A Miiverse Eulogy: So Long to the First True Social Video Game Platform

The Miiverse is dead and gone, but not in our hearts.

Opinion by Caty McCarthy. Published 8th November 2017 22:40PM

The Miiverse enabled my worst tendencies. It was a social platform, woven into the fabric of the Wii U and all of its games. It was a network for sharing art, tips, and much, much more through sketches and words. But still, the Miiverse seemed to only fuel my bad habit of getting heated when playing games. In particular, it baited me in the realm of Nintendo's excellent create-your-own-Mario title for the Wii U, Super Mario Maker.

Through Miiverse, I'd use the Wii U's GamePad to scribble out my anger towards other players' hellish nightmares disguised as "Mario levels." On one that a friend made, I remember writing something like, "This level made me hate this entire game." On a stranger's I once wrote, "WHY????" in all capital letters, as if that alone would communicate my anguish. I was never an artist, I can't draw anything. But boy, I could write up a storm. (I was the definition of salty, but never hatefully salty.)

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The Miiverse gave myself, and so many others, a platform unlike any console had ever seen before. For once, our reactions to games, both about them generally and in the moment-to-moment, were given life in the games themselves. The Miiverse's concept was novel, fresh, new. It felt like the first true social video game platform. And it's a shame that it was for a console that hardly anyone actually played.

At 10p.m. PT last night, the Miiverse took its final bow. Users are no longer able to upload a digitally drawn sketch on their Wii U or share a screencap from their 3DS or comment on others' work or do much of anything on the Miiverse. As a whole, everything's been taken down. There's not even a shell to browse what once was. The Miiverse, and all that it stood for, is just gone, with only a mosaic of "Thanks Miiverse" posts erected by Nintendo left in its wake.

On the Miiverse's actual site, you can zoom into the mosaic to see every tile.

Nintendo, at least, gave plenty of a heads up on the social platform's closure. In fact, Nintendo even detailed how users can save their posts; plus a few weeks after the site's closure, Nintendo noted that for the users who requested it, they will email users' Nintendo Accounts so they can have copies of all their Miiverse posts. Their comments though will be gone, like tears in the rain. On the other hand, an archiver programmed a bot to archive the entirety of the Miiverse already.

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In typical Nintendo fashion, the Miiverse followed no previously paved path for the platform. It wasn't quite Twitter or Facebook, nor was it a forum; it fell somewhere in-between. It was a unique way for players to directly engage with the games they were playing in real-time. In Splatoon, players drew memes and other sorts of sketches for the game's social hub. Even in games like Wii Sports Club, Miiverse posts would appear in little speech bubbles to communicate with other players, as writer and Nintendo expert Jon Irwin fondly remembered on Twitter. In Super Mario Maker, Miiverse posts were just another way to compliment (or curse) the levels that other players made (both overall and in real-time: popping up in a level as you bounced across it). With the Wii U's tablet-like GamePad and handy stylus, drawings on the Miiverse sometimes looked too good to be true.

That was the beauty of the Miiverse. It redefined how we engage with games, and share our experiences with them. Players would congregate in Miiverse communities to discuss spoilers, like a forum. But they'd utilize the Miiverse in other ways too, like giving hints to other players at tricky parts in games. Some would draw nonsensical things that were hardly tethered to games at all. Splatoon's social hub became a mecca for fan art and jokes. Miiverse drawings weren't just stuck with that either, they were a way of communication; something unlike most other social media experiments. Perhaps contrary to its selfish-sounding name, Miiverse put the social back in social media.

The spirit of the Miiverse sorta lives on in Splatoon 2's social hub, though it's resigned to its own ecosystem, and is not consolewide.

To commemorate the Miiverse in its final months, Nintendo opened the Everybody's Message community for users to bid farewell to the service. On October 11th, the community was changed to a "read-only" community, where no one could post farewell messages any longer, and could only "Yeah!" (Nintendo's version of "Like") others' posts from earlier in the community's brief life. As a result, users ventured into other communities to make their goodbye-homes.

In its final months, Miiverse shifted into a makeshift memorial, almost like it was already dead. A few 3DS communities kept it alive with actual game content—notably Miitopia's surprisingly lively fan community. But it seems even the 3DS couldn't keep it bustling enough, especially as the Switch has become Nintendo's primary focus. Up to the Miiverse's final gasping breath, users drew Nintendo characters with tears in their eyes. Others drew happier, celebratory sketches. Others penned the simplest message of all: "Thank you."

The thing that users are thanking Nintendo for is the existence of something like the Miiverse at all. Modern consoles all around us relish in sharing and social media. Even looking at a competitor, the PlayStation 4's DualShock 4 controller has a dang "Share" button. And yet, the inner communities of other platforms feel like they're only reaching towards the communities readily available on our smartphones and computers. They hardly felt solitary like Miiverse.

From top left to bottom right, Miiverse artists' usernames: Mani, マメトラ, Hope(NF), and KGTG:).

With the Miiverse, while sharing on other social media platforms was possible, the Miiverse was an isolated ecosystem ingrained in everything that made the Wii U stand out. You can't imagine a Wii U game without thinking of how the Miiverse complemented it in some fashion. I can't recall a popular, frustrating Mario Maker level without also remembering the dozens of individual posts that would pop up after a failure. It reminded me that I wasn't alone nor was I dumb in my mistakes, because others made them too. The Miiverse stood apart from other social platform efforts on other consoles because it felt intrinsically tied to everything already on the system, from the big releases to the smaller ones to just being a community on its own. Sharing what you love about games wasn't resigned to just sharing a screencap anymore.

Of course, the Miiverse's community was inherently small, because the Wii U's audience was small. But it wouldn't be outlandish to say it'll be missed by its community; or to wish its presence existed even on Switch games, or more tangibly on 3DS games. The Miiverse was a semi-successful experiment for Nintendo, giving us another way to play and engage with the games we enjoyed anyways on the platform. Some would argue it's what made the Wii U special. Yet, without a tablet-and-stylus-tethered system in our hands anymore, it's hard to see a Miiverse 2.0 coming anytime soon.

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Rest in peace, Miiverse.

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