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Last month it was announced that the Pokémon franchise would be coming to smartphones in Pokémon GO, an ambitious augmented reality mobile title. But while Pokémon is often associated with Nintendo, the brand itself is managed by The Pokémon Company, a semi-independent subsidiary of the video game hardware and software giant.

Today, Nintendo revealed the first stage of plans for its long-awaited Nintendo-branded smartphone apps, but those hoping for a new game starring Mario or Link are going to have to keep waiting. As a matter of fact, Nintendo’s first official smartphone release isn’t a game at all, but a system by which to make a virtual recreation of yourself that will autonomously talk about you in the social media sphere.

At its October 29 investor meeting, Nintendo shed some additional light on its smart device venture, which is a collaboration with mobile game company DeNA. Nintendo had previously announced plans to release five apps by March 2017, and while that target remains unchanged, its first release has been pushed back from late 2015 to March 2016, in order to provide a higher quality finished product.

With the runaway sales and popular success of Mario Maker, one might have expected Nintendo to double down on providing a classic gameplay framework on which to build and share user-created content, which would seemingly mesh well with the simplified control inputs and connected nature of smartphones and other mobile devices. However, Nintendo’s first mobile app will be something entirely different and unexpected.

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Titled Miitomo, the app is more a social networking tool than a video game. Taking cues from the Mii avatars gamers can make on Nintendo’s Wii U, 3DS, and Wii systems, Miitomo users will first create a digital recreation of themselves.

Miitomo Miis aren’t passive virtual lifeforms, though. They’re chatty little things, and they’ll often ask you questions. Once you’ve answered them, your Mii will seek out other Miis and share the information you gave it.

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Thankfully, your Mii won’t broadcast this juicy gossip to the whole world. It can only share what you’ve told it with the Miis of other users whom you’ve already registered as friends, which Nintendo boasts ensures safe, secure communication. Still, this limiting factor begs a question. If your Mii is only talking with the Miis of your friends, why not cut out the middleman and just talk with your pals directly?

Nintendo actually has some thoughtful answers for that. For starters, it says Miitomo is a way for even passive or shy people to easily participate in social networking. The company also points out that there are things you might not be inclined to broadcast unilaterally, but would be happy to talk about if someone asked you.

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In this way, your Miitomo Mii functions like a casual discussion moderator, giving you prompts to get the ball rolling on conversations. Ostensibly, it reports back to you on things it’s heard from your friends’ Miis, and Nintendo asserts that this can help people discover unexpected aspects to their friend’s personalities, as well as things they didn’t know they had in common with one another. This in turn helps build a stronger bond between friends, and also expands their circle of gaming partners.

Whether Nintendo’s latest innovation turns out to be a success, like the motion and touch-screen controls of its newest game systems, or a spectacular train wreck on the order of the R.O.B. and Virtual Boy, remains to be seen. But after so many years of letting gamers step into the shoes of its video game heroes, it will be interesting to see if Nintendo can pull of the feat of creating a digital character that can assume the identity of its user.

Source: Nintendo (1, 2) via Jin
Top image: Nintendo (1, 2) (edited by RocketNews24)
Insert images: Nintendo (1, 2) (edited by RocketNews24)