Karakatte Miitomo

Yesterday saw the release of Nintendo’s first venture into the wasteland of smartphone applications, Miitomo. I had to try it out because after all, one of the reasons I chose to live in Japan was to try out all the games that got released here before anyone else. Kneel and writhe in envy or something. But don’t worry you’re not missing all that much at the moment.

I want to make something clear for better or worse, and that is I love Nintendo and always have. I’ve enjoyed their products for over 30 years now, and they rarely disappoint me on a consumer level. But Miitomo is probably the worst thing they’ve ever made, and this is coming from someone who owned a Virtual Boy. Come to think of it, the Virtual Boy was pretty awesome.

Here’s how it works: in Miitomo you make your own custom avatar called a “Mii,” and then it lives in a room, buys clothes and answers questions. And that’s about it. Oh right and if you link a facebook or Twitter account, you can connect with your friends and see how they answered those questions. Let’s go through these steps one by one, and see just what enjoyment can be secreted from between the gears of this blatant data collection machine.

1. Making the Mii
Making a Mii is about as stimulating as it was on the Wii, the 3DS and the Wii U. You can recreate a likeness of yourself, other people, or weird shit that strictly belongs in the realm of nightmares. The only novel feature this time around is creating its voice according to qualities such as pitch and depth. There’s been no crackdown on obscenities yet, which means at the moment the Mii will literally say out loud anything you put in its filthy mouth. So if you never got to fuck around with text-to-speech software as a kid, now’s your chance to hear a robot say bad words.

Next, you give your Mii a “personality” which is based on traits such as how quickly you move, how direct you are with people, and how quirky you percieve yourself. Try as you might, the product of the slidebars will never result in declaring you a pompous delusional shithead, which is kind of unfortunate. Instead, you will be categorized by the associated positive attributes into something like a “leader” or “artist.” At least my mom thinks I’m a shithead.

2. The Room
After birthing your beautiful, brilliant tomorrow child, you will move it into the Room. This is your Room, and this will be your only Room. You will not interact with the furnishings of the Room. The furnishings in your Room will not leave the Room or be replaced by other furnishings from other Rooms. You will not modify, decorate, or deface the Room. You will not leave the Room except to visit the Room of another Mii. And you will not envy the other Mii’s Room.

So no, Animal Crossing it is not. There is no customization of the domicile, and there is nothing to do in it anyway but ponder deep existential questions and host uncomfortable visits from other Miis. More on that later.  Or not.

3. Buying clothes
Basically your character has a stash of coins which they use to buy clothes and customize their look. Some of the clothes are cute, and many of them are stupid. This is pretty straightforward. I want to talk about those damn coins which you get by answering questions, so let’s just cut the crap and get into what this app is really all about.

4. Answering questions
These days they say that if the product is free, then the consumer is the product, and boy is that ever the case with Miitomo. It’s every company’s dream to have a database of all of its consumers’ and potential consumers’ personal data, preferences, and habits. They use this data to develop their products, services, and most of all, their marketing strategy. There are actually companies that simply collect this data to sell it to other companies who think they can use it to sell more crap. Now while it would be ridiculously time-consuming, not to mention awkward for a representative from a corporation to directly ask its customers the questions that yield this kind of information, Nintendo has found a way to ask all of these questions directly and make the customer think that they’re playing a game while they’re doing it! It’s brilliant, really, but also kind of pathetic and sickening because the questions are so overt in their purpose that it’s just an embarrassment.

To demonstrate, here are some of the questions that Miitomo has asked me in the last 24 hours, completely word for word:

  1. What sweet thing you’ve eaten recently would you recommend?
  2. What thing have you noticed has become more popular recently?
  3. What’s your most recent purchase?
  4. Which female entertainer do you think will break into the big time soon?
  5. What present from your parents were you disappointed with?
  6. Which song used in an advert has left the biggest impression on you?

It’s really really sad, so I’ve mostly been answering these questions with utter insolence. To me, the real game is coming up with answers that while occasionally honest will be fraught with unhelpful and disingenuous data.  This is not to derail their marketing strategy – I mean, after all, I love Nintendo and wish them success, but for my own security and amusement I make sure that any information collected about me is dubious at best and certainly not to be interpreted as a fact.

And come on. This is gross. It’s like a Mario game where instead of saving the Princess, he’s like..um..  Well there is no true analogy because there’s no narrative to living in an empty box having meaningless conversations with the goal of wearing a costume.  Unless you’re into weird prison shit or something.  It’s not a very satisfying app, and as a game it’s borderline evil. The real evil (or possibly redemption) is that this supposedly ties into the new Nintendo reward system and loyalty scheme, which means continued play may actually net me a prize down the road like a real game or rare Nintendo swag like when I was a platinum member of Club Nintendo.

And so I continue to play.  I’m sure they’ll guess all my passwords any day now.  Connectivity is enabled through Twitter of all things, so by all means go ahead and follow me @epicuziplayit so you can come see my Box.

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