Here's why we've stopped playing Miitomo — and how Nintendo could win us back

Can Nintendo bring the Polygon staff back to the mobile experience?

The day Miitomo finally debuted in North America, the Polygon staff went quiet. We'd been waiting for Nintendo's first mobile title for months: We were first intrigued by it in October, when Nintendo unveiled the communication app to investors, and we were smitten when Japan got it in mid-March, several weeks ahead of us.

On March 31, we sat glued to our phones as we took our first steps into the world of Miitomo. It was at once an individual and collective experience: One by one, Polygon staffers sent friend requests, congregating inside of Nintendo's social network.

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We crafted our Miis in our likenesses (with varying accuracy). For a group of co-workers who are scattered between both coasts, Miitomo was a way to bring us all into the same room — virtually, at least.

No, it's not a full-blown Nintendo game on Android and iOS, like some might have wanted. Yes, Nintendo calls it "free-to-start," meaning microtransactions abound. But what pulled me — and many of my colleagues — into the game at first was the idea that this tiny world was an exclusive place where we could all hang out, sending our Miis around to take photos, ask stupid questions, give stupid answers and play dress-up.

Those first hours on Miitomo had us rapt — a whole good group of us here at Polygon, hanging out together in the app. But in the weeks since its launch, I've found myself increasingly alone on Miitomo, if I've remembered to check in at all.

Many of us at Polygon fell for Miitomo fast, but fell off of it faster. In an effort to understand why we lost interest — and how Nintendo could regain it — I reached out to my Polygon Miitomo friends to ask a simple question: What went wrong? And is there anything Nintendo can do to bring us back into the fold?

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Jeff Ramos

Engagement Editor

I think the main hook of Miitomo is seeing how people reply to your stuff. The feed usually shows me how people reply back to other people's stuff. That's interesting, but social networks are about instant gratification for what you've put out, as far as hooks go.

You aren't allowed to say or do whatever you want. You have to respond to questions only. You can't create your own content, which isn't as interesting from a social network perspective. Also, if you are asked questions you don't want to answer, you keep going until you get one you want. That just creates more of that "decision loop." And if the decisions you have to make become less interesting over time, you're less likely to keep going.

There are no major events worth caring about. Answering one global question or getting a new set of gear isn't enough. Miitomo should have a minigame or something. See who gets the highest score.

The game should encourage more commenting on each other's stuff outside of just replying in the "news feed" or visiting friends. I often feel kinda creepy going to one person's feed specifically and commenting on a few things.

Nintendo needs to make replies threaded so we can just scroll down, as opposed to clicking. The more manual interaction there is, the less likely you are to "interact" with the platform. There's a reason why endless scroll became a thing. Every time you have to click, you need to make a mental decision to interact more. Over time, the more you have to decide to interact, the more it becomes a chore.

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Simone de Rochefort

Video Producer

Earning money is SO slow. Candy is the most worthless currency in the entire world and there's no way to exchange it for something I'd want, like coins or tickets.

I wish other Miis visited mine more often. I don't understand what triggers a visit, but my Mii is usually alone when I check on her. Since the silly interactions between Miis are what make the game appealing, that kinda sucks.

I totally agree with Jeff about the lack of events and minigames.

Any way to sort what I get notifications for would be great. There were some questions showing up in my "Recent" tab that I just don't care about at all. I'd love to be able to tailor my friends and notifications more.

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Susana Polo

Entertainment Editor

The moment I walked into the store and didn't have enough coins to buy what I wanted kind of broke my link with the thing.

Eliminating your notifications is tedious as heck, with, as Jeff noted, way too much loading. By the time I'm done waiting for all those orange dots to go away, I don't have much interest in sitting down with my Mii to answer some questions, which is how you get coins — which is how you get All The "Fun" Stuff.

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Megan Farokhmanesh

Deputy Managing Editor

Miitomo is interesting because it is essentially its own little social network: Your digital doppelgängers visit each other and share secrets. It's a really great idea that is bogged down by not being able to send or even read messages with ease.

The app asks you dozens upon dozens of random questions, and so few of them are actually interesting. Who cares what my favorite kind of bread is? And why do I need to know that answer for all 50-plus people on my list? It's a nightmare party scenario where all you do is have small talk over and over again with people whose answers you don't always care about. I wanted more freedom to have those "between us" questions when I choose to, and to ask the kinds of things I'd actually want to know about my friends.

I fell off the Miitomo wagon after about two days. I totally dig its vibe. I love watching my friends post really weird screenshots. I wanted to love it, but the main thrust of the game gets really dull, really fast.

"It's a nightmare party scenario where all you do is have small talk over and over again."

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Samit Sarkar

Senior Reporter

I stopped checking it regularly a week or two ago. I just got tired of answering its insipid, vaguely market-research-y questions (like asking me to name a recent advertisement that I liked), and even then, there aren't enough of them — when I scrolled through my "Recent" tab yesterday, it mostly consisted of old answers from me and my friends.

Plus, sometimes when you're scrolling through answers, it asks you to spend candy just to see people's answers, which, like, nope. I don't care that much about my friends' answers to questions like "what moved you recently?"

Plus, as Jeff pointed out, the user experience is pretty shitty. Anytime you back out of the app or get a text or whatever, it takes 3-5 seconds to load it up again. And once you have more than, like, 20 or 30 friends, the friends list basically becomes unusable. Why would they put friend requests above the actual list, and not in a separate area?

Also, the app is a damn battery hog.

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Ashley Oh

Social Media Manager

The lure of this in the beginning was the novelty of putting in weird, unexpected answers and finding out strange shit about your friends. After a while, it's like ... what am I doing this for now?

I would also like to know what the reason is behind friends' visits to your home and vice versa. Is it because they're manually visiting you, or is there some algorithm that makes someone visit if there's little to no interaction?

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Jake Lear

Product Manager

Miitomo has no compelling hook to return.

The "game" appears to be based around getting sweet new outfits, right? So the hook to return is to try to build up currency of some sort to get those sweet new outfits. But If I can just buy the currency, that's gonna be a lot faster than "playing" to get the currency. But I'm not going to buy the currency on a matter of principle.

I know that there's an easy way for me to get the outfits (real money), but I don't want to do that. But because I know that, I don't want to waste a bunch of time doing the game thing to get them.

I need more to do than just get outfits, and answering questions isn't that fun. If there was something fun I could do to get more outfits, I'd probably be into it, because I want my dude to look cool.

But he has a denim shirt. It's not buttoned. If I were him, I'd button it.

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Nick Robinson

Video Producer

Like everyone keeps saying, the speed is the thing — with Twitter, when I get a push notification after a friend replies to me, I can immediately read what the person said on my lock screen notification, and then choose to swipe the notification to take more actions.

On Miitomo, notifications are totally opaque ("New comment from Nancy!"), and when you poke the notification, you hit two load screens before the comment even loads. I just timed it using the stopwatch on my girlfriend's phone — after poking that notification, it took 28 seconds of waiting before I could see the comment my mom left on my answer about my favorite food. (For the record, her comment was "Holla!")

Compared to every other social media app I've ever used, it's just devastatingly slow. But I keep coming back — partially because of the My Nintendo integration (gotta keep getting those daily coins!), partly to see the new outfits and Miitomo Drop games, and because occasionally my friends' answers can be interesting and funny.

But man, the whole thing could REALLY use a tune-up.

Miitomo's honeymoon phase is long gone

Others on staff kept their complaints brief. "It felt like others were phoning it in" on Miitomo, said Editor-at-Large Justin McElroy — otherwise known to his friends on the app as Hoops, fast-food joint Weinermaster's most devoted employee. Entertainment Reporter Julia Alexander cited a dearth of places for her Mii to chill in; a lounge or pool might bring her back, she said. Shaun McIlroy, our Support Manager, groaned about the difficulty of the Miitomo Drop game, as have users worldwide.

Nintendo has updated Miitomo as recently as this week, expanding the options for adding friends, cutting down on long load times and introducing more new questions. The Miitomo Drop games also seem to be rotating out a bit more frequently.

None of these additions really feel like enough, though. As one of Miitomo's most fervent users upon release, I now find myself only opening up the app when it sends me a notification. I browse through the shop at the new clothing pieces, but rarely purchase them; I play a few rounds of Miitomo Drop, but almost never win the items I want.

For all of Miitomo's potential, even Nintendo seems to have admitted defeat. The company's next two mobile apps will be dedicated games, it said; expect Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing to come to your smartphone this fall.

It might not be the long-lasting experience we'd hoped it would be, but Miitomo is a notable experiment. It's an app that's brought me joy, even if it was fleeting. My good memories of the app are the ones that stick out the most:

  • Crafting the perfect Miifoto;
  • Visiting Hoops McElroy's place to talk about our hopes and dreams, his job at Weinermaster and his brother (and our Senior Editorial Producer), Griffin;
  • Having a heart-to-heart with Megan "Megs" Farokhmanesh, in which she revealed her appreciation for how quietly I chew my food;
  • Spying on Nick Robinson's place, where I found him dreaming about himself every single time;
  • Discovering Ashley Oh's disturbing dark side;
  • Miitomo surprising me with this great and extremely accurate photo of Polygon's Managing Editor Michael McWhertor and me when I launched the app:

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For a staff that's separated by so many miles, I'm grateful for the time we all shared together inside of Miitomo, however brief it was. Babykayak