Then & Now: Tamagotchis

Every decade has its toy fads. We associate Pet Rocks and Wizzers with the 1970s and Cabbage Patch Dolls and Care Bears with the 1980s. In the 1990s, Tamagotchis joined Beanie Babies as one of the must-have toys of the decade. Now, in time for the virtual pet’s twentieth anniversary, Bandai is re-birthing the Tamagotchi, aiming to spark nostalgia in the kids of Gen Xers and teach a new generation of children the joys of responsible parenting.


Tamagotchis are hand-held digital pets. First-generation Tamagotchis were released in Japan in November 1996 and elsewhere in May of the following year. The name is a mashup of the Japanese word “tamago” meaning “egg” and the English word “watch.” The egg-shaped toy was attached to a keychain and consisted of a colorful plastic shell with a small screen and three buttons. By pressing various combinations of the buttons, kids could care for their Tamagotchi – feed it, clean up after it, and watch it grow. Neglecting the toy’s shrill audio cues for attention would ultimately lead to its death, which caused a great deal of angst in many a child.

Like most fads, the allure of Tamagotchis peaked quickly, but not before Bandai branched out with Tamagotchi-themed books, clothing, television programming, and video games. Despite a decline in popularity, the toys have retained a devoted fan base over the years. In fact, more than 40 different models have been released over the last 20 years.


For the 20th anniversary release, Bandai has retained much of the original Tamagotchi design specs. It’s still egg-shaped, tethered to a keychain, and has three buttons to foster interaction with the digital pet. This release, however, is about 20 percent smaller than the original, and the dot-matrix screen has been reduced from 32 x 16 pixels to 16 x 16 pixels in the anniversary edition.

Like the original Tamagotchi, the new version comes in six different plastic shell designs, each featuring an iconic character. These mini Tamagotchis sell for $14.99 and are available for pre-order now, with a planned delivery of November 2017.

Fun Fact: Since the initial release, Bandai has sold more than 82 million Tamagotchis worldwide.

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