Japan's `Virtual Chick' Spreads Its Wings

Spin-offs and upgrades of Bandai's hot-selling toy are in the works

Maybe it's emblematic of the famed Japanese "cult of cuteness." Or maybe it's just an amusing diversion. At any rate, there's something surreal about the current craze over Tamagotch ("cute little egg"), a digital pet chick that demands constant care and feeding. Since Japanese toymaker Bandai Co. hatched the gadget in November, it has sold more than 1 million of the virtual chicks at $16 apiece to consumers who have mobbed Japanese stores. Some of them are paying as much as $400 on the black market. There are even reports of Tamagotch abductions in broad daylight by teenage girls.

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