Nintendo unveils, then delays first smartphone game

Nintendo jumps into mobile gaming

If you're waiting for Nintendo's first game for smartphones you're going to have to wait a bit longer. And if you're waiting for Mario to make the jump, you're going to have to wait a lot longer.

Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima unveiled "Miitomo," the company's first free-to-play title, on Thursday, though he confirmed whispers that the company will delay its entry into the mobile space from the end of 2015 until next spring to "further improve the application and to optimize the overall smart device business."

It's not a game by any traditional definition — more like a social networking app designed to get people playing more games with each other.

As such, the company isn't using well-known characters in its catalog such as Mario, Donkey Kong or Link, from "The Legend of Zelda." Instead, Nintendo — along with partner DeNA — opted to make the game a more personalized experience, letting players use the avatars like the ones they create on the Wii and Wii U.

"Miitomo" will use that character — called a Mii — to communicate with other players, which Kimishima said will "enable friends to share information comfortably and securely."

After creating a Mii in the app, players will answer a variety of questions — the answers of which will be communicated to the user's circle of friends within the app. Nintendo envisions these are "communication starters" which could lead to real world discussions.

Attendees play video games on a Nintendo device in Chiba, Japan.
Tomohiro Ohsumi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Nintendo said it hopes it leads to more social interactions between people, leading to people playing more games together.

"You may be able to find out unknown aspects about your friends or unexpected commonalities you share with your friend because 'Miitomo' may pick up the topics that you usually do not discuss but would be willing to answer if asked," said Kimishima.

"What we would like to realize is, through such communication, you will be able to deepen friendly relationships and have more people with whom you can play games."

"Miitomo" will be the first of five mobile apps from Nintendo and DeNA, which the companies say will all be out by March 2017. By entering the new field, Nintendo hopes to expand the footprint of its IP, convert players to its dedicated game devices and boost profits.

As part of its mobile plans, Nintendo will also launch a new account service, called Nintendo Account, which will work across Nintendo's hardware devices as well as mobile and PC platforms, creating a bridge between the systems via cloud-based technology.

Gamers discuss a tablet computer demonstrating YouTube's venture into game streaming called YouTube Gaming on the second day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo at the Convention Center in Los Angeles on June 17, 2015.
YouTube Gaming launches to take on Twitch
Screen image from Madden NFL 16
Madden kicks off the video game holiday season

"Miitomo" certainly isn't what most people were expecting from the company, though historically, Nintendo has often succeeded by exploring areas that seem unusual.

One thing missing from today's discussion? The NX. Kimishima gave no update or hints about the company's next generation hardware system, which is expected to be store shelves by the 2016 holiday season.