Pikmin Bloom Devs talk about the joy of “human connection” and the absence of bulborbs

From left to right: Tomo Yamazaki (Director and Head of Product Management), Rika Nakajima (Senior Product Manager), Akari Sora (UX Design)
Image: Zion Grassl/Nintendo Life

While having a strong and deservedly passionate fanbase, it’s fair to wonder if the pikmine series has never received the commercial success it deserves. Still, Shigeru Miyamoto-san and Nintendo continue to nurture these little guys and let them flourish however they see fit.

The Nintendo Switch just gave us the long-awaited Pikmin 4 which broke series sales records in Japan, so it’s starting to happen. Not only that, but the console is also home to the entire core Pikmin series. (Hey! pikmine I would like to have a word)and little Pikmin have cleverly found their way to the Mario-centric theme park, Super Nintendo World.

In 2021, the studio behind Pokemon GO, helped bring the little plant creatures to mobile with Pikmin Flower. While we enjoyed it when it first came out, it seems many seasoned Pikmin fans felt vexed at the lack of “play” on offer in this everyday-focused spin-off. We are also aware that there are many people who love Bloom to the Bulborb and back.

So in June, during Summer Game Fest Play Days, Niantic invited us to sit down in person with some of Pikmin Bloom’s core developers: UX designer Akari Sora, senior product manager Rika Nakajima, and director and head of product management Tomo Yamazaki. We discussed their goals for the future, the difficulty of balancing a daily life app with gaming elements, similarities to 3DS StreetPass, and why Bloom is so thematically different from the main Pikmin series.

Nintendo Life: What kind of new features have you added to Pikmin Bloom since its launch in 2021?

Akari Sora: Since its release, we have added quite a few features. A big one would be the weekly challenge. Now you can walk with your friends – even those who live far away – for a common goal for a week. You also have the Flower Planting Challenge which allows you to plant flowers with your friends. Additionally, there has been a change to the Mushroom Challenge where you can send a troop of Pikmin to destroy the Mushroom! *Laughs*

Our newest feature is the Event Challenge where we offer special decorative Pikmin for each month; June featured a Fingerboard Decor Pikmin. Naturally, if you play Pikmin Bloom, you’ll get the rewards and it’s like a continuous cycle of gamification.

June Weekly Fingerboard Challenge
Image: Niantic

Ahh, does it work much like the request system in Pokemon GO?

Sora: Like, yeah! Very minimal and light tasks that you can do throughout the day. When you collect the reward, there will be a spinner and a slight chance that you can also get additional seedlings for the basic Pikmin.

Our users are not only Nintendo fans, but also casual gamers and even people who don’t usually play games.

Rika Nakajima: At present, we have more than 300 kinds of Decor Pikmin. It’s really fun to collect the different types of Pikmin that really match the place you visited. There’s Decor Pikmin for visiting a corner store, hair salon, pharmacy, or even some for weather conditions, so there are many different categories to earn new Pikmin. We just released Donut Decor Pikmin yesterday and this is from a candy store. Previously we had a Macaron Décor Pikmin, but this one has just been added!

So if you pass by a bakery, does the idea that you could trigger the chance to win a Pikmin Sweet Shop Decor?

Sora: There’s a chance you’ll encounter one, but that makes it more likely if you’re also planting flowers. When you plant flowers there will be more fruits or seedlings spawning and then you can send the Pikmin later in the day so you can harvest them. You don’t have to be around with your phone walking all the time, you can just put it away and keep playing.

We recently started playing Pikmin Bloom again and liked how minimal the focus on the game is, while the objective seems more like you get out to walk.

Sora: THANKS! We love to hear that. Our users are not only Nintendo fans, but also casual gamers and even people who don’t usually play games. It is therefore very easy to enter and play the application, this is one of our “unique” points.

Can you tell us about the future roadmap of Pikmin Bloom with the addition of new features or different events? Where would you like to see Pikmin Bloom go from here?

… we want to continue to organize these real events to connect people not only in Japan but also in the United States and other countries

Nakajima: We are working on new features, but cannot share details at this stage. But you know, we want to make people more connected and keep them playing together. So we plan to release more of these types of social features in the future.

We just held the very first IRL Pikmin Bloom Tour in Sapporo, Japan, and it was a great experience, not only for our users but also for us! So we want to continue to organize these real events to connect people not only in Japan but also in the United States and other countries. So hope we can deliver soon.

2023 Sapporo Tour
Image: Niantic

We really appreciate how games can keep us all connected. Funny enough, we actually brought our 3DS systems with us to this event in hopes of getting a StreetPass!

Sora: Ohhh my! Did you hang out with anyone here?

Surprisingly, we found a couple!

Sora: Oh ! We should start wearing ours too! That kind of unsynchronized human connection you get from StreetPass is also what Pikmin Bloom is. You don’t necessarily do it at the same time or in the same place, but you can still have a little connection between the two.

With Pikmin 4 introducing new races of Pikmin, can players expect new types to be added to Bloom down the vine, err, line?

Nakajima: Stay tuned. *Laughs*

Pikmin Bloom is a more peaceful game than the originals, you know. Our Pikmin are not going to die. *Laughs*

Many of our readers can’t help but think about the absence of Bulborbs in Bloom. Have you already considered, with the team, a way to integrate them into the game? Although, now that we’re asking that question out loud, we can see how quite stressful their presence could be for the player.

Sora: Haha, bulborbs are very popular.

Nakajima: We’re still discussing ideas of what should be included in the Pikmin Bloom universe, but this kind of topic requires careful consideration. We have our own universe, and Pikmin 4 and the main series also have their own, even though we use the Pikmin IP. Pikmin Bloom is a more peaceful game than the originals, you know. Our Pikmin are not going to die. *Laughs* That differentiation is still there, so we’re still paying attention to what that experience should be.

That’s a good point. The traditional Pikmin series can be quite… uh… intense!

Sora: Brutal, sometimes!

The Flowering of Zion
Image: Zion Grassl/Nintendo Life/Niantic

Are there any particular elements of Bloom that you and the team are most proud of?

Sora: For me, I think it’s mostly that it’s a hands-free experience. I play with my mother who has never played games before and even my grandmother too! We’re still talking about the Pikmin set we found and grandma told me she’ll be walking a little more than usual just to earn more coins to buy costumes. It is refreshing ! It’s been a great game so far and I hope more people can join the circle.

Tom Yamazaki: As you mentioned, console game Pikmin is more of a strategy game, but our concept is more about everyday life with Pikmin. So, since we can walk with the Pikmin every day, more people can get to know them and enjoy them! We’ve found a way to help people have more fun on rides and motivate them to collect Pikmin along the way.

It seems your goal with Bloom was to create a game that everyone could enjoy, but there seem to be a lot of people who think Pikmin Bloom doesn’t really have a game to play. Was it difficult to balance keeping things accessible without over-complicating the application?

Nakajima: Yes, it’s always difficult to balance the parts of the game and the life logging elements, so we always talk about whether it’s too skewed one way or the other. We always try to find a balance between them.

With Miyamoto-san’s degree of involvement in the main Pikmin series, we’re curious what kind of involvement he and the Nintendo team have on Pikmin Bloom, and where the majority of development is based.

Nakajima: Our relationship is actually really close! We have daily conversations and Miyamoto-san always gives us feedback. Not necessarily one hundred percent of them, but the majority of Bloom’s marketing, operations and development also takes place in Tokyo, Japan!

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Sending a pack of our Pikmin to the Niantic team to thank you for giving us this opportunity. Akari-san, Rika-san and Tomo-san were a pleasure to chat with!

Pikmin Bloom is available to download for free now on iOS and Android with the next Community Day scheduled for August 12-13. Have you played Bloom yourself? Let us know!

Leave a Comment