Pets are great. They give us companionship, affection, and someone to come home to. However, taking care of pets can be difficult. They need to be fed, cleaned up after. treated well, and need regular medical checkups to keep them healthy. The cost of this can be pretty high depending on the animal, and particularly larger pets like cats and dogs need space to move around to ensure they don't get bored or neurotic.
This is where the virtual pet comes in. Virtual pets (AKA digital pets, artificial pets, or v-pets) are a sub-genre of the Raising Sim, where the player is able to interact one-on-one with each pet. At its core, it's a type of game where the objective is caring for an animal like in real life, but without the possibility of harm for a real, living thing. They take up little space; most will fit in your pocket. The cost of maintaining one are minuscule as well - just your time and whatever power source they need, usually batteries. The other major advantage is that the consequences of negligence are minimal. Even if the player fails somehow and their pet "dies", it can be reset and started over.
The accuracy of taking care of a virtual pet compared to a real one is on a sliding scale between almost-perfect (requiring feeding, grooming, affection, cleaning poop and trips to the vet to keep them alive) and all-fun with no real responsibility (keeps the playing and maybe feeding without the possibility of failure). Early virtual pets attempted to aim for somewhere in the middle with a slight lean toward accuracy. More recent entries have had a general shift toward the fun end, but continue to occupy the full spectrum.
Usually involve Mons, even the ones that include "real" pets.
Example of virtual pets include:
- AIBO: The first attempt at an AI pet, it's a Robot Dog with a fairly complex behavior system. However, they're mostly bought to be reprogrammed for other purposes, such as sports.
- Digimon: Originally a boy's spinnoff of the Tamagotchi line, it was created when Bandai realized that Tamagotchi pets were more popular with girls. Basically the same, but lets the player fight against other Digimon owners. It spawned a multimedia franchise that's lasted for nearly 20 years.
- Digi Pets: Another small-name brand created to cash in on the craze. Unlike most, this one allowed you to choose one of a number of pets, first ten and ending at 32 with their final model. Surprisingly, did not suffer in quality compared to other trend-following v-pet devices.
- Dragon Quest: A Slime virtual pet/pedometer was made at one point.
- Furby: An attempt at an animatronic virtual pet, it allowed its owner to interact with it directly. It can be petted, talked to, or "fed" by touching its tongue. They got banned from the NSA and military bases due to the supposed ability to teach them new words by shouting in their ears. In reality, they could only learn a handful of words that were already programmed in, and the voice recognition was pretty bad.
- Giga Pet: Tiger Electronics's first foray into the v-pet business. Rather than aliens or monsters, the first series included real creatures like cats, dogs, and dinosaurs. A number of media tie-ins were produced, including three Star Wars pets note .
- Hello Kitty: Had a v-pet device made by Nintendo. It was based on the same design as the Pokémon Pikachu listed below.
- Nano Pet: Made by Playmates to follow on the coattails of the Giga Pet. It uses the Tamagotchi-style egg-shaped body (though without the "cracks") and the Giga Pets' 4-button controls.
- Pokémon: In addition to the game mode below, a few "keychain pets" were also created over the course of its history.
- First was the Pokémon Pikachu (Pocket Pikachu in Japan). It had a built in pedometer that earned the player "watts" that they could spend to play games with Pikachu. One game was a slot machine, based on the one in Red and Blue that was based on player timing rather than chance. This became a Game-Breaker fairly quickly. The main goal is to keep Pikachu happy and friendly, which unlocks new idle animations for him. It ends once the player reaches 1 million steps.
- A color version was released later, with a full-color LCD screen. It has many of the same feature but also includes an infrared port for Mystery Gifts (both with other Pikachus and the second generation games) and multi-player interaction.
- The Pokéwalker included in HeartGold and SoulSilver let ANY Pokémon that the player had caught act as one of these. Wild Pokémon and items could be found by playing minigames. Steps counted by the built in pedometer would have new Pokémon or items become available while also increasing the experience of the Mon being carried at the time, up to 1 full level.
- Pokémon: Magikarp Jump is primarily this, but with an emphasis on training multiple generations of competitive jumpers. Like most digital pets, it includes feeding, training, and competing as features.
- There is a crossover with Tamagotchi (listed below) centered around Eevee.
- Tamagotchi: The hand-held virtual pet that set off one of a thousand fads in the mid-to-late '90s. They were often banned from schools for being distracting. This didn't stop a lot of kids from setting them on silent and checking on them between classes. It also had a number of video game adaptations, the first of which was on the Game Boy in 1997. They could also be "paused" by going into the menu and choosing the option to set the time, then leaving it run in that manner.
- A Toy Story-themed digital pet was released that allowed players to take care of an alien (similar to the alien toys in the Pizza Planet crane game from the movie), along with an alien dog or an alien bird. Players fed the alien pet pizza, maintained its environment by keeping the ship oxygenated and the air filters clean, and entertained it with a radar-based UFO-fighting minigame. Neglect resulted in the pet being abducted by the "claw".
- Can Your Pet??: It's this for five minutes, until you are forced to realize the meaning of the title.
- Club Penguin: Players can raise their own puffle, feed them, and dress them in all sorts of clothing. However, the twist is that if the player doesn't care for their puffle, they will run away.
- In Hypnospace Outlaw, you can purchase with Hypnocoins and download virtual pets such as April the Angelic Hamster. You pet it, you feed it (with more Hypnocoins), you clean up its poop, and...that's it. ...aside from one hidden functionality: feeding them encrypted files so they can poop out decrypted files.
- Hyrule Warriors Legends: My Fairy mode lets the player raise a fairy that they find in Adventure Mode. Feeding them raises their stats, while clothing changes their abilities. They can also be taught a skill that the player has access to during regular gameplay in addition to a spell that can be used based on the type of fairy.
- Nintendo Labo: The "House" minigame is occupied by a creature who responds to your methods of interacting with his home, whether it's by moving the actual house, inserting various odds and ends into the walls, or putting him through various tests for rewards of things to eat.
- Nintendogs: Nintendo's animal simulator. Originally just dogs, cats were added in the sequel when Shigeru Miyamoto adopted one himself. Like many Nintendo properties, turned into a massive money maker.
- Petz: The series as a whole is centered around taking care of animals in a mostly realistic manner. Started as two individual games, Catz and Dogz, before becoming a much larger series. The series is often seen as shovelware do to its ubiquity on the Nintendo DS and Wii, though early games in the series were fairly high in quality and easily modded.
- Pet Zombies: A relatively obscure Nintendo 3DS game that spoofs this genre.
- Pokémon-amie: A minigame introduced in the sixth generation games. It lets the player interact with their creature by feeding, petting, playing minigames, making faces, and talking to them. Maxing out Affection makes your 'mon occasionally dodge attacks, tank hits, or shrug off status effects while gaining more experience from battles. It's not strictly necessary, but Eevee only evolves into Sylveon if its Affection in Pokémon-amie is at least 2 hearts. Later upgraded to "Pokémon Refresh" in the seventh generation, where in addition to the original petting and feeding features, you have the ability clean and groom them after getting dirty in battles and also to treat Pokémon with status effects. However, the mini-games were taken out since Poké Puffs were replaced with Poké Beans.
- Phantasy Star Online introduced MAGs to the series, Robot Buddies that could be fed items from the player's inventory. The items you feed a MAG affected their stats, which are passed on to the player: a high Defense stat for the MAG bolster's the player's Defense, for instance. Their stats also determine what evolution they undergo upon reaching certain level thresholds, which also determine the Photon Burst ability they can use. While MAGs cannot starve or die, keeping them well-fed will also confer additional benefits, such as periodic heals or attacking your enemies for you.
- My Lil Bastard: A parody on [adult swim].com, complete with poop-cleaning. So much poop-cleaning. There's a mobile version with minigames.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: The Chao Garden lets you play with, pet, and raise your Chaos. Unlike most such games, you can also horribly abuse them, to the point that they freak out when picked up. While they normally have a limited lifespan, they just revert to eggs and can be hatched again, or you can go through a complicated rigmarole to get a Chaos Chao.
- Celestial Vale: a now-defunct game with two incarnations, the first being a hybrid adoptable-simulation game and the second being a pure simulation game.
- Chicken Smoothienote : a website in which a user can "adopt" a pet, sit back, and watch it grow on its own. This site started the "adoptables" website trend, which involves images of pets that grow on their own.
- Dragon Adopters: a now-defunct site which allowed users to adopt dragons (and dinosaurs).
- Dragon Cave: started the "genre" of click-based adoptable sites, where a user adopts an egg which requires other people to view and click on it in order to hatch and raise it.
- Flight Rising: a Kickstarter-funded website with a focus on collecting and breeding dragons.
- Neopets: The virtual pet site, founded in 1999 and still the biggest pet-based franchise to date.
- Ovipets: A Facebook game where you take care of and breed various animals for desired color and gene combinations. There are species such as Cetacea (dolphins), Equus (horses), Gryphus (gryphons), Chiropy (bats) and others, and all of them hatch from eggs.
- Pet Society: a now-defunct game where friends competed to have the highest-ranking pet.
- Puppet Nightmares: a Darker and Edgier take on the genre.
- Subeta: created in 2004 in response to what the creator saw as excessively strict rules on Neopets. It now has a bigger focus on customizing the users' human avatars than on pets, but the pets are still a large part of the site.
- Valenth: a now-defunct site with heavy steampunk influences and an extensive plot.
- Valley of Unicorns: a game set in the same universe as Celestial Vale.
- Virtual Horse Ranch: one of the internet's oldest horse breeding sims.
- Wajas: focuses on collecting and breeding dog-/wolf-like creatures, ranging from those resembling real-life breeds to more fantastical types.
- Webkinz: A hybrid virtual pet/soft animal toy franchise. The player buys a toy and enters the code on its name tag into the website and gets to play with a virtual version of that animal.
- One story arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! involved Digimon-like battling digital pets.
- Code Lyoko: In the episode False Lead Odd has a massive obsession with his new Tamagutchi toy and becomes distressed when he loses it. At the end of the episode after they stop Xana's latest attack return to the past, he reveals that he installed a camera this time to see what happened. He finds that his friends stole it from him because he was too obsessed. Yumi in particular reveals that they gave it to her younger brother...who kills the pet and throws the toy on the street to be run over by a car.