This month marks the 25th anniversary of the original Tamagotchi, which was unleashed on the world by Bandai. To commemorate the occasion, the company has released Tamagotchi Smart, a smart watch with the virtual pet embedded inside. Kids can interact with their digital companion using touch and swipe gestures as well as voice commands.
Tamagotchi Smart is the latest instance of Bandai using technology to provide an engaging new twist on the digital breed of pet. Despite selling more than 82 million units worldwide, the Tamagotchi brand has seen its share of ebbs and flows in the North American market. A hallmark of all the various product releases, however, is the integration of new technology to add more functionality and appeal to the act of digital pet sitting.
INITIAL RELEASE (1996-97)
Released in Japan in 1996, Tamagotchi appeared stateside in 1997, receiving heavy sales rotation at QVC, Toys ‘R’ Us, and FAO Schwartz. A second generation was released soon after that included a pause feature to mitigate criticism that the toy disrupted classroom activities.
TAMAGOTCHI CONNECTION (2004)
A brand refresh saw the integration of Tamacom infra-red communications that allowed two Tamagotchi pets to connect to each other, play games, share gifts, and even fall in love, get married, and produce offspring.
TAMAGOTCHI MINI (2005)
Sporting an LCD screen half the size of the original, the Tamagotchi Mini remains Bandai’s smallest virtual pet to date. Less than two-inches tall, the Mini still presented children with all the care and feeding requirements of its larger counterparts.
TAMAGOTCHI PLUS COLOR (2008)
Released only in Japan, the Tamagotchi Plus Color is the first of Bandai’s virtual pets to include a color LCD screen. The screen was 128 x 128 pixels, four times larger than the initial black-and-white release.
TAMAGOTCHI FRIENDS (2014)
In conjunction with the franchise’s 17th anniversary, Bandai re-launched Tamagotchi under the exclusive Toys ‘R’ Us banner of Tamagotchi Friends. The infra-red communications capability was replaced with near-field communications (NFC). This short-range wireless upgrade allowed two Tamagotchis to interact when touched back-to-back.
TAMAGOTCHI ON (2018-19)
Known as the Tamagotchi Meets in Japan, ON is the first iteration with a color LCD screen to be released in North America. It featured both Bluetooth and infrared connectivity, allowing connections with other Tamagotchis as well as an app for tablets and smartphones.
TAMAGOTCHI PIX (2021)
PIX includes two new interactive features, a built-in camera and touch-sensitive buttons. The camera facilitates many play experiences, including meetups with other Tamagotchi characters.
When Tamagotchi was first released in 1996, no one knew that smart phones would eventually mimic the toy pet’s demand for constant attention and engagement. Today, with smart phones in watches, glasses, and gloves, it’s perhaps no surprise that a digital pet can now live on its human’s wrist, too.
Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.