Tamagotchi is back and this time it’s social

BandaiTamagotchiFriends5Do you remember the 1990s? The decade of Generation X, Cool Britannia, raves, grunge, dressing down, Baywatch, roller blades and Tamagotchi.

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.

Tech Pet: Tamagotchi for the touchscreen generation

We were invited to have an sneak peak at a new hit Japanese toy from Bandai, Tech Pet. Tech Pet is yet another app-cessory for Apple’s iOS devices and is vying to be Tamagotchi for the touchscreen generation.

As you can see, Tech Pet is a dog-shaped iPhone/iPod touch cradle, that would be cute if that was its only function. Fortunately it’s capable of so much more and boasts of 100 functions. The toy robot works in conjunction with a free app that leverages the iPhones processing power to enable all sorts of sophisticated responses.

Tech-Pet

Tech Pet walks, wags its tail, sings and dances. All of this is reasonably impressive on its own but we were particularly entertained by Tech Pet’s ability to respond to vocal commands (sit, dance, move etc) and gestures via the iPhone’s cameras (you can beckon it and provided you follow the suggested motion, it manages to respond).

Bandai decided to gameify Tech Pet so you can unlock various functions with time and use, akin to levelling up. You’re supposed to interact with your Tech Pet on a regular basis, feeding, medicating and cleaning it as often as possible. You can even clean its teeth.

The FaceMorph function maps a photo of your face onto the screen and then manipulates it ever so slightly to react to input from the users – you smile when fed a rice ball or a giant tear appears over your eye when you are poked in it – that sort of thing.

Tech Pet has a built in speaker and can sit on its haunches and act as an iPod dock, loudspeaker for alarms, handsfree speaker or music player. Have friends? Not a problem. Tech Pet can sync with other Tech Pets via bluetooth and gauge compatibility levels. It can also sing to another Tech Pet or engage in a weird ritualistic synchronised dance.

Interestingly, (and fortunately) TechPet doesn’t use the now-defunct 30 pin dock connector and instead relies on the 3.5 mm jack to function, making it relatively iPhone 5 friendly (you will still need a small adaptor which will probably be available from the website).

Tech Pet has an RRP £59.99 and will be available in November from Toys R Us, John Lewis, Argos, Amazon and The Entertainer.