Miitomo. Miiverse’s sibling who’s more disciplined, but as a result is far less interesting.
The point of being less interesting has some truth to it; Miitomo did have a strong launch that drew in millions, with numbers over 10 million being reported, but later studies show that this number wasn’t really representative of those who opened the app regularly. In other words, the game lost a significant portion of its playerbase as time went on. Now, the game itself certainly isn’t dead as some people would have you believe, seeing as it gets updated constantly and runs events to tie-in with new titles frequently (depending on when you read this piece, the Fire Emblem Heroes event was either ongoing or ended on March 2nd), but there’s certainly no buzz like there was before. The answer to the following may be obvious, but it’s still worth asking: why? It really boils down to two points:
Lack of content
At its core, Miitomo isn’t so much a game as it is an interactive social media app. On the surface, it’s evident that the app was going to offer relatively little in terms of staying power, but even with that in mind, you can theoretically see everything that Miitomo offers (based on the current 2.2.0 version) within the space of an hour. Anything else a player may want within the app, such as cosmetics and room wallpapers/flooring, will realistically take days if not weeks to acquire depending on how committed the player is to earning coins and the luck factor involved in acquiring them via Miitomo Drop or the in-game store.
It’s not unfair to think that many people would be unwilling to spend so much time with the app just to get nothing in return as a result. This ties in neatly to the second point:
Low replay value
There’s little actual reason to keep coming back unless the player is dedicated to it since there’s nothing truly engaging besides My Nintendo coins (which are their own can of worms). In this respect, I want to pivot to a now offline social media game that operated on a similar basis to Miitomo, one that shut down in 2015. It had a similar foundation, but the concept was executed much, much better. And I’ve played it before. Introducing: PlayStation Home.
PlayStation Home was a social gaming platform, much like how Miitomo operates nowadays. You were given a room, a customizable avatar, and social interactions with other players (except Home allowed a player to interact with strangers as opposed to only selectively added friends). The key difference, however, is that Home was much bigger than Miitomo in its current state. While the comparison between a mobile and console game may be unfair, it’s the closest relevant example you can get. Home had free movement instead of pre-programmed movements around an extremely small room, the ability to heavily customize said room’s appearance beyond wallpapers and flooring, and perhaps more importantly, areas to explore.
There were a wealth of different hubs with their own unique design and minigames for the player to dabble in, which were themed after Sony properties, much like how Miitomo cycles through Miitomo Drop for relevant games at the time. These locales, it should be stressed, were entirely optional to the experience and were by no means mandatory; since you needed to download the data for each locale the first time through, it didn’t take up extra space if it was unwanted. It’s almost no wonder that Home closed with a playerbase of over 40 million users after over 6 years while Miitomo struggles to keep a consistent playerbase with what little it actually offers (especially glaring as it managed to gain over 10 million downloads within months, yet a fraction of those downloads actually involved opening the app consistently).
Now, that’s not to say the game is unsalvageable. Miitomo could feasibly become similar to Home with time and if Nintendo were truly committed to doing so at the expense of being a larger app, which on mobile platforms is a detriment since they lack the space a console does. I wouldn’t bet on it, though. Personally, I’d propose a full-fledged expansion of Miitomo on the Nintendo Switch that can actually take cues from PlayStation Home a lot better, relegating the mobile app to quick posts on the go while the more intensive stuff is done on the Switch itself.
Unfortunately, it’s such a good idea that I’d bet even less on it happening. Such is life.