When I founded the Tamagotchi Wikia on April 29, 2007, I called upon members of the Tamagotchi forum Tama-Zone to assist in filling the site with as much Tamagotchi information as possible. In the earliest days of Wikia, it wasn’t enough to simply want to make a Wiki about an established franchise; you had to get enough people on board and editing articles and sharing links before your Wikia could be considered authentic. And it was something I was passionate about then, and still am to this day.
My major goal of the Wikia was to ensure there would always be a reliable, easy to navigate source of Tamagotchi information that anyone could access. I feared the walled garden nature of the forums at the time prevented a number of people from being able to access critical information, and with individuals split across many different forums, it was impossible to find a place that had everything any Tamagotchi owner could ever need.
But a bigger goal was on the horizon. There were plenty of secrets of Tamagotchi that had yet to be discovered and archived – and as the franchise rolls over 20 years, I fear much information is on the verge of being lost.
The original Tamagotchi virtual pet launched in Japan on November 23rd, 1996. What seemed like a novelty toy at first suddenly spun into a global craze, which only exasperated once the toys were officially translated and sold in the west. There would be a variety of spinoff versions – the Tamagotchi Angel, Ocean, etc. – before the franchise went dormant at the end of 1998. The fad had passed, and Bandai struggled to recover in the aftermath.
Come 2004, and suddenly, the franchise came back strong with the Tamagotchi Connection line. Dubbed the Tamagotchi Plus in Japan, the toys featured higher resolution screens, connection capabilities, and a whole host of new gameplay features that made the toys feel more alive than ever before. As each annual release came, more features came with them. There was a version in Japan (the Keitai and Akai toys) that could connect to a mobile phone game, in the days before smartphones were a thing. There was a number of versions that connected to an online site called TamaTown, where players could play fun Flash games and win prizes to send to their Tamagotchi toy.
And in the years following, interest waned once again, and the official Tamagotchi sites disappeared. Gone was TamaTown, meaning a whole host of items and features of the toys from the past five years were suddenly inaccessible. This failure to future-proof these toys caused panic in the Tamagotchi community. Attempts to reverse-engineer the toys to try ensuring there’d be no problems down the line ended up going nowhere. And as it becomes painfully obvious that Bandai finds no concern about any of this, the Tamagotchi community has been on the steady decline.
To this day, Bandai seems oblivious or uninterested in the issues with preserving their own product for their fanbase. In Japan, the most recent Tamagotchi toy is the Tamagotchi M!x, a unique version where Tamagotchi pets pass down hereditary traits to their children, resulting in each generation having completely unique-looking characters. While many possibilities of character mixing is possible through the toys alone, there also exists special characters exclusive to “M!x Stations”. These stations are located throughout Japan, and connecting your Tamagotchi to it will allow it to marry a unique partner not normally possible on the toy, resulting in a number of truly unique combinations. But what happens when the next new Tamagotchi toy is on the market, and the M!x Stations are retired? Then that’s 35 characters no longer accessible to players who came in too late. Of course, if you don’t live in Japan, that’s content already gated off from you.
This is only scratching the surface. There were several console and handheld games exclusive to Japan too, each with their own gameplay elements and special characters never seen in the west. Very few of them have had their information fully cracked; the PlayStation game has been a slow and steady struggle, the Sega Saturn game has yet to be cracked, and the Nintendo 64 game only has information out thanks to Nicovideo clips because the game is notorious for somehow being incompatible with every existing Nintendo 64 emulator. And that’s even before mentioning the two GameBoy game sequels that never got English translations and have uncovered secrets all their own.
And as time passes and the Tamagotchi community loses more and more people, the risks of losing tons of information about Tamagotchi increase significantly. Cartridges will be lost, toys will be damaged or worse, and there will be less people to preserve the information for future players. As it stands, the Tamagotchi Wikia and Tama-Zone are the two best options out there, but there’s still so much work to be done.
I recall when I was a young kid, and one faithful night in 1997, my mom came home and handed each one of us a brand new Tamagotchi. She apparently had to go through a lot of trouble to get them, and I’ve cherished each one I’ve owned. I have my own incomplete collection that I hope to finish sometime, and work on some hands-on studying of them on my own. But I really hope there’s more that could be done, something more we as a community can do.
If anyone out there has any skills or suggestions on what we can do to really start a Tamagotchi preservation movement, please, get in touch with me. I’m happy to hear any and all suggestions.