Ah yes, Tamagotchi, the digital pet that first launched in Japan in 1996 and took Britain by storm the following year. Small enough to fit on a keyring, the Tamagotchi would ‘hatch’ on screen and required feeding and nurturing in order to keep it ‘alive’ and happy. It introduced a generation of children to the concept of keeping a pet without all the messy cleaning out of cages and burying of deceased gerbils at the bottom of the garden. Because of the attention it demanded it was also widely confiscated by a generation of school teachers.
Now 17 years and 80 million units on the Tamagotchi is set to be relaunched by Bandai Toys. Already predicted to be a best seller as Generation Xers revisit their childhood on their own offspring the new Tamagotchi Friends will go on sale on Boxing Day.
The latest incarnation of the toy has kept the look of the classic ’90s model but now has short range communication technology similar to the NFC feature found in smartphones. This enables Tamagotchi owners to ‘bump’ with other Tamagotchi Friends to send text messages, exchange gifts and even go on a date. ‘Bumping’ leads to more points and rewards being earned and a raised score on the best friend meter.
The new Tamagotchi also includes new characters, five games, a pause function, on-off sound and the ability to interact with a new Tamagotchi Friends website at www.tamagotchifriends.com.
Bandai Marketing Director, Darrell Jones, who worked on the original Tamagotchi launch says, “In the 90s, Tamagotchi paved the way for a digital age in toys so we are incredibly excited to be giving the hugely popular, classic toy a modern day update. The innovative features, including the new characters and the short range communication ‘bump’ feature, will entertain a whole new generation of Tamagotchi fans. We’re really looking forward to seeing Tamagotchi being welcomed into homes and playgrounds across the country, and once again becoming an important member
of everyone’s family.”
Announcing the launch of the latest Tamagotchi the Daily Mail is quick to point out that the original, “…led to pupils the world over being distracted in class as they frantically tried to keep their Tamagotchi’s alive. It was a big enough problem for teachers in some schools that the toys were banned.”
Wired wonders how much of the mechanics of the original will be carried though to the new version, “…pets back in the day could (and would) die, which resulted in news reports about sad children. You might also wake up one morning to discover your Tamagotchi had spent its waking moments producing vast quantities of dung — something that may clash with the cute aesthetic of Kiraritchi, the cute Tamagotchi Friends character who aspires to be a pop star. Will I be cleaning up her ‘downloads’? Will she contract a disease and die if I don’t? She would have with the originals, but that might stop parents spending money with the brand if they see their kids upset at the sight of a dead pop idol.”
Pocket Lint attributes the relaunch to the success of the Tamagotchi L.I.F.E. iPhone and Android app which saw some 2.5 million downloads within 90-days of its release in February this year.
If all this has you ready to shop like it’s 1997, Tamagotchi Friends are priced at £24.99 and will be available via high street retailers from 26 December or they can be pre-ordered now from Amazon and The Entertainer.