Tamagotchi Livin’ the Tamagotchi Life: Electronic Game is a project I lead at IDEO and was published by Pressman. Pressman is a game manufacturer whose been publishing games for over 85 years. The Toy Invention team at IDEO had a long-standing relationship with Pressman and when they were interested in making a game for the Tamagotchi license, they chose to work with us.
This project was different than most other invention projects I worked on at IDEO. Usually we came up with ideas on our own and approached toy companies to try and sell them. This time, we were approached by Pressman and were asked to design the entire game – everything except for the final graphics since they would be provided by Bandai. The challenge was to design a game for children ages 7 and up that could be played in about 20 minutes for 2 to 4 players. The game would also feature a central electronic device that would act as a randomizer. Above all, the game must incorporate the key elements of Tamagotchi.
Wahoo! Tamagotchi’s were the coolest thing when they came out and getting to design a board game around this license was a treat! To start, I bought a Tamagotchi and actively took care of my little guy. I also explored the Tamagotchi website and researched into the license on fan pages. The next step was to play, play, play every relevant and non-relevant board game we could find. We played everything from Pretty, Pretty Princess to a fun football simulation called Battle Ball. In fact, Battle Ball was one of the main inspirations for the board layout of the Tamagotchi game.
We presented Pressman with three different concepts for the board game experience. These were 11×14 renderings of the board game layout with descriptions of the electronic device’s functioning and high level gameplay details. Once Pressman chose a direction, it was time to make playable prototypes!
We used dice to prototype the electronic randomizer, printed out our own board layouts and used placeholder movers. Once we had a solid direction, I created a functional prototype of the electronic randomizer in flash. This flash prototype was actually used at the International Toy Fair to demonstrate the game to sell to buyers like Toys R Us and Target. After much play testing, tuning, board redesign and more play testing we were excited with the gameplay experience.
Next, we had to get the game approved by the Tamagotchi licensor, Bandai. I remember being on phone conversations with both Bandai representatives and Pressman discussing the differences between the poop pixel art in the electronic randomizer and the poop in the actual Tamagotchi device. ”You’re poop just doesn’t look like our poop!” they said! Eventually we got our poop looking more like their poop
Then we worked with the oversees manufactures to design, spec and get the electronic device ready for manufacturing. This was an interesting challenge and a great learning experience. I had to figure out how to convey the information to the manufacturers who did not speak english. Every minute detail needed to be speced out – nothing could be left for interpretation. I ended up creating a series of flow charts number-coded with each of the pixel art layouts, sound FX file names and timing between each frame of the animations and the other functions. It kinda felt like programming in pictures! When they made progress, the overseas manufacturers would mail the prototype to me for feedback and then I’d mail it to Pressman for their feedback. Then back to Asia!
Lastly, I wrote the instructions! You can see them here: Livin’ the Tamagotchi Life.
It’s a neat little game for those enthusiastic with the Tamagotchi license!
Also, read the case study on IDEO’s website!