Last night, Nintendo held its semi-annual Financial Results Briefing in Tokyo. This was an opportunity for new president Tatsumi Kimishima to introduce several of their new initiatives, from a dramatic overhaul of the Nintendo Network and the former Club Nintendo, to the first in their upcoming mobile games with DeNA. The mobile application, Miitomo, is an free to play title based around meeting players around the world through Miis. While the full scope of the game is unknown – it appears to be more of a communication app than a traditional “game” – it’s a somewhat more active approach to online communication than Nintendo’s traditionally cautious online policies would suggest. Despite Miitomo being a communication app, players will only be able to communicate with their friends. It has also been delayed to 2016, where it will launch worldwide in March with the “Nintendo Account” and “My Nintendo” systems.
Miitomo was the primary topic of a conference based around the idea of communication, revealing that the new NX console will use cloud-based storage to connect handheld and home consoles, and that Miis will be take a stronger role in communication. In addition My Nintendo will use an extensive point system for gifts based around not just purchasing, but also playing games, as well as going to select theaters and Nintendo’s upcoming theme park. However, Kimishima and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto were also explicit in statements that Nintendo’s focus will remain on console development and that it wishes to “maximize the value” of its intellectual properties.
These details highlight intriguing new directions for the company, and some of Source Gaming’s members have also written their own individual reactions to the news.
While Nintendo’s relationship with online play – currently in its eleventh year after Animal Crossing; Wild World – has been subject to a great deal of criticism (more than some of it justifiable), they’re output has also been particularly exciting. Rusty’s Real-Deal Baseball was a bizarrely charming interpretation of free-to-play games. In addition, despite the lack of voice chat, Splatoon has been enormously energizing for team-based shooters, and their use of DLC in Mario Kart 8 and Smash is (for the most part) really satisfying.
So although I’m not necessarily hyped for Miitomo (if only because its full nature is kind of vague), I’m really interested to see Nintendo working to evolve its various functionalities and interfaces. Trying to be more active about communication by making a game that encourages and helps with communication is a brilliant, meta way to deal with their online struggles. A club system where you get rewards for playing the game and everything could be easily accessed via smartphone can be a great change from the often clunky and unwieldy Club Nintendo. Sony and Microsoft have been pushing the idea of a video game console as a unified entertainment space, but the glimpses of Nintendo’s briefing suggests a game-centric approach that can end up particularly distinct.
Nintendo unifying their experiences under ‘Nintendo Account’ and ‘My Nintendo’ makes perfect sense, retrospectively. Before his passing, Satoru Iwata kept mentioning that Nintendo would utilize the strength of their IPs in new ways. In addition to working with DeNA, a deal with Universal Studios was publicly announced awhile back. Today’s conference felt very much like a continuation down that path. The new systems will bring together all of which Nintendo has to over the variety of platforms and experiences they can offer. Since the new system has plans to be used in theme parks, and even movie theaters, it seems that Nintendo is really trying to 1. introduce new customers to Nintendo 2. keep the existing customers loyal to Nintendo. With the addition to the news about utilizing the cloud to sync data across a variety of system types, it seems that Nintendo is really embracing all the benefits of a connected world.
Miitomo feels like the a great way to start that process. Miis are very popular, and have wide recognition. Tomodachi Life in Japan is a very well received game, and Miis have been the face of Nintendo since their debut on the Wii. I feel that Miitomo will be very well received in Japan. My Japanese friends (who are not hardcore gamers) have already mailed me about it. Nintendo is trying very much leverage the popularity of mobile platforms (and other “experiences”) in order to bring people into their console/portable gaming ecosystem. I feel like this is a slightly different approach to Iwata’s initial “blue ocean” plan. Instead of trying to cast a wide net, Nintendo seems to be trying to “scoop” up as many customers as they possibly can. The benefit to this is that those new players may stick around as Nintendo is doing their best to woo them with all they have to offer. Personally, I feel this is good news all around, and I eagerly await additional information.
Putting aside financials and numbers and only looking at their new announcements, I can’t say I was overly enthused– or disappointed– by anything that Nintendo put out. Their description of My Nintendo features was all of the basics that it needs to be a functional, modern account system for gaming, which was nice, but it also wasn’t anything special. Connectivity between smartphones, PCs (presumably meaning the Internet as opposed to Nintendo releasing games on PC), and consoles, being able to make digital purchases on an official website, a friend system, integration with social media, and the “eventual” ability to make use of cloud saves are all basic amenities Nintendo’s competitors have offered for years now. Miitomo seems like it will be appealing to many, but based on the vague details announced it doesn’t quite seem like it’s up my alley– less of a game and more of a social media experience. Nothing against those it does appeal to– Nintendo trying to broaden its horizons is always a good thing, and I recognize the validity of the strategy, but from a strictly personal perspective it isn’t interesting to me at all.
I appreciate Nintendo trying to cast a wider net, looking to incorporate its IPs in a variety of ways, be they in a theme park, possibly movies, television, or mobile gaming, but in the end it was all a sort of vague promise of a more aware, better future with another delay thrown in. Not that I expected that many explicit details from this briefing anyway, but in the end it hasn’t done anything to affect my optimism for Nintendo’s future positively or negatively.
Spazzy_D: These meetings are not typically meant for “fans,” so anyone expecting any sort of E3 style reveal here was bound to be disappointed. What this meeting did, however, was establish the framework for what Nintendo wants to do moving forward. Connectivity seems to be the theme here, as Nintendo’s new “Nintendo Account” seems to be the basis for what will be a unified account system moving forward. This is wonderful news, but I still need to know if digital content will be tied to a specific consoles moving forward. The truth is that I would probably buy a second Wii U for my bedroom if I could share all my e-shop titles and DLC between the two consoles… but I can’t. This next step seems like a logical one, but Nintendo does seem to sometimes have a backwards approach to social technology. Just look at Miitomo, a communication app that doesn’t actually allow you to communicate with new people. Overall, I thought the briefing introduced more questions than it answered, and it did little to quench my thirst for “real” Nintendo news. Nintendo Direct when?
What do you guys think of the meeting? Let us know in the comments!
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