Monday, May 28, 2012

Nintendo Punchbuoy (パンチブイ, 1975)

Most of Nintendo's toys and games from the 1960s to 1980s were for use in-house. But there were some exceptions, like the vintage outdoor game we will take a look at today.

Nintendo Punchbuoy (1975)

It is called the Nintendo Punchbuoy (パンチブイ) and dates from 1975.

Punchbuoy is a mixture of an exercise device and an active play toy. It was was sold with the slogan "Increase your stamina through fun play" (「楽しく遊んで体力アップ」).

You may recognize it, as many clones were available into the 1980s and 1990s. They seem to have disappeared from shop shelves since then.

People who grew up in the 1970s will surely remember it, as it was very popular around the world at that time.

Punchbuoy retailed for ¥3,000.

The box of Nintendo Punchbuoy can be opened for display in the shop

The set contains the bright orange plastic 'buoy', which has a hole in the center through which two cords are inserted. Handles are attached to the ends of these cords.

Playbuoy instruction manual - front

The 'buoy' is 20 centimeters long and about 14 centimeters in diameter.

The cords are about 6 meters long.

The objective of Punchbuoy is to shuttle the 'buoy' over the cords, from one player to the other.

You start by holding the handles close to each other.

You then pull the handles sideways, and the 'buoy' is pushed forwards. If you do this with enough power and speed, the 'buoy' shoots all the way to the other end of the cord. The player on that end repeats the action and returns the 'buoy'. This way, the two players can make the 'buoy' continuously move back and forth with great speed.

The game is not only about power. Timing is also important. If you pull the handles apart too soon, before the 'buoy' arrives at the end, it will slow down. If you are too late, the 'buoy' crashes into the handles with quite some force. In this case, rubber stops in front of the handles absorb part of the shock.

As mentioned, Nintendo released this game in 1975.

Nintendo did not design the game, but acquired the rights to manufacture it from a company called 'Rainbow Plastics'.

Rainbow Plastics was a daughter company from US company Rainbow Lifegard Products, Inc. from El Monte CA.

Punchbuoy was originally called Playbuoy, and Rainbow Lifegard Products trademarked this name in 1973.

Trademark as filed by Rainbow Lifeguard Products, Inc

Rainbow Lifegard Products filed a patent for the Playbuoy in 1971.

Patent for the 'Exercising Device' (US patent 3,743,280)

The inventor was a gentleman named Daniel Martinez.

The game is described in the patent as an "Exercising device with entertainment value which includes a shuttle movable along two cords loosely journalled in a common hole through the shuttle".

Back to the Nintendo Punchbuoy.

Why Nintendo changed the name from Playbuoy to Punchbuoy is unclear. Maybe they thought this name was too simliar to a certain mens publication?

Instructions on the back of the Nintendo Punchbuoy box

Images on the back of the Punchbuoy box illustrate the versatility of this toy. The image on the left shows how the buoy can be 'moved with thrilling speed' (「スピーヂィーでスリリングなブイのうごき」).

An adult can also play against two children. These doubles 'require timing and teamwork' (「タイミングとチームワーク必要がダブルスでやる方法」).

If you use your imagination, and are willing to risk permanent back injury, there are really no limitations to the use of the Punchbuoy.

Experts can do it 'facing backwards' (「なれて上手になったらうしろ向きになって」).

The instructions even claim it is possible to 'train your body solo' (「ひとりでも体トレーニングができます」), though I have my doubts this actually works well.

Next time you go to the beach, I suggest you leave your Nintendo 3DS at home, and take a Nintendo Punchbuoy instead. If you can find one.


  1. We actually had these at my elementary school, the Nintendo brand and everything.

    1. Wow. Really? What year and place was this?

    2. Northfield, MN, in the years around 1992-1994 or such. It is possible they were donated to the school, but I clearly remember the logo on the side of these things. Unfortunately, I cannot give any more details, other than we loved to play with these in the recess area!

  2. I had one of these as a kid. The Playbuoy. You mentioned a lot of other companies make them, but I can't seem to find them anywhere. Any ideas of who/where makes them and under what name? I want to get one for my kids for Christmas. Thanks.

    1. I have checked around, but I could not find any currently for sale. In the past (i am talking about the 80s, 90s) I did still see these quite regularly, but I guess they disappeared from shops at some point. I think I am getting old, and time passes too quickly. Will update the post.

  3. Now I know how Pressman got the idea for "Zoom Ball"!

  4. I had one of these when I was a kid. I'm not 30+ and when I went home to visit my family out of state my dad told me it broke. More than anything in want to get him a new one..where could I possibly find one! Help please!

    1. I am sorry, but I can't help you. I have been looking for one of these myself recently, but it seems they are no longer produced. Which is strange, as it is a cool toy!