Metroid creator's only-in-Japan social game: Tomodachi Collection

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If you know of Nintendo's Yoshio Sakamoto at all, you probably know him for his work on the wildly popular Metroid series, or perhaps the slightly less popular WarioWare series. But you probably don't know that, in Japan, Sakamoto is also known for an incredibly popular social-style game, Tomodachi Collection.

The Nintendo DS game -- known as Tomo-kore in Japanese shorthand and literally translated as "Friend Collection" -- uses the same Mii characters that are already familiar to millions of Wii owners. In fact, the game was the original inspiration behind the now-familiar Wii character editor. As Sakamoto explained at a panel today at the Game Developers Conference, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata actually borrowed Sakamoto's development team to work on the Mii Channel after seeing how good the editor was at copying irregular faces (like Sakamoto's, shown above).

Even though you don't interact with real world friends directly in Tomodachi Collection, the game shares many of the characteristics of social games popular in America. Using the Mii creator, you can create versions of people you know and place them into goofy situations to your heart's content. A short video prepared by Sakamoto showed characters proposing everlasting love, fighting as giant, Godzilla style monsters, singing karaoke, throwing food and garbage at each other, and participating in "compatibility tests" much like those on Facebook. It reminded me a bit of inviting friends' avatars to work as waiters in Restaurant City, even though you're the only one actually playing. "It's a little like playing house with the Miis you create on the Wii, and using them to play dolls," Sakamoto said. "Think of it as playing make believe."

Though the gameplay isn't social in the traditional, online sense, Sakamoto said the game was designed to draw friends in virally. It seems to be succeeding in that, as the title has already sold over 3 million copies since being released in Japan just under a year ago "Tomo-kore is a game that, in addition to the player having fun, the players friends can't help but be drawn in as well," Sakamoto said. Hopefully, American players will get to be drawn in soon.
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