Fans have been excitedly awaiting the release of Miitomo ever since Nintendo announced last year that it was partnering with DeNA to debut a new game for mobile devices. Judging from the hype surrounding project Miitomo, it’s more than ready to take on the new challenge.

The company confirmed (in Japanese) via Twitter yesterday that the free-to-play social app, which utilizes the same custom Mii characters that appear in a number of Wii U games, will arrive next week in Japan on March 17, with a worldwide release to follow shortly thereafter. It will enable players to use Mii characters to communicate with others through messages, and will feature a photography mode that will enable sharing through social media.

“Miitomo is a uniquely entertaining mobile experience that only Nintendo can deliver,” said Scott Moffitt, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the company’s American division. “Featuring Mii characters, users will be able to interact with their friends in an entirely new way that transforms communication into a form of play.”

The game also provides an opportunity for Nintendo to utilize its Nintendo Network services in a whole new way, as users can potentially connect through both mobile devices and gaming console systems. The Nintendo Wii, 3DS and Wii U have already made proper use of these online services through games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros., and the company’s next console, the rumored NX, is very likely to tie in with it.

But Miitomo also takes advantage of the My Nintendo program, which replaces the now-closed Club Nintendo service. With it, players could earn credits through Miitomo and other services, which could then be turned around for a number of rewards, including digital purchases and possible physical goods. Nintendo hasn’t broken this program down just yet, but we should learn more in the days ahead as the game prepares for its Western release.

It’s a bold business move on Nintendo’s part, but could very well show how it’s ready to evolve in both the console and mobile gaming markets. Miitomo has great potential in terms of finding strong outreach past existing Nintendo console fans, and its free-to-play structure should make it easy to grasp with young and old players alike. Plus, being able to put a personally designed face with a Mii avatar will help it stand out from other social networks.

We’ll see how Miitomo fares when it makes its debut this month. As for the rest of Nintendo’s plans, we should find out in just a few months when E3 rolls around.