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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