When Did Tamagotchi Come Out? In The U.S., 25 Years Ago

Digital pets taught a whole generation the meaning of responsibility.

by Kaitlyn Wylde
A girl playing with an original tamagotchi in the '90s. The toys came out in the u.s. in May 1997.
Yves Forestier/Sygma/Getty Images

Yves Forestier/Sygma/Getty Images

In May 1997, wee Millennials briefly gave up on owning a dog when Tamagotchi, the U.S.’s first digital pet, came on the market, six months after it debuted in Japan. For as little as $15, ‘90s kids became pet parents.

Mathieu Polak/Sygma/Getty Images
On Tamagotchis, tween animal lovers could nurture a growing pet by feeding, playing with, and cleaning up after it — even its digital poop was cute! But if you ignored its beeps for attention, it died. (Smithsonian says the average lifespan was 12 days.)

Paul Irish/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Tamagotchi — a portmanteau of the Japanese words for “egg” and “watch” — never paused, forcing you to feed it between classes (or under your desk). In 1997, the Baltimore Sun reported that some students stopped taking standardized tests in order to tend to their Tamagotchi.

David Lodge/FilmMagic/Getty Images

A year after hitting the market, over 10 million Tamagotchi had been sold, and as of 2021, that number was more than 82 million. While millennials aren’t buying many Tamagotchi anymore, their memories — and the memes — remain strong.

Kaley, 30, doesn’t believe it’s been 25 years since Tamagotchi came out. “I still have my Tamagotchi collection tangled together on a keychain, corroding in a box at my parent’s house,” the Brooklyner says. “Wow, I feel old.”

Mario Ruiz/The Chronicle Collection/Getty Images


For Brittany, 31, being a Tamagotchi mom was her most important responsibility as a middle schooler. “I was heartbroken when it died, every time,” the Vermonter tells Bustle.


Wondering if Tamagotchis even exist anymore? Bandai releases new versions every few years. In 2021, the futuristic Tamagotchi Pix hit the market with features like a camera, touch buttons, and a color screen — things your ‘90s self could only dream of.

Thanks for reading,
head home for more!