Nineties kids have a chance to rekindle their past with an old childhood toy.
This weekend marked the 20th anniversary of the original Tamagotchi, the virtual pet that took over the late ‘90s and early 2000’s.
To celebrate the anniversary, the toy’s producer, Bandai Namco, has re-released the original Tamagotchi in a new, smaller form. This release follows the trend of nostalgia-induced marketing and products that have been aimed at millennials over the last few years.
Students at Ryerson are among the target audience for the re-release of the Tamagotchi. Many would have owned one or more in elementary school. Tianna Reno, a third-year journalism student, is one of those people.
“I collected each one that dropped. I maybe had five or six, and I would download the software on the computer for them, play the online games and make sure to feed them” she said. “If the battery died I’d go to the dollar store to buy new batteries to put in the Tamagotchi. I was obsessed.”
She was part of a Tamagotchi community at her school, which were common around many schoolyards. Students would bring their ‘pets’ to play with at recess and in class, and make new friends through the toys. But that wasn’t her favourite thing about the virtual pets.
“I liked the whole caregiver feel. You had this little baby and you could watch them grow,” she said. “I loved making sure I was feeding them on time and keeping them healthy.”
Some students don’t have personal memories of the virtual pets.
“I remember all my friends had them and I never had one, so I was just kind of on the outside of the hype,” said first-year journalism student Rida Masood. “There was a whole community of Tamagotchi players who would come together and talk about their pets.”
“I guess it was exciting for little kids at the time to take care of something that wasn’t necessarily real,” said Masood.
While there seems to be varying levels of excitement between people who did and didn’t have a Tamagotchi, both sides agree that getting the new version isn’t a huge priority.
“If they’re adding new things to it then maybe it would appeal but, otherwise, I don’t think people are going to play around with a little toy if they can have an app on their iPhone that’s so much better,” said Masood.
Reno didn’t know that the anniversary release of the Tamagotchi was even happening.
“I don’t know if there’s anyone my age who would go out and collect it. I left Tamagotchis in the past. It was kind of like a phase to be honest,” she said.
RTA professor David Tucker spoke about the nostalgia factor and why it resonates with millennials.
“We all look back fondly on simpler times, convinced the music, fashion and pop culture were better in our day than it is presently,” he said.
“Like remakes, nostalgia is something that is recycled over and over. Recently, we’ve heard a lot about the nineties, the formative years for the older millennials, now identified as a key buying segment by demographers.”
The 20th anniversary edition of Tamagotchis were released in Japan earlier this year in a limited run, and they’ve just arrived in North America. While it’s not easy to find them in store, some online retailers are offering the nostalgic keychain pets for around $20 each.
Whether or not the Tamagotchi still holds the same joy it did 20 years ago is still up for debate.