(WIVB) – Hold the nostalgia: Tamagotchis, the original cyberpet that was all the rage in 1997, are getting a remake with 2019 technology. The egg-shaped electronic toy is being re-released as the Tamagotchi On, a full-color version with a larger screen that interacts with other Tamagotchi devices.
The original black-and-white Tamagotchi was introduced in 1996 and quickly swept elementary schools and boardrooms, selling one toy every 15 minutes at the peak of its popularity. The virtual critters mimicked eating, pooping, playing and dying, but they became notorious mostly for dying — when they weren’t hogging their owners’ time and infuriating teachers.
The fad led some schools to ban them outright. And a Massachusetts company in 1998 started a Tamagotchi “day care” service to mind cyberpets of its employees’ kids.
The Tamagotchi On lets users “breed” two characters to create an offspring with unique traits, said Bandai, the manufacturer. It can also connect to other Tamagotchi devices via Bluetooth, allowing characters to travel, play or even marry each other and create new characters. It includes has a virtual “day care” feature that lets owners pause play without risking sudden death.
The classic Tamagotchi never went away — it remains popular in Japan and got a 20th-anniversary relaunch in the States two years ago. But many American fans are excited for the more full-featured version. Jose Placeres, a 29-year-old graphic designer and animator who fell in love with the original toy at age 8, compared Tamagotchi On to a “less intrusive” version of Pokemon Go.
“It would be really cool to be going along your day and randomly stopping by to sync your pet with a stranger for a play date or to send each other items,” he told CBS News via email. “As a fan who has been waiting over 10 years for a new Tamagotchi in English, I am beyond excited for this release.”
Placeres started an Etsy store for Tamagotchi accessories late last year. But he had barely any sales until last month, when the toy’s maker announced a new version. “We definitely went from our shop sales being nonexistent and having to take down items from our shop that were expiring, to now receiving several inquiries for custom items daily, as well as having multiple orders overnight,” he said.
He’s not the only one. Tama-Palace, a site for Tamagotchi fans, said visits increased 150% last month when the new Tama was announced. The site’s owner called it “every Tamagotchi fan’s dream.”
Tamagotchi On, which retails for $59.99, hits stores July 28. It can be pre-ordered now from Target, Amazon, GameStop and Urban Outfitters.