The Tamagotchi (たまごっち?) is a handheld digital pet, created in Japan by Akihiro Yokoi of WiZ and Aki Maita of Bandai. It was first sold by Bandai on November 23, 1996 in Japan, quickly becoming one of the biggest toy fads of the 1990s. As of 2010, over 76 million Tamagotchis have been sold world-wide. Most Tamagotchi are housed in a small egg-shaped computer with an interface usually consisting of three buttons, although the number of buttons may vary.
According to Bandai, the name is a portmanteau combining the Japanese word "たまご" (tamago), which means "egg", and the English word "watch". Consequently, the name is sometimes romanized as "Tamagotch" without the "i" in Japan. Most Tamagotchi characters' names end in 'tchi' or 'っち' in Japanese, with few exceptions.
A Tamagotchi is a keychain-sized virtual pet simulation game. The characters are colorful and simplistically designed creatures based on animals, objects, or people. Beginning with the 2004 Tamagotchi Plus/Connection, a second wave of Tamagotchi toys emerged, featuring a different graphic design by JINCO and gameplay which elaborated upon the first generations. However, the story behind the games remained the same: Tamagotchis are a small alien species that deposited an egg on Earth to see what life was like, and it is up to the player to raise the egg into an adult creature. The creature goes through several stages of growth, and will develop differently depending on the care the player provides, with better care resulting in an adult creature that is smarter, happier, and requires less attention. Gameplay can vary widely between models, and some models, such as TamagoChu, require little to no care from the player. For its current 2 decades, Tamagotchi has gained popularity worldwide.
Tamagotchi were originally designed for teenage girls, to give them an idea of what it would be like to take care of children.
Upon activating the toy, an egg appears on the screen. After setting the Tamagotchi unit's clock, the egg will wiggle for several minutes, and then hatch into a small pet. In later versions, inputting the player's name and birthday is also required when setting the clock, and at birth, the player can name the pet and learn of its family group and/or gender. The player can care for the pet as much or as little as they choose, and the outcome depends on the player's actions. The first Tamagotchis could only be paused by going to set the clock, effectively stopping the passage of time in the game, but in later models a pause function was included.
Pets have Hunger meter, Happy meter, Bracelet meter and Discipline meter to determine how healthy and well behaved the pet is. There is also an age and weight check function for the current age and weight of the pet. Filling up the Hunger meter can be achieved by feeding the pet a meal (usually a loaf of bread) or a snack (usually a piece of candy). Filling up the Happy meter can be achieved by playing mini games with the pet or by feeding it a snack (there are no limits to this, but there are limits to how many meals can be fed). Mini games vary between versions, but mainly involve guessing which way the pet will turn (left or right) within 5 tries. The Discipline meter can be filled by pressing the "scold" option when a pet calls for attention but refuses to play or be fed a meal. The pet will leave droppings around the screen from time to time, and can become sick if they are not cleaned up. Before the pet goes to the bathroom, it will make a face and stink lines will appear around it. If the player activates the toilet icon during this animation, but before the pet has gone to the bathroom, the pet will use a toilet instead. When done repeatedly, the pet can be toilet trained.
If the pet gets sick, a skull icon appears next to the pet as it sits still at the bottom of the screen, with an unhappy expression. The pet can become sick for a number of reasons such as overfeeding of snacks or failing to clean up droppings. The pet can die if sickness is left unchecked. The pet can be cured by pressing the "Medicine" option. Usually a pet will not play or be fed a meal when sick.
Pets would often fall asleep during the night time. Originally players had the option of manually turning off the light when the pet fell asleep (it would turn on the light by itself when it awoke). In order to raise a healthy pet, players were encouraged but not required to turn off the lights when the pet fell asleep. In recent versions, the pet turns off the light on its own when it went to sleep. Recent versions also allow waking the pet for a short time once it has fallen asleep. V5 had the three children look outside on the window when they wake up in the morning and before bed at night.
The pet goes through several distinct stages of development throughout its life cycle. Each stage lasts a set amount of time, depending on the model of the toy, and when it reaches a new stage, the toy plays a jingle, and the pet's appearance changes. The pet can "die" due to poor care, old age, sickness, and in a few versions, predators. The pets life cycle stages are Baby, Child, Teen, and Adult. Later Tamagotchi models have added a Senior model. Usually the pet's age will increase once it has awakened from its sleep time.
Poor care can cause a pet to die, but it can also die of old age. If an old pet dies without producing offspring, the family line has ended. The Japanese Tamagotchi toys usually feature a ghost and headstone when the pet dies, but English language versions have been changed to show an angel at death, or simply a floating UFO to indicate its return to its home planet. Often at times it will show the transition graphic, after which it will show the pet appearing to be sick, but with the skull flashing, beeping as it flashes. It then will show a happy version of the pet flashing with a longer beep, with an egg on the right side of the screen, after which it will show the pet as an angel (as indicated above). Pressing the middle button shows the age at which the pet died. After the pet dies, one can restart from the beginning by pressing A and C.
In recent models, the player earns currency called Gotchi Points while playing games, and can use the currency in an in-game shop to buy different foods, toys, accessories, or even room decorations for the pet.
Using infrared communication, two players can link their toys and the pets may form friendships, play games, exchange gifts, and even marry. Infrared connection was introduced with the Plus/Connection, but the Japanese Chou Jinsei Enjoy Tamagotchi was the first model to interact with a computer. Since then, many subsequent models have also been able to interact with the E-Tamago or Tamatown websites by using alphanumeric codes generated by the toy to log in to the website's Flash game. After generating a code, the toy remains paused until the player either enters a logout code or cancels. The player may play minigames in the town to earn Gotchi Points, or use Gotchi Points to buy items in the town shops. To transfer points and items back to the toy, the player signs out of the Flash game and is given a code to input back into the toy. Newer models, such as the Tamagotchi 4U and the Tamagotchi 4U+ can connect to other Tamagotchi 4U units, as well as smartphones and tablets, using near field communication. Unlike previous models, the Tamagotchi 4U does not have infrared, which consequently caused it to sell rather poorly.
Marriage and family
The Mesutchi and Osutchi Tamagotchis were the first to introduce marriages and offspring, and the feature returned in the Plus/Connection and subsequent models. Two players with a male and female pet may link their toys and allow the pets to develop a friendship and fall in love. Once the pets have raised their relationship meter sufficiently, the pets may marry. The player can also choose to have their pet marry a random pet brought in by the "Matchmaker." Once married, the female will eventually produce two eggs, keeping one and leaving one with the male. Since the parent will automatically guide the baby's life, the only care it needs from the player is medicine in the case of sickness. After a few days the parent will leave, and the player is left to care for a new generation. This can continue for as long as the player manages to care for the pets.
The Chou Jinsei Enjoy Tamagotchi also introduced the idea of character "families" or "groups." These "families" are a kind of classification for characters obtainable in the game, grouped mainly by appearance, though they are also associated with certain skills. A character of one group cannot grow into an adult of a different group, and if two pets of different groups marry and have an egg, the baby will be of the female's group. Tamagotchi M!X, the latest Japanese release, has a notable change to this feature; in this release, Tamagotchi offspring have merged traits from both of their parents.
With the many different versions of the toy, there are other less common mechanics that influence the pet's growth, including but not limited to friendship with the player, varying types of skills, and career. The Chou Jinsei Enjoy Tamagotchi also introduced Skills, which can be built by playing certain games with the pet, or using certain toys or foods bought from the E-Tamago or in-game shops. Having certain skills can help the pet obtain a career, and if built up high enough, can unlock special characters.
As of 2009, there have been over 44 Tamagotchi versions released since their creation in 1996, several of which were only released in Japan. Along with the original Tamagotchi, the first wave of Tamagotchi toys included Christmas, angel, and ocean themed versions. The newer versions began in 2004 with the Tamagotchi Plus, and the most recent version is the Japanese Tamagotchi M!X.
Internationally, in 2013, Tamagotchi Friends is the latest model, featuring a grayscale screen and a new NFC feature that enables owner to "bump" their Tamagotchi to trade items. An upgrade, called Tamagotchi Friends: Dream Town Digital Friend, was released in 2015. It has additional features, but can only be bought at online stores due to a lack of retailer interest in the product.
In early 2013, Bandai released an enhanced version of the original 1996 Tamagotchi as a free iOS and Android app named "Tamagotchi L.i.f.e.". A sequel to the game, "Tamagotchi L.i.f.e. Angel", was released on February 26, 2014.
Since its debut, Tamagotchi has made its way onto several gaming platforms. Several early games feature gameplay similar to the original toys. A few party-style games appeared on major consoles, along with the Corner Shop series of simulation games and a few role playing games for the Nintendo DS.
Console & Handheld Games:
- Tamagotchi — Game Boy (International), 1997
- Game de Hakken!! Tamagotchi V2 — Game Boy (Japan), 1997
- Game de Hakken!! Tamagotchi Osutchi to Mesutchi — Game Boy (Japan), 1997
- Tamagotchi 64: Minna de Tamagotchi World — Nintendo 64 (Japan), 1997
- Hoshi de Hakken!! Tamagotchi — PlayStation (Japan), 1998
- Sega Saturn de Hakken!! Tamagotchi Park — Sega Saturn (Japan), 1998
- Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop — Nintendo DS (International), 2005
- Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop 2 — Nintendo DS (International), 2006
- Tamagotchi: Party On! — Wii (International), 2006
- Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop 3 — Nintendo DS (International), 2007
- Tamagotchi no Furifuri Kagekidan — Wii (Japan), 2007
- Tamagotchi no Narikiri Channel — Nintendo DS (Japan), 2009
- Tamagotchi no Narikiri Challenge — Nintendo DS (Japan), 2010
- Tamagotchi Collection — Nintendo DS (Japan), 2011
- Tamagotchi Connection: Corner Shop 4 — Nintendo DS/Nintendo 3DS (Japan), Nintendo DS, 2008, Nintendo 3DS, 2012
Mobile & PC Games:
- Tamagotchi CD-ROM — Windows 95 (International), 1998
- Tamagotchi L.I.F.E. — Android, iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone, 2013
- Tamagotchi L.I.F.E. Angel— Android, iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone, 2013
- Tamagotchi L.I.F.E. Tap and Hatch — Android, iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone, 2013
The character Mametchi makes an appearance in Namco Bandai/Nintendo's Mario Kart Arcade GP 2 as a playable character, along with his pet, Bagubagutchi, as an item. Mametchi and Yumemitchi also appeared in the arcade game Taiko no Tatsujin as unlockable costumes.
An arcade machine known as TamaStation is available in Japan from which players can win prizes for their Tamagotchi toy. This machine has several sequels, such as TamaStation 2.
In other media
On June 5, 2007, it was announced by Reuters that an animated Tamagotchi film was to be released in December 2007. The film, Tamagotchi: The Movie, focuses on Mametchi, along with his friends Memetchi and Kuchipatchi. Introduced are Tanpopo, a human girl who Mametchi accidentally transports to the Tamagotchi Planet; and Chamametchi, the younger sister of Mametchi who is born during the film's events. Tamagotchi: The Movie was released on December 15, 2007, and was distributed by Toho Co. The film opened at number 3 at the box office on opening weekend. On May 31, 2008, North American distributor Bandai Entertainment announced they had acquired the rights to the film. The movie's first English release was a direct-to-DVD version, released on June 3, 2009 in Australia by Madman Entertainment. The UK DVD was released on September 14, 2009 via Manga Entertainment.
On December 20, 2008, a second film, known as Tamagotchi: Happiest Story in the Universe! was released into theaters. This film, introducing a new Tamagotchi known as Hapihapitchi, was later released on DVD, on June 26, 2009. Unlike the first film, Happiest Story in the Universe has not been dubbed in English, but an extremely rare English dub existed in the Philippines. Madman Entertainment intended to dub Happiest Story in the Universe!, but the dub was cancelled for unknown reasons.
A Japanese-only anime series called Anime TV de Hakken!! Tamagotchi (アニメ TVで発見!! たまごっち, lit. "Found on Anime TV!! Tamagotchi") aired from July 7, 1997 to March 21, 1998 on Fuji TV.
In December 2007, Bandai Japan began airing Saa Ikō! Tamagotchi (さぁイコー！たまごっち) a week before the release of the first film. In December 2008, Bandai America dubbed the series, Let's Go! Tamagotchi, and began streaming it on YouTube in both English and Japanese, with captions for up to seven other languages.
In 2009, another anime television series was announced, called Tamagotchi! (たまごっち!). It began in October 2009 and ended in March 2015. A short-lived English dub of the Tamagotchi anime aired in Australia on channel GO! from 2010-2014; only the first 26 episodes have been dubbed and have been repeated until 2014, when GO! took the anime out of their channel. The anime has been dubbed in Tagalog in the Philippines. There is also a dub in Taiwan airing on YoYo TV.
From November 23, 2013 to December 2014, Bandai America has been adapting the second Tamagotchi anime, Tamagotchi! Yume Kira Dream, into "webisodes" promoting the latest addition to the franchise outside Japan, Tamagotchi Friends. Despite being a common fan request, a full English dub of the anime has yet to be made.
An animated video, Tamagotchi Video Adventures, was produced by 7th Level, Inc. in association with Bandai in 1997. Directed by Dan Kuenster, produced by Susan Deming and written by Kuenster, Deming and David Lewman. It runs approximately 42 and a half minutes long. Cosmotchi sends the Tamagotchi to Earth to collect an object that best exemplifies the planet for the Tamagotchi Museum. An original animated music video ("What's a Tamagotchi?") and a how-to-draw Tamagotchi featurette, starring director Kuenster follow the movie.
- Momus's 1997 album Ping Pong features a song called "Tamagotchi Press Officer", which mocked Bandai's advertising strategy.
- A song called "Tamagotchi" was produced by the music band Sqeezer in 1997.
- In Japan, the band Kigurumi, after gaining new members and becoming a trio, released their single "Tamagotchi" on November 21, 2007, which was also the theme music for the film. It was dubbed in English along with the English dub of the movie.
- The Eurodance group Daze song entitled "Together Forever" uses many Tamagotchi references.
- The Los Angeles-based pop duo LOONER released their tribute to the toy in May 2009 with the single "I Love My Tamagotchee!".
- The Filipino band Eraserheads made a song called "Tamagotchi Baby".
- The German band "Die Ärzte" also made a song called "Tamagotchi".
- The French singer Lorie made a song called "La TamaDance" in 2014 to the contest TamaDance.
- Tamagotchi!, the anime based on Tamagotchi, also features numerous original songs, such as Every Lovely, Miracle Kitchen, Happy Happy Harmony, Happy Heart, Smile for Tomorrow, Kira☆Kira Dreams, Rock-N-Heart, Everyday Beat, Rainbow Melody, and various theme songs and credits songs.
Criticism and controversy
During the 1990s, children frequently took Tamagotchi digital pets to school because in the first two releases (Generation 1 and Generation 2), a character could die in less than half a day if it did not receive adequate care. Concerns over class disruption as well as general distraction from schoolwork eventually prompted many schools to ban the product. Later versions include a pause mode, or "travel show" in the case of Familitchi, which allows users to leave the pet at home without it dying.
On August 3, 2005, South Australian MP Nick Xenophon attempted to ban the Tamagotchi Connection Version 2 (or at least have it classified R18+) due to the "Slot" game featured on it, fearing that it would encourage children to grow up into the "gambling addicts of tomorrow".
International Bandai Establishments have been criticized by Tamagotchi fans outside of Japan for not releasing most Tamagotchi products overseas.
- Digimon — a similar Bandai virtual pet that is aimed more at males
- Giga Pet — a brand of virtual pets released in 1997 by Tiger Electronics to compete with the Tamagotchi
- Fin Fin on Teo the Magic Planet — a similar digital pet game
- List of Tamagotchi releases
- Pou — an Tamagotchi clone where the user cares for a simulated creature
- Tamagotchi effect — A psychological effect named after the digital pet
- Tuttuki Bako — a similar Bandai release
- Bandai (2010-01-31). ""Tamagotchi iD L" March 19th sale!" (PDF). Bandai. Retrieved 2010-02-20.
- バンダイ タイムマシンバンダイ マシン (Older archived version)
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- "Bandai To Launch Tamagotchi® Friends™". Bandai. 2013-11-22. Retrieved 2014-07-28.
- "Song By Song Guide To Ping Pong". imomus.com. Retrieved 2015-01-21.
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- Barayuga, Debra (June 2, 1997). "Electronic Pets Peep Their Last at Isle Schools". Honolulu Star-Bulletin Local News. Archived from the original on 1999-01-29. Retrieved 10 March 2015.