25 Years Old Tamagotchi: The Story of Electronic Pets

Today is 25 years old
The First Tamagotchi: The Story of the Relationship Between Human and Electronic Animal

There is a separate cemetery for electronic pets “tamagotchi” in Great Britain

© OLIEL / Picture Alliance

The Tamagotchi family formed an entire generation in the 1990s. For many, it was more than just a fun game. Now a new generation of electronic pets is coming to the market.

They are colourful, and need to be fed regularly when they play – and kept busy until they develop further. “Sure, Tamagotchi!” Everyone who lived through the ’90s has to say. But they don’t have to be right: the description also applies to the new app “Peridot”, just launched by the makers of “Pokémon Go”. Virtual objects, however, do not live in a small plastic egg, but on the screen of a smartphone. However, the basic idea that the game involves completing missions and having a decent amount of discipline is the same.

Tamagotchi: a pet used in the bustle of daily life in the big city

Thursday, May 12, marks 25 years since the Tamagotchis came to Germany, nearly six months after they were launched on the Japanese market. The name is easy to explain: “tamago” is a Japanese word for “egg”. The idea for the game came from 30-year-old employee Aki Maita of the toy company Bandai. Many children would like to have a pet, but in fact, within the hectic pace of daily life in Japan, this is difficult to imagine. So Maita wanted to give kids the opportunity to experience everyday life with a pet – but with less commitment and without the cost of a vet or food.

So I came up with an alternative: tiny aliens in a plastic case. In order to develop it, the owner had to take care of it. The show showed if your Tamagotchi was hungry, for example – then you had to feed him. Playing a game with a little fellow made her happy. Sometimes the legacies also had to be “removed” – in other words, it was a bit like having a real pet. If not well taken care of, your Tamagotchi will become “sick” and eventually die.

Relationship between man and machine

Bandai, one of the leading Japanese toy companies that grew up with car models and action figures, among others, has been able to fully exploit its sales channels. A few months after its release in Japan in November 1996, Tamagotchis was on the market in more than twenty countries and became a favorite toy in the 1990s.

Historically, Tamagotchis were much more than that. Long before artificial intelligence and voice assistants became a part of everyday life, ten years before the first iPhone opened the door to a variety of applications today, they created a cultural milestone using simple technology: the human-machine relationship. In the UK, a pet cemetery paved the way for the deceased Tamagotchi. In an article called “Love in the Tamagotchi Times,” author Dominic Bateman saw small devices as a gateway to virtual relationships for many.

There were also some problems. Models of the first generations can “die” so quickly that some children have taken them to school. Teachers saw this as a distraction, and the devices were banned in some schools in the US, for example.

A new generation of Tamagotchi

Despite attempts to keep up with the times and allow Tamagotchis to communicate with each other, for example, they have finally been sidelined in the history of technology over the past decade. Today, apps are more likely to compete for users’ attention. They are often more tolerant than Bandais once were: Niantic Vipers, for example, can’t die from it even if they aren’t well cared for.

However, Tamagotchis haven’t quite gone away either: For the 25th anniversary of Tamagotchis’ birth, Bandai has directed Tamagotchi Smart. Based on a smartwatch, you can now wear it on your wrist and communicate via a touch screen and voice input. However, the numbers shown add an air of nostalgia.

Andrej Sokolow and Lars Nicolaysen, DPA/ldh/rös

Leave a Comment