Nintendo plans to launch its first smartphone app, Miitomo, on March 17 in Japan. The app was first announced several months ago and pre-registrations began in February.

The launch announcement in Japan was made via Twitter:

Miitomo was designed to be a chat experience using the Mii avatars that were first introduced with the Nintendo Wii console:

Miitomo creates conversations and turns discussions into a form of play by prompting users to answer all kinds of questions. Did you know that your best friend's favorite food is pizza? Maybe, but did you know her favorite music genre is secretly polka? And that she believes in aliens? The answers get shared among friends, sparking interesting conversations – part of the fun is discovering surprise facts about your friends that you never knew before. When users hear how their friends responded to questions, they can give it a "heart" or comment through text or with a picture.

Miitomo is the first of a series of mobile apps from Nintendo, in collaboration with mobile publisher and developer DeNA. There's no word yet when Miitomo will be made available in other parts of the world.