WHAT'S COOL IN JAPAN
Tamagotchi Connection Series
"My Kuchipatchi found a boyfriend. I hope she gets married and has children," says one kid. "My Mametchi traveled overseas and took pictures!" says another. Tamagotchi - the portable, virtual pet that was launched eight years ago by Bandai and went on to become a huge global hit, selling 40 million units around the world - is back and better than ever before. What makes the new Tamagotchi special is communication. Tamagotchi pets can now interact with each other, making friends and even getting married. A new series of virtual pets called Tamagotchi Connection went on sale a year ago, and 6.5 million units have so far been sold in 34 countries and regions throughout the world. In Japan, the product has continued to sell out whenever new stock hits the shelves, making the new Tamagotchi very hard to get hold of.
With the new Tamagotchi series, owners still care for their virtual pets by feeding and training them as before. But now they can use an infrared function that allows their Tamagotchi to communicate with those of their friends and to exchange gifts, play games, and even become friends themselves. If two Tamagotchi of the opposite sex become friends, they may become boyfriend and girlfriend, and eventually they may even get married and have Tamagotchi children. The more Tamagotchi friends communicate, the firmer their friendship becomes, and this in turn leads to more communication and deeper friendship between their owners.
By connecting their virtual pets free of charge to one of the 20-centimeter Deka-Tamagotchi consoles (deka means huge) found in toy stores and supermarkets in 3,000 locations throughout Japan, owners can let their pets play games, buy things, and have fun in lots of other ways. On weekends there are often long lines of elementary school students waiting for their chance to use the consoles. When they win, they accumulate special money called Gotchi Points, which they can use to buy virtual things for their pets. There are close to 60 unique products they can purchase, including everything from balloons and roller skates to tickets for overseas travel and mansions.
Version two of the Tamagotchi Connection series allows owners to play by linking up their virtual pets to their cell phones. These phones can be turned into a virtual Tamagotchi Planet, the pets' homeland. Messages can even be read from a parent who has returned to this planet.
Starting out as a baby, Tamagotchi grows up crying and pouting, and its character and personality are determined by how it is raised as a child. Tamagotchi sleeps, wakes, eats, and plays as if it were a living being. Playing with a Tamagotchi teaches its owners about the importance of life, and that living things will die if they are not loved and cared for.