Miiverse, the Twitter-like game only focused social media platform that Nintendo developed, will be closing down come November 8th. While it never truly garnered mass appeal, it still managed to engage and enthrall with a small group of users through its user created images. Miiverse’s end does not represent failed ideas, rather, it represents the failed execution of them. Let us not look upon the death of this service as tragic, but rather, an opportunity to exam the service and see what we can learn!
Part of the Whole
Miiverse wasn’t just a service that existed outside of a game. It was a service that at many times intertwined and became a part of the game as a whole. On the more conservative side, Super Mario 3D World used Miiverse as both a reminder and a goal. Throughout the overworld, you would see various Miiverse comments from people around the world, talking (or drawing) their experiences. These serve as a reminder that while you are playing this game, others are as well, and there is a community to be found over this.
As a push to use Miiverse, Super Mario 3D World would scatter “stamps” in each level that could be collected. These stamps would be of popular Mario characters doing various things and could be used in user drawn images. It essentially created an easy way for players with minimal drawing skills to come up fun and enjoyable content and become part of the larger community as a whole. It didn’t push or require you to do anything, but it elicited people to become engaged through simply providing interest.
These are counter to services such as Xbox Live, Steam, or Playstation’s online service. Their communities and content exist in a bubble outside of the game itself. Rarely, if ever, is there any semblance of a community for each game unless you go hunting for it.
These gentle pushes that Nintendo would create for many of its Wii U titles have a benefit, they create reasons for players to get involved and create content for others. While I personally wouldn’t find many times that I would wish to post, I would find many times that looking at other posts would add value. Seeing the feedback, experiences, and general creativity adds interest to both those playing and those looking from the outside. Anyone interested in perhaps purchasing a title could very easily look at Miiverse, see the experiences people are having, and perhaps get involved in by playing the game or commenting.
More importantly, especially for those games that would take advantage of Miiverse in more substantial ways, it would create a reason for players to play more. Super Mario Maker had a simple but effective function, it allowed players to comment on levels. Not only would creators see comments about the levels they created, but those who play those levels would see comments on their experiences (especially where they died). This created a slight push and pull effect, where by playing or creating levels (a largely single player experience), players would be part of a larger community. This created an added interest for content creators to see how their creations performed, perhaps making them wanting to create more. This also created an added interest for players to see how their performance and experience aligned with others, again perhaps making them want to play more.
Of course, Miiverse wasn’t all positive.
Perhaps the biggest issues with how Miiverse functioned was its lack of conversation. Sure, there was sharing and people talking, but conversations were limited because of how Miiverse was designed. Miiverse was part twitter and part forum, but with none of the benefits. Twitter benefits from a constant flow of information coupled with a system that could track simple conversations by tagging people. In a forum setting, conversations are marked by posts, which are grouped by themes. In the case of Miiverse, there was no way to group or break up topics per game.
Say you wished to look up helpful tips about a certain level that you are struggling with. In Miiverse, you would have to make a post and hope for an answer. There is no way for you to find that information like a forum setting, in which discussions are broken up by topics. There is also no way to find that information on Twitter by following hashtags to mark relevant information. The only breakdown was by game, and it drastically limited the conversations that could take place. Taking screenshots and sharing them was another large purpose of Miiverse, but it had limitations. To take a picture you needed to open Miiverse right at the point you wished to take a screenshot, this would mean suspending the game. For titles such as Monster Hunter Ultimate 3, this means the only scenario you could take screenshots was during single player as suspending multiplayer games would disconnect you.
All these odd quirks served as constant road blocks to a system that was largely designed to facilitate conversations for gamers about games. They reduced the ability to have meaningful conversations and the desire for people to participate.
In the end, Miiverse served as a fun experiment of ideas that were poorly executed due to the lack of a few essential systems. At its best, it encouraged conversation and creativity not only within the system itself but the games that interwove it into themselves. At its worst, it was a fun idea that yielded a small community of committed posters but largely didn’t grasp the masses due to its cumbersome system.
While the bad ideas are best left by the wayside, the good ideas Miiverse had should be remembered and used in other systems. They encouraged engagement, conversation, and above all, fun; all items that are especially needed in Xbox Live, Steam, and PlayStation. Miiverse will be missed, but it doesn’t need to be forgotten.