Being both physically disabled and Autistic, it is no small task discovering adaptive hobbies marking every one of the following categories: accessible, mainstream-available, mainstream-loved, and also a Special Interest. The least necessary are the ones having to do with the mainstream, but they are icing due to increased overall social enjoyment and my ability to access them. In the rare freaking coincidence this happens, the brain sirens are a-ringin’. I want to share my love for whatever it is with the world.
The US release of the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Chibi Tamagotchi has been thrilling. I believe due to a combination of fantastic marketing, the nature of social media in 2017, the simplicity of the product appropriate for an American market, a low price-point, and solid branding with two decades of success, this particular product has had a brilliant start. Bandai Namco’s, parent company of Bandai America, fiscal report for 2017 supports an overall upward trend in sales for the company. It is hopeful witnessing a drastically different US consumer response compared to the TamaTown Tama-Go unit in 2010 and even Tamagotchi Friends in 2014.
What will this mean for Tamagotchi and the US going forward? If I were on their marketing team, I would give smart customers choices. Let serious fans opt in for a premium, more expensive device with features like the P’s, 4U/4U+, or M!x. Create them in limited numbers at first to test the market, and slowly, given the response, release more. There is a split base of buyers: people like parents, children, people who cannot or will not make more than that $15 investment versus the hobbyists or those you could turn into hobbyists. Flip that $15 purchase into a $40 or $50 "investment of fun." You might need a step in-between as well for someone who wants a little more functionality, but won’t pay for premium. For example, a new take on the Connexion/Connection, at around $25.
Tamagotchi has been one of my favourite toys since childhood and has stayed so throughout adulthood. Thankfully, it is an ideal product for many disabled folks. It is not cumbersome to play while laying in bed, easily toted, lacking visual sensory issues for me for the most part, no largely problematic auditory issues for my body, it is simple enough for me to understand when I am having executive function or brain cloud issues, and during the social isolation I experience, it kind of keeps me company. In contrast to wildly inaccessible Pokemon Go, this is totally adaptive for someone with my abilities. I am grateful Tamagotchi has been with me for many years.
How could Tamagotchi be more accessible? Just because this product works well for me does not mean it’s great for everyone. I think you’d have to talk to other people. For example, there is no screen reading option which makes this impossible for blind folks to use. I could see the buttons being very difficult for folks with upper body mobility issues. Deaf/HoH folks would have to rely on constantly checking it for care because a Tamagotchi beeps to tells you it requires attention. In these ways, I have been privileged.
Do I think Bandai will ever come out with an accessible-for-all people device? Probably not. Pokemon is under Bandai so, you can guess they will never give a hoot about access in their games. It might be neat if someone DIY’d something with a 3D printer and parts from Adafruit. You could make so much bad-ass, adaptive tech with what you find at Adafruit…(hint hint! Steal my idea and show me what you make!)
Sharing one of my hobbies with you has been extremely enjoyable, and seeing your enthusiasm is even better! In fact, how excited you are is the best part. When the world is scary and awful, we need silly, little, wonderful things to remind us to look through the lens of ourselves as children, recollecting that life can be simple and happy. Tamagotchi is my memory of boundless joy, waking up to sunshine in my heart. When life is unsure, and all you need is a friend at your side, one option is to put one on your keychain. ;)
Sending you love and light. As always, make good with your ability today.
Sorel Estrada Volpe