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Nintendo's Miitomo app to yak up US, starting Thursday

The company's first mobile app has been in a hit in Japan since its mid-March release there. The US is the next target.

Nintendo is counting on Miitomo for a win.

Who is Mii? Me, that's who.

Nintendo will introduce its first mobile app to the US and elsewhere Thursday after its home-turf debut earlier this month.

Miitomo is more of a social app than a game. You create an animated character called a Mii, which then asks you questions to learn about your interests and build itself around your personality. People can then interact via their Miis.

The app has been hot in Japan, downloaded by more than 1 million registered users over its first three days, becoming the most-downloaded free app in both the App Store and Google Play stores in the country. The trick for Nintendo is to see if the app can also attract a huge following worldwide.

Millions of smartphones and tablet users obsess over mobile games, a trend that has put new stresses on companies focused on console and PC games. Nintendo purposely ignored mobile apps for years, focusing instead on games for its Wii consoles and handheld devices. But the company trails far behind Sony and Microsoft in the console market, which has likely forced Nintendo to finally jump into the mobile app market.

Miitomo is free to play, but Nintendo has ways of making money from the app and a related rewards program. Through in-app purchases, you can buy clothing and other items for your Mii. Launching at the same time as Miitomo, the My Nintendo rewards program will offer two levels of points to people who use Nintendo apps and services.

People interested in Miitomo can preregister for a Nintendo account. Preregistering before Thursday will start you off with points.

Other than the US, Nintendo didn't specify which countries Miitomo will enter Thursday. But a company webpage lists Canada, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and several European nations as due to get the app at some point.

Miitomo is the first of five mobile apps that Nintendo will release over the next 12 months. The other four apps will be games and feature some of Nintendo's most popular characters.

Nintendo did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.