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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Bandai Hatches a Winner, Again.
The Japanese toy company Bandai is gambling big bucks on its new "Tamagotchi Connection" unit and the possibility of rejuvenating the Artificial Life craze.

In November 1996, Bandai released the first round of Tamagotchi (pronounced tah-mah-go-tchi; a concatenation of the Japanese words for "egg" and "friend") virtual pets and over the product's life time went on to sell 40 million units world wide. This estimate does not take in to account the millions of knock-off units that could be found in EVERY swap meet and convenience store around the world.

If you count sites like Neopets.com, it could be argued that the fad never really went away. It's not hard to see signs of its popularity surfacing on sites like eBay where original Tamas are being sold at more than twice the price of the new units. You can purchase a Tamagotchi Plus (the Japanese name for the NexGen units) on eBay, but wide release of the domestic version won't happen until August 15th.

The new Tamagotchi Connection is a mix of the classic toy with some new modern additions. The biggest feature is an infrared port that allows tamas to talk to one another. They build friendships, exchange gifts, get married and even have babies. Now pet owners are going to have to consider the impact lack of social interaction has the Tama's happiness. No doubt this will force Tama owners to be more sociable themselves. The tama forms bonds with other tamas and prefers certain pets over others. Now owners have to spend more time with the owner of a preferred pet just to satisfy its social need. This kind of forced social contact is not unfamiliar to parents that set up "play dates".

This may end up being the "Tickle-me-Elmo" of the 2004 Christmas season. The new tama has been on sale in Japan since March and Bandai's estimates are that it will break one million units by the end of August. American customer interest has been overwhelming and supplies are expected to sell out very quickly.

My only gripe is that they didn't take advantage of some more modern technologies. They could have used Bluetooth connectivity and added a mini-USB jack. It would be nice to introduce your tama to another tama on the other side of the world. Last time imitation vPets added new features and more options, I'm confident that they will out do Bandai this time around as well.

:: posted by Ben Jarvis, 12:52 PM Comments (2)
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At 7:48 PM, Anonymous said...

Great article! You mention how if you count Neopets the fad never went very far away. There were several other virtual pets (VP) in the middle some did not even recognize as VP. Furby, Pokemon, Digemon, all sorts of robotic pets (dogs, parakeets, dinosaurs, AIBO, etc) to name a few. Many other VP were released in Japan. The craze just keeps regenerating itself. Its as if Virtual Pets themselves have a virtual life, each format comes back as the next generation VP.

Good job of pointing out Bandai "went around" some possible technologies (blue tooth, USB). Dont forget a few toys have used Video Encoded Infrared (VEI) technology. VEI allows signals from your television to communicate with toys. Hopefully Tamagotchi Connection will be wildly sucessful and Bandai and the imitators will rapidly adapt these and other technologies resulting in a real flurry of VP innovation. Its not hard to imagine many advanced designs sitting on the sidelines right now to see how the first wave sells. Hopefully we will see them soon!

Thanks for listing us (Tamagotchi Connection Information Center) as a source/link.


At 12:04 AM, Anonymous said...

These new Tamagotchi Connection toys have started to hit the shelf locally. I already have two of them and they're great toys. I've been playing with my original Tamagotchi for the past 7 years, and these new ones are really great. Every day I see more and more people popping up with them as "retro" toys and such are starting to come back. Both of mine go everywhere with me; work, school, everywhere. They're getting really popular. - Kass


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