.
Beyond that though, I'm certainly a fan. I haven't even come close to spending real money, but I enjoy reading some answers, giving a few and browsing 'recent' interactions. My Nintendo works well with it, too, as I obsessively aim to hit the targets for the daily rewards.
Its longevity will be interesting to see, though - how many users will drop away after a week, or a month? Will it sustain its audience? I hope so, but regular updates and fun tweaks will be needed to achieve that. I'm also unconvinced it'll make Nintendo and DeNA much money, yet that's evidently not the key goal here - the nickel and diming may come in future free-to-start releases from the companies.
I'm well aware that some refuse to even accept Miitomo exists, or have tried it briefly and dismissed it. I was a bit of a Miitomo cynic myself, in private, but have been won over. There's something about Mii characters and the absurdity of it all that brings out the funniest, most benevolent sides of human nature - it's hard to be a prat when your Mii is doing the talking.
I certainly recommend everyone gives it a try, and also allows a few days to see if it takes hold. In this online world often full of conflict, Miitomo is a lovely place of friendship.