The Tamagotchi Will Live Again

by Adrienne Vogt

Back in a time not all that long ago, 8-year-olds didn't spend days staring at their phones. They spent their time staring at another, much more rudimentary screen — that of their Tamagotchis. The Tamagotchi taught all of us '90s kids very valuable lessons: Everyone needs food, play, and some TLC. And then you die.

To be more specific, everybody poops a lot, and then dies. And in Tamagotchi world, this was a huge pain because, damn, those things pooped a lot and sometimes inexplicably died even though you did everything you were supposed to and checked up on it all the time and it wasn't your fault. (Never forget.)

Just when you figured your Tamagotchi had had its last breath, the company behind it is gearing up for a fresh start. The Tamagotchi company unveiled its newest creation, Tamagotchi Friends, at the 2014 International American Toy Fair two weeks ago.

Yes, that's right. The Tamagotchi is coming back.

The device stays true to its roots, with the same blocky pixellated graphics and egg-shaped plastic case. However, there are some major updates that keep Tamagotchi up with the times. Users can send their pet to another Tamagotchi Friends' screen for a playdate, as well as send virtual gifts and texts, by tapping devices together. The company also released a brand-new app Wednesday featuring music by Joan Jett and Dave Grohl.

Tamagotchi Friends retails for about $20, and should be available in the U.S. by autumn. You still have to bathe it, play with it, and clean up after it. So if you want to have kids someday, it might be good practice to go down memory lane now. Let's revisit the story of our oft-deathbed-ridden friend, shall we?

The Tamagotchi Is Born

Japanese company Bandai released the first Tamagotchi in 1996. (You are getting old.) An employee named Aki Maita came up with the idea because she wanted a pet, but needed one that she could carry around with her and could fit in her small apartment. She visited malls around Tokyo and read teen magazines to help her market the idea of a pet on a keychain. The name Tamagotchi is a combination of two Japanese words, which roughly translates to "lovable egg."

Tamagotchis were an instant hit, because look how darn cute it is:

Tamagotchi Domination ... And Copycats

On May 1, 1997, the Tamagotchi came to America — and people went nuts. A New York Times article published on May 22, 1997 reported that toy retailer F.A.O. Schwarz sold 30,000 of the devices during the first three days of stocking them. And QVC sold 6,000 in five minutes. Immediately after its release, an estimated 40 million Tamagotchis were sold worldwide. At its height of popularity, 15 Tamagotchis were sold every single minute in North America.

Other companies wanted to cash in on the trend. A burst of knockoff Tamagotchis appeared on the market and got all up in the Tamagotchi's space, with names like Dinkie Dino, GigaPet, and Nano Baby.

We know, we just had some emotions too.

Dark Days for Tamagotchi

By the late '90s, the digital pet market was flooded with competitors. And, like with any pet, kids pretty soon realized that it's actually not all that fun to take care of a living thing. It was also quite emotional to deal with the loss of beloved Tamagotchis when they died.

"The toy creates a real sense of loss and a mourning process," Dr. Andrew Cohen, a psychologist at the Dalton School in Manhattan, told the New York Times in 1997. "Kids want to nurture and take care of pets — it gives them a feeling of empowerment and self-importance — but here the consequences are too high. It's out of control." (And they say our generation can't handle tough times. Wonder where that came from.)

Schools were also getting pretty angry with children who wanted to check their Tamagotchis more often than do their schoolwork, so many outright banned the digital buddies. (Again, this is before texting.)

By 1998, because of these bans and pure frustration with caring for the pets, the swift Tamagotchi frenzy was over in the U.S.

But, due to our unfettered love for all things related to '90s nostalgia and the Tamagotchi updates, we may see people playing with Tamagotchis once again in the very near future. The toy has remained popular with girls in Japan, and the new app has been downloaded more than three million times — so things are rather promising for "the ultimate retro toy," according to its website.

Kids will still have to clean up after it, though. And you know kids these days. No respect.

Images: Tom's Tamagotchi page (a national treasure), Erica Griffin/Youtube