Nintendo’s Miis in action in the latest Super Smash Brothers.
Nintendo is finally entering the mobile gaming world, and its first app title will be the free-to-play Miitomo, Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima said during Thursday a strategy briefing for investors in Tokyo.Miitomo is a “communication application that helps friends share fun personal facts and interests,” Nintendo said in a press statement. Players will create avatars called Miis that they can use to engage with friends to learn more about each other and find common interests.
The game itself is free-to-play, but it will include in-app purchases, Kimishima said.
Nintendo said in March that it would begin developing mobile games, but Miitomo marks Nintendo’s first official release in mobile gaming after a long history of being staunchly against the proposition. While rivals Sony and Microsoft have both released games and companion apps for mobile devices, Nintendo has historically limited its releases to its own consoles.
Miitomo will be developed in partnership with DeNA, a Japan-based game developer that publishes a range of other free-to-play mobile games, including the popular Star Wars: Galactic Defense. The game will be the first of five releases between now and March 2017 made with DeNA. The game will be available for both iOS and Android mobile devices.
Though the game was expected to be released before the end of 2015, Nintendo today announced that Miitomo was scheduled for March 2016 global release.
Nintendo also announced a new membership program called My Nintendo at the investor briefing. The service is designed to connect users across different devices, including Nintendo’s consoles, PCs and smartphones, said Kimishima. It would also enable cloud saving, so players could transfer game data from console to smartphone seamlessly. The service will launch alongside Miitomo in 2016.The Japanese company first showed movement toward mobile gaming in March when it acquired a partial stake in DeNA. It’s still a surprising shake-up for the company, which had long held firm to its console-based business model.
The move toward smartphone apps comes on the back of the company’s first reported operating profit in five years. While strong performance in the first half of 2015 brought the company back to an operating profit of 8.98 billion yen ($74.6 million), up from 215-million-yen losses the year before, the increases were still short of analyst forecasts.
Investors were not excited by the game’s unveiling and the delayed release date, sending Nintendo’s share price close to 10 percent down immediately after the announcement.