Players of Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare are getting perhaps the most tonally jarring cosmetic option in the history of shooting games with the introduction of the “Tomogunchi,” a parody of the iconic Japanese digital pet watches launched back in 1996.
Similar to Bandai’s original Tamagotchi, these in-game wristwatches feature a virtual pet that hatches from an egg — the screenshots show a cat, a panda, and what looks like a dragon. You then have to take care of the creature, or else it may end up perishing due to neglect. You can feed it, keep tabs on its emotional state, and even help it grow and eventually evolve.
The dark comedy here is that all of this has to be done not on a physical product, but on a virtual version of a physical product accessible only in between shooting your various virtual brethren in the face during a standard Call of Duty match. You literally use the d-pad of your controller to check the in-game wristwatch while you’re running around a map.
Activision is leaning into the absurdity of it all, labeling the Tomogunchi a product of the fake Rothwynn Industries weapons manufacturer that exists only in the fiction of the loosely reality-based world of Call of Duty. (Kind of the like the campaign’s fake Middle Eastern nation of Urzikstan.)
Here’s how it’s described in the also fake Rothwynn press release, which — and this is beginning to hurt my brain — doubles as an actual Activision press release promoting the sale of the virtual item:
Rothwynn Industries is proud to introduce Tomogunchi. This is more than a mere watch: This is a nesting device that houses the most realistic artificial intelligence ever witnessed in a Rothwynn Industries wrist-based product.
Utilizing the latest advancements in pixel-based monochromatic liquid crystal display technology, your Tomogunchi’s “home” is a durable watch, machine-crafted from the finest non-biodegradable plastic designed to provide you with the most immersive pet-based, combat-related experience ever seen.
Do YOU have the nurturing aptitude to keep your Tomogunchi alive? Will your new friendly creature become well-fed and thrive? Or will it freak out and eventually die due to inattention?
To its credit, we’ve never quite seen a paid video game item this meta before, and it’s a wildly more creative take on the standard weapon cosmetic and other junk shooter games peddle to players to drive up microtransaction revenue. I’d much rather see stuff like this than a $20 character skin you’ll only rarely see your first-person avatar actually wearing.
That said, it all has a rather... sinister air to it, from the gun pun in the name to the fact that you can change your Tomogunchi’s mood — and for certain pet varieties apparently even speed up its evolutionary growth — by killing people:
Feed your new friend into contentment by figuring out which emotional state you need to change. They head into combat and begin a rampage to feed your Tomogunchi; providing sustenance in the form of Kills, Objective Scoring, Killstreaks, and Wins. That’s going to cheer up your creature in no time! Unless your battles start to go badly, of course….
Perhaps Activision is indeed nailing the tone here; I haven’t purchased the Tomogunchi yet, but I am eager to see it in action. Maybe it’s so goofy and fourth-wall-breaking that it ends up working. But something just seems a little bit iffy about rebranding a children’s toy as a fictional military accessory in a shooting game.