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Is it Miitomo you're looking for? Nintendo unveils its first smartphone game

The Japanese video game giant behind Super Mario and Legend of Zelda will make its first foray into iPhones and Android devices with Miitomo.

Nintendo's Miis in action in the latest Super Smash Brothers.

Nintendo

Nintendo is finally entering the smartphone gaming world, and its first app title will be the free-to-play Miitomo, CEO Tatsumi Kimishima said during a strategy briefing for investors in Tokyo on Thursday.

Miitomo is a "communication application that helps friends share fun personal facts and interests," the Japanese company said in a statement. Players will create avatars called Miis that they can use to engage with friends to learn more about each other and find common interests.

The game itself is free, but it will include in-app purchases, Kimishima said. Though the game had been expected to be released before year's end, Nintendo said Thursday that Miitomo is scheduled for global release in March.

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Nintendo said this past March that it would begin developing mobile games, but Miitomo marks Nintendo's first official release in smartphone gaming after a long history of being staunchly against the proposition. While rivals Sony and Microsoft have both released games and companion apps for mobile devices, Nintendo has historically limited its releases to its own consoles and handheld gaming devices.

Miitomo is being built in partnership with DeNA, a Japan-based game developer that publishes a range of free-to-play mobile games, including the popular Star Wars: Galactic Defense. The game will be the first of five from the partnership through March 2017. Miitomo will be available for both Apple iOS-based and Google Android-based mobile devices.

Nintendo also announced a new membership program called My Nintendo at the investor briefing. The service is designed to connect users across different devices, including PCs, smartphones and Nintendo's consoles, Kimishima said. It will also enable cloud saving, so players can transfer game data from console to smartphone seamlessly. The service will launch alongside Miitomo in 2016.

The Japanese company first showed movement toward smartphone gaming in March when it acquired a partial stake in DeNA.

The move toward smartphone apps comes on the back of the company's first reported operating profit in five years. While strong performance in the first half of 2015 brought the company back to an operating profit of 8.98 billion yen ($74.6 million), up from 215 million yen losses the year before, the increases were still short of analyst forecasts.

Investors were not excited by the game's unveiling and the later-than-expected release date, sending Nintendo's share price close to 10 percent down immediately after the announcement.