Japan's virtual pet arrives in Canada

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TORONTO -- The Japanese virtual reality pet that has taken Japan and other markets by storm has come to North America. The egg-shaped pet, called Tamagotchi, is being initially launched in Toronto before rolling out across the continent.

Tamagotchi features an LCD screen where the character lives. When the electronic toy becomes hungry, or wants attention, it begins to beep. The toy, manufactured by Bandai of Toronto, is designed to teach children about pet responsibility. It features three buttons which can be used to fulfill the pet's needs and can also be used to check the creature's health, to play a game, to feed it, provide discipline, clean up after it, or turn off the lights so the animal can sleep.

The pet evolves based on the choices made by its owner, so a well-tended Tamagotchi will turn into a cheerful, playful pet while a neglected one could grow up to be unfriendly or ugly. Bandai says the current record for keeping a Tamagotchi alive is 26 days. As an old Tamagotchi disappears, a new one can be hatched by clicking a button, so the toy has a virtual everlasting life.

Radio, print, and bus ads promote the product, along with ads on screen savers at schools in the Peel Board of Education region near Toronto. Bandai Canada of Toronto plans to roll out the toy across Canada in the next few months. J. Walter Thompson Co. Ltd. of Toronto created the ads.

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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