Return of the Tamagotchi
Back in the 90s, a children’s trend dominated the toy market. The craze was Tamagotchi, and now the little virtual pets are back.
Tamagotchi was a small digital toy on a keyring, where owners would hatch their virtual pet from an egg and raise it to adulthood by pressing the relevant buttons when needed. They became such a hit that after Bandai launched Tamagotchi in Japan in November 1996, they expanded to selling them in the UK in May 1997, and sold an astounding 80 million Tamagotchi worldwide.
The name “Tamagotchi” is a combination of the Japanese word for egg, “tamago”, and “watch” in English. Originally there were over 35 pets to choose from, who were aliens from the planet Tamagotchi, the closest planet to Earth that could support life. Apparently, the Tamagotchi spaceship crashed onto Earth, but the creatures could not survive in our atmosphere, and so they were rescued by Professor Banzo and Mikachu, his assistant. The Professor and Mikachu put the Tamagotchi into the egg-shaped keyrings we use to care for them, called a Tamagotchi House, which serves as a clock and a home for the virtual egg.
The aim of the Tamagotchi was to keep the pet alive for as long as possible. This meant feeding the pet, cleaning up after it and giving it medicine if it became ill. Depending on how well the pet was looked after affected how the pet grew up, with everything measured by meters that indicated how hungry or happy the Tamagotchi was.
While the new Tamagotchi, Tamagotchi Friends, are essentially the same as when they were released 17 years ago, there are some exciting new features as well, including new characters, sound toggling, and the pause function missing from the original toy (which led to Tamagotchi being banned in many schools because children refused to put the game down in fear their pets would die).
Although the new version has kept the classic egg shape that made them distinctive, and the basic graphics, Tamagotchi will be available in six different colours and patterns. Owners will still need to feed their Tamagotchi when it is hungry and clean up after it when it has made a mess, but now they will also be able to choose from five games, from which owners can earn “Gotchi” points. The points can be used to buy things from the shop, like food for your pet, or jewellery.
Another exciting new feature that Tamagotchi Friends will boast is “short range communication”, like in a smartphone, which means that Tamagotchi will be able to “bump” their friends. This means that Tamagotchi Friends owners will be able to send text messages, swap gifts with their friends and even let their Tamagotchi go on dates with other pets, all the while boosting up the best friend meter.
In the UK, Tamagotchi Friends will be released with the classic black and white screen and will cost £24.99. Customers can pre-order from the Entertainer and Amazon.co.uk, general sale of the digital pets started 26 December 2013. The rest of the world will be able to get their hands on a colour version in Autumn 2014.