Did Nintendo miss the point by launching Miitomo in Japan?

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Any day now, Americans literally will get their hands on the first phase of Nintendo’s nascent mobile strategy, when Miitomo becomes available in Apple’s App Store and Google Play for Android. Japanese gamers already have access to Miitomo, and it seems to have made an initial splash with investors.

With the company struggling to sell its Wii U consoles (rumored to be on the way out as the mysterious NX draws nearer) and make the leap of faith to app gaming, it feels like there’s a lot riding on Miitomo and the titles that follow, which we know now are certain to include characters from established Nintendo intellectual properties as well as some version of pay-to-play.

Nintendo isn’t exactly in dire straits financially, but it’s saddled with a perception of being slow (if not resistant) to change and rudderless when it comes to not just mobile – an area, it’s fair to say, where many industries have procrastinated – but also bush-league when it comes to online gaming in general.

How easy it would be for Nintendo to slap Mario’s face onto an app we’ve seen before a hundred times – that would be the quickest way to market, sure. But it’s not the Nintendo way.

More than the deliberate caution, I find troubling the fact that the Miitomo app didn’t launch in the West first, or at the very least simultaneous with Japan. The homeland usually gets Nintendo’s games first, and that’s usually appropriate – but these are unusual times for the hidebound company, and it’s here that most of the criticism, if not the actual problem, originates.

Sony, meanwhile, is moving forward with PlayStation mobile plans of its own.

UPDATE: Miitomo, and the My Nintendo loyalty program, will launch March 31. Nintendo Everything has the details.

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