The original Tamagotchi will return to Australia, but will nostalgia be enough to drive sales?


The design of the re-launched Tamagotchi. Source: Supplied.

Get ready to switch off those smartphones and turn off those TVs, because the Tamagotchi is back.

The virtual pet toy that dominated the 1990s has been given a new lease on life in its original form. Producer Bandai Namco will be re-releasing the original model in Australia from next month.

The egg-shaped digital pet was first released in Japan, but its popularity spread like wildfire to all corners of the globe with over 82 million models sold after in first launched in 1996. The toy sprouted numerous imitations, spinoffs, and follow-up models, with the most recent 2013 model including near field communication functionality and playable mini-games.

But banking on the nostalgia of Gen Ys and Millennials to drive sales, the upcoming new-old Tamagotchi model won’t include any bells or whistles.

The company is instead sticking with the compact egg shape, unlabelled buttons, and has gone for a smaller 256×256 LCD screen.

If painstakingly caring for a small alien pet for hours every day only to have it die on you anyway is your thing, the new version Tamagotchis will reportedly be available in “most toy and collector stores” from November onwards, at a price of $24.95.

While choosing to relaunch the virtual pet might be a questionable move in a world where young adults can barely keep a pot plant alive, director of Good Things Marketing Helen Ahrens thinks Bandai could be in for a winner.

“Launching something like the Tamagotchi in 2017 has some risk, but it could definitely take off,” Ahrens told SmartCompany.

“For example, smartwatches like the Apple Watch exist, but people will still pay for and seek out the timeless classics when it comes to watches, because of that nostalgia and longevity factor.”

Ahrens believes the Tama-relaunch is likely targeting both nostalgia-ready adults and curious kids and teenagers, and despite competing against the millions of apps available on modern smartphones, she thinks “tech abandoners” will be keen to engage with something simple.

Memories of the 90s driving strategy

Speaking to The Verge, director of brand management at Bandai America Tara Badie was blunt about the company’s intentions.

“We’re going after that nostalgia,” she said.

“I’m not going to pretend it’s the best, latest, greatest everything, and it’s going to compete with your constant social medias and all that that’s constantly changing and everything,” she told The Verge. 

“But when you take care of something, you start to love it and want to take care of it. You want it to grow. You have that connection with it, so you want to have it succeed and survive.”

The Tamagotchi relaunch is riding on the coattails of a number of similar relaunches, including Nintendo’s NES and SNES mini consoles which have seen high levels of consumer demand. The new Tamagotchi models will be a limited edition run.

Nostalgia-fuelled product releases come in cycles says Ahrens, which has been happening “since the beginning of marketing and advertising time” and can work well for brands, given they don’t push it too hard.

“Go for it, but don’t be too cheesy,” she says.

“There should be a fun factor, but there is a point where you can be pushing too hard and it’ll come across as behind the times. Run it as a campaign, but not an overall strategy.”

“Bandai is excited to bring back one of the most beloved toys in a way that captures the magic and joy of a generation while embracing the sensibilities of new generations,” a Bandai Namco Australia spokesperson told SmartCompany.

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