Saturday, April 27, 2013

Miiverse Arrives on Phones and PCs

When it was first revealed at E3 2012, I was excited and gushed about its potential to create a seamless communications network for fans, and users of Nintendo hardware across multiple platforms, a kind of Twitter for gamers, a micro-social network. Six months after Wii U’s launch Miiverse has arrived on phones and for browsers and reality seems to have crept up and dashed some of those high hopes.  

Checking what's new?
Expect to see a lot of this
Miiverse for the phone and PC browsers look robust enough.  Simple design that is evocative of the Wii U Miiverse interface, and very Twitter-like. However, moving to anything substantive, such as looking at my own feed or the activity feed from friends and those I’m following, I’m met  with relatively long loading times, compared say to my twitter app, or even the mobile/web version of twitter.  It’s a pain to see what’s new.  Yes, I understand Miiverse has to load images as well as text on the feed itself, but some streamlining would be appreciated given the Wii U Miiverse isn’t the fastest thing in the world either.

More importantly, there’s no functionality to make a new post directly from a PC or phone browser. The private messaging system is missing, nor is there an option to follow /friend interesting posters that I may stumble upon while casually browsing through the communities on my phone. Why these limitations?  Nintendo could easily create a tag for posts made of different hardware (Wii U, 3DS,  Internet) but allowing Miiverse as a reply only feature is detrimental to the growth and vitality of the social aspect of the network.  Even if a filter is specifically added to prevent children for seeing off-Wii U posts, it would still be a nice functionality for users to correspond and socialize on Miiverse outside of home, and to make gaming related posts in that context.     If I were ever to meet Mr. Miyamoto in person again, I’d like to post it to Miiverse first.

Miiverse app for the phones (the unofficial Andriod version notwithstanding) would be the obvious next step for Nintendo.  A web address isn't very visible in today’s app centric smartphone.  An app could raise the profile of Miiverse and could also solve some of the performance issues by streamlining a smartphone’s resources to run a set number of features by caching feed updates into the app even when the phone is in sleep mode to speed up load time and allowing the functionality to ping and alert users to check the app when there is activity in their feed. A very contemporary feature that twitter already has.

It is interesting to note that the web based Miiverse is blocked on the Wii U and 3DS browsers. Since the Wii U already has Miiverse as a system feature blocking it on the Wii U browser makes sense.  The fact it is also blocks on the 3DS is a fairly good indication the service will arrive in some form on the 3DS.   And on that note, I hope that Miiverse on the 3DS will exist in OS level rather than as a separate app, so that I can actually suspend a game and use it.  The feature could perhaps take the place of the underutilized notepad functionality which incidentally already has the functionality to pull a suspended game’s in-game screenshot from memory.  Something Miiverse also uses in allowing users to post a screenshot of their in-progress games.  This would allow players use the Miiverse in a way that is more or less similar to how we use it on the Wii U.

Slick Interface: A good start but
many Wii U options are missing
The fear is that Nintendo being Nintendo, Miiverse on 3DS  could also arrive in a decidedly less interesting format.  As a separate app that is not integrated into any game, or worse, as a separate app and in its own ‘walled garden’ addressing 3DS only releases.  I certainly hope for an open Miiverse that is accessible across all Nintendo platforms moving forward.    The current ‘Year of Luigi’ community is a perfect example of a Miiverse community that would benefit from 3DS cross-posting.

More generally as a Nintendo-centric social network, Miiverse needs the raw numbers (of users) to generate the kind of interesting discussion, memes, tending topics, and maybe even the occasional scandal to draw people in.   However, seeing as to how the web and phone version seems more limited than what many of us had originally envisaged, we cannot rule out that Nintendo’s goal is not to make a social network for their users, which in my mind would be a tragic mistake. But Nintendo’s opaque goals on Miiverse means we cannot rule out this possibility.

On final analysis, while it’s nice to have Miiverse on my phone and on my PC, and I’ve find myself checking my feed more often, the current incarnation of Miiverse for PCs and phones just feels a little lacking. It certainly delivered everything  shown to us at E32012.  Its just that after the E3 ‘reveal’, My mind  went in directions far grander than what the final product suggested.  None of the features I assumed would be standard (off-Wii U posting,  a grand confederacy of current Nintendo products with Miiverse support) were actually promised,  but rather, we as consumers assumed it.   There’s certainly nothing stopping them releasing a Miiverse app on the now seven year old Wii, and turning these web based experiences on the phone into apps.  But as a first step, Miiverse as a website feed is adequate.  Let’s hope for better things in the future.

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