The Story of the Incredible Success of Tamagotchi

Tamagotchis were created in Japan in 1996 by the toy company Bandai and quickly became a viral phenomenon that extended far beyond the borders of Japan. These virtual pets captivated the imaginations of children worldwide. Japan has sold more than 82 million units globally.

Those in their thirties surely remember it. The Tamagotchi craze was sweeping everything in the late 1990s. How could i forget that pixelated creature that would wake me up at night, demanding food? Like many of us, the hype had faded as quickly as it had come. After a few weeks, I, like most of my schoolmates, let my Tamagotchi die at the bottom of a drawer to return to my gaming consoles.

Nonetheless, the phenomenon was global. At the time, for a few weeks, we ALL wanted our Tamagotchi, without even exactly knowing what it was… It was, in the end, a way to own a small piece of that technological Japan that was already so enchanting us.

Bandai Namco.

The History of Tamagotchi

In the early 1990s, Aki Maita, an employee at the Japanese company Bandai, proposed the simple idea of creating a portable toy that would allow children to take care of a virtual pet. This idea was inspired by her love for pets, which she couldn’t have at home due to an allergy. Additionally, Aki Maita knew that many urban Japanese residents couldn’t have a real pet in their small apartments.

Maita worked tirelessly on this project for several years until the Tamagotchis were finally ready for their launch in 1996. Upon activation, an unknown little creature hatches from its egg. From that point on, it needed daily care through feeding, cleaning, and entertainment. What was revolutionary was that the creature would evolve differently based on the care it received. Most importantly, it could die from hunger or sadness. For the first time, we had an almost sentimental relationship with a machine and gained some notions of responsibility.

Tamagotchis quickly gained significant popularity, especially in Japan, their birthplace. In the early days of the Tamagotchi release in Tokyo, hundreds of people lined up to get one, similar to the way people queue up for the latest iPhones today. For two years, both Japanese children and adults became obsessed with these virtual creatures.

It was only in response to this national success that the phenomenon would spread worldwide through media contagion.

Star Wars tamagotchi
Bandai Namco.

Some Fun Facts About Tamagotchi

The original goal was to create a watch :

Indeed! Tamago-tchi is a combination of “Tamago” for “egg” and the ending of the word “watch,” pronounced in the Japanese way, “watchi” (ウォッチ). Surprisingly, Tamagotchi means an egg-watch. In fact, the designers initially wanted the device to be mounted on a wristband so that it could be used anywhere, anytime. However, a radically different choice, especially from a marketing perspective, would be made to target both boys and girls.

Tamagotchis caused a battery shortage :

The success of Tamagotchis had a surprising impact on the Japanese battery industry! In 1997, it was reported that battery sales had increased by 30% in Japan due to the popularity of Tamagotchis. This increased demand for batteries even caused a battery shortage in some prefectures. And this consumption was not without consequences…

Shortly after, Japan faced issues with the disposal of used batteries because Tamagotchis only worked with alkaline batteries, which are harder to recycle than rechargeable batteries. As a result, Bandai began working on sustainable alternatives to power Tamagotchis, such as solar energy. Some may remember this second generation of toys that operated using solar power!

The Tamagotchis were banned in Japanese schools :

The success of Tamagotchis was not without controversy… In Japan, some teachers began to complain that Tamagotchis were a distraction in the classroom because students spent more time taking care of their virtual pets than listening to lessons. Even during the day, they had to pamper and feed their virtual animals!

In response to these repeated complaints, some Japanese schools simply banned Tamagotchis, but that did not stop their popularity from continuing to grow.

jujutsukaisen Tamagotchi
Bandai Namco.
tamagotchi Spy Family
Bandai Namco.


One could say that Tamagotchis have enjoyed phenomenal success since their launch in 1996. They revolutionized the toy industry and inspired a new culture of virtual gaming that has endured to this day. However, the Tamagotchi “buzz” would be relatively short-lived. After just two years, young people would quickly lose interest in their virtual pets, which ultimately did not do anything particularly amazing compared to the more complex gaming consoles of the late ’90s and the increasingly prevalent mobile phones. However, these electronic pets would continue to sell in Japan, targeting a niche market with a multitude of original versions, ranging from Jurassic Park to Demon Slayer.

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