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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nintendo Slugger Mate (1967?)

In 1967 Nintendo released the Ultra Machine, one of their successful entries in the toy market in Japan.

At the time Nintendo was still focusing for the most part on their home turf. However, they were trying to get a foot in the door in foreign markets as well. Nintendo first started exporting playing cards, and soon also experimented with the export of some of their toys (see for example the Australian version of the Ultra Hand).

The Ultra Machine was a logical candidate for export, given the huge sales success in Japan and its internationally appealing game theme. The "Ultra" moniker was big in Japan, but not much so outside of it, so a different name was given for the foreign release: Slugger Mate.

The Nintendo Slugger Mate (re-branded Ultra Machine)

For most people outside of japan who came across this toy, it would have been their introduction to the Nintendo name.

1967 - first small steps by Nintendo in becoming a global household name

The box lists "copyright 1967 by Nintendo". This reflects the year of introduction of the Ultra Machine in Japan, however it is unclear if the Slugger Mate was released in the same year or some time thereafter.

Not much is known at this time regarding the geographical spread of this release. They have popped up in Australia and in the US as well, so it is currently believed those were the main areas of sales. The instructions provided with the Slugger Mate are also English only.

The packaging is identical to the home release, except for the name change.

A "made in japan" message was added to the box, possibly to set it apart from (cheaper quality) toys from Hong Kong. At the time, Hong Kong had become of one Japans biggest export rivals for toys and electronics.

The toy itself is identical to the home release, except for the sticker on the front.

Nintendo Slugger Mate (re-branded Ultra Machine)

Judging by the small numbers of Slugger Mate's that have surfaced in collectors' circles, we can safely assume that this international release only generated modest success, at best. It would be until 1980, and a little game called Game & Watch, that the foreign adventures of Nintendo would finally pay off in a big way.


  1. I just picked one of these up today at a flea market for $8, its the slugger mate model , with box but missing all 12 of the baseballs. i know its worth more than that, just cant find alot of info on it.

    what is the value of one of these complete in box?

  2. Hi Adamus,

    It is difficult to give a monetary value for this piece. In recent years it has appeared on eBay a number of times, and sold for prices of around US$50 for a good condition one. So, although it is quite rare, surprisingly it does not fetch very high prices. Maybe because it is so obscure, people are not yet looking for it? So, my advice is: enjoy it as a nice piece of Nintendo history, but don't expect it to allow you to retire early.

  3. I was lucky enough to pick up one of these complete and in great condition last week, and only about 1/2hour from where I live in Australia.
    which will be added to the rest of my nintendo/video game collection

    Great website by the way, its amazing to learn about Nintendo'srich history.

    1. Congratulations on your find! And thanks for the compliment.