How do the Claw crane ‘arcade game’ machines work?

August 28th, 2012 § 1 comment

If you have ever asked yourself that question prepare to have your mind blown. Zach Baker, a former Blizzard employee that clearly has an interest in games, gives the answer Quora

Basically, most crane games are designed so the claw is randomly (and only once in many games) strong enough to let players win. Some even weaken in strength after a short time so players get close to victory only to see it slip from their grasp! Since the manuals for many skill games are available online, this is not hard to verify.

For some reason it never crossed my mind to think these machines would be so manipulative. I always put them into the same class as those sleazy carnival games that use high pressure salesmen to get you to play. Designed to look easy while actually being quite difficult I’ve always avoided them out of principal. At least some of those games have the redeeming quality that you practice enough you might actually get kind of good at it; you wouldn’t get a prize every time but your odds could be improved.

Sure the claw is weak but even though I’ve never seen it someone has to win occasionally by positioned the claw just right through luck or skill. Alas it seems that your odds of getting a prize out of a claw game are determined as soon as you put your coins in by a random number generator. With 1/18 odds you would probably be better off parking your ass in front of a slot machine in Reno for an hour. If you find yourself making a product that paints casino operators as honest you need to do some soul-searching.

If you read the entire answer you will see that Sega once made a claw game that was honest.

The one notable exception is Sega’s UFO Catcher, which has an operator-adjustable claw strength, but no option for variable claw strength. So although it can be set to be very weak, players at least have the same ability to win every time. However, it does not seem as inviting because the two-pronged claw is more intimidating — the difficulty of grabbing an item is quite clear, so it’s not as tempting as a seemingly-easy variable-strength game.

I’m not sure if the fact that I have never seen one says more about consumers or the segment of humanity that operates arcades. Either way what it says is not good.

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§ One Response to How do the Claw crane ‘arcade game’ machines work?

  • Monkey Kong says:

    I knew it! HAHA! But I shall still verify this with 50 tries and waiting on other players to lose before giving it my try. hehe

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