Miitomo, Nintendo’s first foray into the mobile software market, has undeniably been off to a phenomenal start with over 10 million unique users having already joined the social sensation. Yet today, a mere two months after its launch, it’s become increasingly more evident that Miitomo is suffering from a user retention problem. What was once a thriving community of both passionate and casual Nintendo fans has slowly deteriorated to nothing more than a mildly entertaining distraction for most.

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It’s not all doom and gloom for the fledgling mobile app, as there’s plenty of potential to be harnessed here if Nintendo starts supplying a steady stream of updates and added content. By expanding upon the core social features of the application, performing tweaks and adjustments to the in-game currency, and supplying players with more mini games, Miitomo could see user engagement levels soar to new and exciting heights in the months to come.

Expanding the core experience

At its fundamental core, Miitomo is a social platform that tasks users with answering a series of questions curated by Nintendo, the results of which are shared amongst and commented on by their friends. In typical Nintendo fashion, the game proved to be an exceedingly offbeat idea and original spin to how most social networks function. At launch, it captivated audiences young and old from all over the globe with its charm, wit, and lighthearted tone. Despite releasing with pretty barebone features, it kept me captivated for at least an hour a day for the first week or two, thanks in large part to a very populous and active user base at the time.

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While mobile apps naturally lose 77% of their daily users within the first three days of launch, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Nintendo has thus far done very little in attempting to retain and grow the Miitomo community. Sure, we occasionally receive new outfits for purchase via the in-game shop, Miitomo Drop and My Nintendo rewards, but the core experience of socializing with friends has remained relatively stagnant and untouched since launch. For casual players, the novelty of playing dress-up and listening to their Miis mimic back their responses in chipmunk-speak has long since worn off. For hardcore Nintendo fans, logging in daily has become a tedious chore reminiscent of a bygone era spent filling out Club Nintendo surveys, hastily and thoughtlessly writing responses for the sole purpose of earning rewards for their My Nintendo accounts.

Without completely reinventing the wheel, Nintendo could easily expand upon and introduce new social features to recapture the interest of their dwindling user base. If answering questions and commenting on them is to remain the meat of the experience, then let’s make it a thick, juicy steak. Provide an option that lets players come up with their own questions, and direct them to specific friends. Implement private messaging, or at the very least give the player more control over who can and cannot view their answers. Let users mark friends as favorites so they can interact with specific people more frequently and consistently. Simple tweaking and additions like these would go a long way in assuring users that Nintendo is serious about supporting Miitomo well into the future.

Maintaining affordable prices

Without question, the most common complaint I encounter when discussing Miitomo with family and friends centers around the inflated prices of clothing and game tickets. Typically, this is to be expected from games that utilize freemium monetization models, and most people I’ve spoken to on the matter aren’t naive to this fact. However, after conducting a little research to find out exactly how many coins can be earned through free play without succumbing to in-app purchases, it quickly became apparent why this consensus is so pervasive among the community at large.

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There are currently three ways to earn coins within the game: daily check-ins, activity rewards (such as providing, listening to, and commenting on questions) and in-app purchases. Ignoring the latter, if one were to combine the daily check-in bonuses and activity rewards, as well as convert any gifted game tickets to coin value, a free player can cap out at roughly 14,250 coins each month by simply playing the game each day. That comes out to a pitiful average of three outfits a month, with a couple Miitomo Drop free plays thrown in for good measure.

Considering Mii customization is such a ubiquitous and integral feature of the core Miitomo experience – from setting up silly poses and scenarios in Miifoto to being the sole purpose for coin collecting – it’s baffling to comprehend why such a harsh restriction on expanding one’s wardrobe exists. Coins are so scarce that I’ve started to hoard them, much too anxious to ever consider spending them for fear of missing out on something eye-catching in the daily specials. By crippling the most important and prominent extrinsic motivator for driving engagement in the app, it’s not at all surprising to learn that players are losing interest and becoming fatigued, frustrated and bored with the experience.

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Having said that, there are multiple ways Nintendo could make earning coins easier in an effort to boost user retention. One obvious solution is to either lower the cost of clothing to much more affordable prices or increase the amount of coins earned through each activity. Nintendo could also increase the 175 coins per day cap for activity rewards to help incentivize players to spend more time in the app. More ways to earn coins could also be introduced, such as through Miifoto creation, selling unwanted clothing or giving hearts on answers.

Providing more ways to play

Despite my insistence throughout this article to call Miitomo a game, many would be reluctant to agree. Currently, the only resemblance Miitomo shares to that of an actual video game comes in the form of Miitomo Drop: a pachinko inspired minigame that gives players a chance at winning exclusive outfits made available for a limited time. However, in a system where coins are already difficult to come by, a single play can prove rather expensive. Coupled with how the game favors sheer luck over determination and skill to win, playing Miitomo Drop more often than not leads to intense feelings of defeat and frustration, the opposite emotions desired for fostering committed and engaged users.

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Thus, when you consider what little there is to actually do in Miitomo from a gameplay perspective, it should come as no surprise to learn that active users only spend an average of eight minutes a day in the app. Adding new games could do wonders in making Miitomo feel much more interactive, addictive and fun.

One need only look at StreetPass Mii Plaza on 3DS for shining examples of the types of games that could work within Miitomo. Puzzle swap seems ripe for the picking, and could easily be adapted to a mobile experience. Puzzle pieces could be collected at random for listening to and commenting on responses, and then assembled under a time limit in order to compete in leaderboards amongst your friends. It has the added benefit of also promoting upcoming Nintendo software, increasing brand awareness and market penetration of Nintendo’s IP.

Animal Crossing could be a great source of inspiration as well, finally bringing home decorating into the fold. Imagine finally being able to fully furnish the interior of that bland, bathroomless studio apartment to your liking. This would also provide a much needed additional use for coins, opening the floodgates for hundreds of new decorative items to be collected.

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One can also look to more classic board games and TV game shows for ideas. Imagine playing a game of Guess Who? or Clue using Mii characters from your friends list. What about a Mii rendition of The Dating Game or Family Feud, where survey answers are based on actual Miitomo responses within the community? What if the player was presented an answer to a question and had to guess which one of three friends wrote it? The possibilities are potentially limitless, and it would be amazing to see Nintendo innovate around this simple concept.

Closing remarks

Miitomo clearly has a lot of potential, but whether or not it evolves into anything more than a mildly entertaining message board remains to be seen. As long as Nintendo starts cranking out updated features and content on a much more regular basis (and soon), I have no doubt it can retain a fairly dedicated and active user base in the long term. Until then, I’ll simply continue to farm my platinum reward missions and call it a day.

What would you like to see in a future Miitomo update? Do you consider yourself an active member or have you already jumped ship? Be sure to let us know in the comments!


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Written by Matthew Weidner

When it comes to playing and writing about video games, Matthew aspires to be the very best, like no one ever was. Writing for Nintendo Wire and the thought of one day finally achieving a perfect, no death Super Meat Boy run fills him with determination.

Matthew Weidner