Nintendo's been slow to embrace smartphones, where video games make tens of billions of dollars every year. But that just changed.
The company on Thursday launched "Miitomo" for Android and iOS. It's a quirky, free-to-download game in which you design a Mii character that looks like you. You can modify your Mii's speech patterns and personality in addition to messing with its outfits. If your friends play the game, your Miis can interact with one another, which prompts you to answer questions to earn points.
The entire thing is pretty bizarre, like a virtual dollhouse on Molly.
Characters kind of sound like robots caught in the middle of a good shiatsu massage. They say things like "So ... what's your favorite kind of bread?" And they take pictures of themselves when you're not around.
Like so many mobile games, you're urged to make progress with promises of in-game currency and new items that you can dress your character in. You can earn tickets to play little games within the game in order to receive more currency and clothing items.
But while games like this can often feel like hamster wheels, where hours are wasted to achieve meaningless points of progress, "Miitomo" feels different. It's weird and charming.
When you log in, it's not so much about checking in to see if you can reach a new level -- though, yes, there are meters for both your "popularity level" and "style level." It's more about short interactions that'll make you crack a smile or reflect on your life.
My Mii recently prompted me to think about what I've "been doing lately." I answered "lots of work" and thought, "Hey, that's true! I should relax more."
You shouldn't expect an action-y Nintendo experience like "Mario Kart" from "Miitomo." But if you're open to some personal probing from virtual avatars of yourself and friends, you'll probably dig the experience.