Nintendo’s first ever smartphone game was released in March 2016, and to much fanfare at the time.
Miitomo, a social app where users can interact with each other through their Mii avatars by answering questions, was a quirky and unexpected foray into the mobile market for Nintendo in its partnership with DeNA.
It didn't use any of Nintendo’s instantly recognisable mascots/IP like Mario or Link, and it was built from the ground up with mobile in mind.
Yet such a momentous occasion wasn’t mentioned in the company’s latest financial report.
In fact, it was only in Nintendo CEO Tatsumi Kimishima’s presentation recapping the first half of the fiscal year ending March 2017 that Miitomo was referenced.
He said the app “will soon reach” 15 million unique users. But for all of its users, the title “has not been impactful from a profit perspective”.
Indeed, its positioning on the Top Grossing app charts, according to App Annie stats, is as surprising as it is disappointing. It made an okay start, reaching 76th in the charts in April 2016. But since then, it has been on a steady decline.
In terms of in-game revenues, in the last month the app has often fallen out of the Top Grossing rankings completely, with just the occasional spike back into the charts. The same is happening in other countries like the UK, Germany and Canada too.
It hasn't been in the US Google Play top Top Grossing chart since June 28th.
It's fairing a little better in Nintendo's homeland of Japan, though.
It’s difficult to know exactly how many people are playing the game on an active basis and are just not paying - particularly given its apparent reluctance to disclose the game’s daily and monthly active users.
It’s also impossible to see whether Miitomo is having an effect on how users interact with the Nintendo brand in general.
The only glimpse into active users is from third-party market intelligence firms. Survey Monkey Intelligence, if accurate, doesn’t paint a particularly good picture on this front.
Back in May, it claimed there had been a sharp drop off in weekly active users in mid-April, leading to a more gradual decline through the first half of May. This seemed to put WAUs at less than one million.
Updates do have the power to get users downloading and paying money in the game again to some degree. The release of a set of updates on September 16th, including the Kirby Miitomo Drop, saw a spike in paying users, for instance. But this quickly fell away in the following days.
The updates can bring a spike in downloads. But again, this rise tends to quickly fall away.
During Kimishima’s presentation discussing Nintendo’s last six months, he claimed that the trends in Miitomo “have been largely according to our expectations”.
It’s a statement that's difficult to take at face value in light of the stats and negligible direct impact on Nintendo's revenues.
I certainly wouldn’t go as far to say that Miitomo has been some secret success and that it’s doing what it was supposed to do. And perhaps, for all the learnings it may have provided Nintendo, it was released too early.
But it seems Nintendo’s key strategy for Miitomo is to get mobile users interacting with its IP, like a Trojan Horse to get these consumers into its own hardware and other upcoming mobile games.
On that basis, Miitomo is likely to stick around for the foreseeable future with plenty more updates to come. Particularly as Nintendo ramps up for the launch of the Nintendo Switch and a stronger line-up of games - including its mobile titles like Super Mario Run coming in December.
Full disclosure: I worked for Nintendo between January 2016 and May 2016.