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Bandai Marks 20 Years of Tamagotchi with Iconic Shell Re-releases

Written by Hannah Holowaychuk

Twenty years ago, Bandai Namco, Japan’s leading toy manufacturer, unveiled an innovative design for their beloved handheld virtual pet: Tamagotchi Connection (known as Tamagotchi Connexion in Europe). Like many 2000s children, I have some fond (and many not-so-fond) memories of caring for my Tamagotchi. The Tamagotchi Connection quickly became a social phenomenon among my friends and most other school-age youth. Now, the nostalgic toy is returning to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

The Original Tamagotchi Connection

Tamagotchi Connection made its global debut in 2004. Like the original Tamagotchi released in 1997, the Connection is an egg-shaped toy with a square screen in the center. On that screen is a virtual pet. Players raise their pocket-sized alien from an egg to an adult, being responsible for playing with, feeding, disciplining, and cleaning up after the Tamagotchi. The player’s choices in nurturing their character will influence how or if it will evolve. The agony of having your Tamagotchi pass away after being left unattended in a backpack or a car is a universal experience. Once the Tamagotchi feels neglected, it won’t hesitate to grow wings and fly away.

Players must first “hatch” the Tamagotchi to begin the caretaking process. The egg is “hatched” by removing the small plastic tab at the side of the toy, wedged between the batteries and the circuit board. Once removed, a small egg will appear on the 5.6 x 4.8 cm screen. Connection was the first installment in the franchise that did not require players to keep the plastic tab. Previously, players were required to reinsert the tab when they needed a moment of silence from the beeping alerts. Much to parents’ relief, Tamagotchi Connection introduced the ability to pause the game.

The second feature introduced by Connection was Tamacom. The infra-red (IR) port at the toy’s top allowed players to connect with other devices. Admittedly, the IR technology was nothing revolutionary. The technology was incredibly fussy and usually required several failed attempts before connecting. Once connected, friends could visit, play games, and exchange gifts with other Tamagotchis. Players could improve the relationship between the two Tamagotchis through frequent visits. Two adult Tamagotchis with a good relationship could eventually marry.

Tamagotchi Connection V3

Between 2004-2015, Bandai released various versions of Tamagotchi Connection. One notable release was version 3 (V3) in 2006. Connection V3 is easily recognizable by the mini cellphone antenna to the left of the IR port. Bandai modeled their 20th-anniversary designs after the nostalgic shape of Connection V3. So far, Bandai has released 10 revival designs, with an 11th currently being voted on by Japanese fans. Starting July 9th, six of these designs will be available outside of Japan: a blue shell with bubbles, a pink shell with ice cream, a rainbow shell with clouds, a transparent shell with geometric shapes, and a duo pack featuring matching shells with graffiti designs. Each shell has a unique code that players can use to unlock special items corresponding to the design. For example, the shell with an ice cream design (unsurprisingly) unlocks ice cream that players can feed to their Tamagotchi as a snack.

Tamagotchi fans, including myself, are disappointed in the exclusive availability of the shell designs. Many of us coveted the designs that were unavailable based on our geographic location. Both international and Japanese fans have expressed their disappointment about the shells on social media. However, fans remain hopeful that Bandai will read the complaints and consider expanding the designs that are available.

Tamatown

In 2006, Bandai launched tamatown.com alongside the release of Connection V3. Tamagotchi owners could explore an interactive version of Tamagotchi Town, a bustling town on Tamagotchi Planet. Players could explore the fictional town’s many egg-shaped buildings, play games, and buy items. The items obtained online could then be transferred to the player’s Tamagotchi by inputting a unique 10-digit code that the player acquired during the logging-out process.

Some locations that players could explore included the mall, town hall, and school. I remember spending many hours studying at Tamagotchi School; therefore, I remember the school the most accurately out of all the locations. The school was located at the heart of the town, identifiable by its exterior, which looked like a chicken in a graduation cap. Tamagotchis began to attend school once they were teenagers. The player had control over the Tamagotchi’s learning path (artistic versus intellectual) and could play mini-games to help the Tamagotchi excel in their studies.

Sadly, Bandai shut down the Flash game’s server in 2013. Fans hope that Bandai will consider re-launching the website or creating an app reminiscent of the pastel-colored Tamatown we explored as children to release alongside the new Connection V3. While a reboot is highly unlikely, some fans speculate there is a possibility. Earlier this year, a fan made a Reddit post sharing evidence to suggest that a Tamatown recreation is in the works. The Redditor provided a link to a US Patent and Trademark Office page stating that Bandai had trademarked “Tamagotchi Plaza” on January 26, 2024. “Tamagotchi Plaza” was trademarked under “downloadable computer game software.” Currently, Bandai has not provided any hints for what they plan to do with “Tamagotchi Plaza.”

Twenty Years From Now

Since 2020, Tamagotchi has slowly been making a comeback. Tamagotchi has been tapping into adults’ nostalgia by re-releasing designs similar to the original and now the Connection model. Meanwhile, Tamagotchi is continuing to innovate through better technology and creative designs. Tamagotchi is ushering in a new generation with their 2023 release of Tamagotchi Uni: A vibrant Tamagotchi that can be worn on the wrist like a watch.

Perhaps in the future, Tamagotchi will tap into the Y2K fashion trend and release a variety of Tamagotchi accessories. The micro-trend of using Tamagotchis as a statement piece has already been seen among celebrities. The women-owned brands Monigotchi and Laser Kitten have captured the attention of A-list celebrities such as A$AP Rocky, Bella Hadid, and Coi Leray. Most recently, Japanese boy group NCT Wish wore custom-made, futuristic Tamagotchi watches and belts in their promotional pictures for their debut single “Wish.”

Celebrities aren’t just wearing Tamagotchi; they’re actively connecting with Tamagotchi as collaborators. Tamagotchi has partnered with celebrities such as Vocaloid singer Hatsune Miku, K-pop idol group XG, and TikTok influencer Charli D’Amelio to promote their products. Bandai has also recently collaborated with large global and Japanese franchises such as Hello Kitty, Star Wars, and Kingdom Hearts. Through exciting collaborations, Tamagotchi is once again reaching new fans and growing in popularity. I’m eagerly awaiting the next chapter in Tamagotchi’s evolution.

For now, Tamagotchi invites fans of the franchise to enjoy the nostalgic release of the 20th anniversary Tamagotchi Connection collection. The collection is available for pre-order on Smyths Toys for £29.99 (USD 29.99). The official collection can be purchased in stores later this summer on July 9th. Fans can anticipate more details from Bandai as the release date nears.

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