If you’ve always been the unlucky person who walked away from the arcade empty-handed, take comfort.
The claw game, the popular arcade staple that sucks up your quarters as you attempt to maneuver the hanging claw to grab a stuffed animal or toy, has nothing to do with skill but is all about luck and who’s operating it, arcade operators say.
As it turns out, the operators of the machines determine how much they should pay out.
In a conversation on Reddit, a user identifying himself as an arcade owner in central California laid it all out after being asked point-blank whether the machines were rigged.
“Yes :) Indeed they are!,” wrote the user, TheDJTec.
He went on to explain that the machines have a Command Module Setting (CMS) that allows the owner to manipulate the machine.
“Most claws are 5-8 PSI requiring 10-13 to grab an item. Note, the setting module for the PSI is usually manual, there are springs on the claw that have little red marks. The module will tell you which mark to tighten the spring for the desired effect :),” he wrote.
“The example I used before is a ‘toy’ requires 10 PSI to lift. My claw during 11/12 tries will apply 4-6 PSI, or just enough to shuffle it or barely pick it up. During the 1/12 tries the claw will apply 9-11 PSI, sometimes picking it up and dropping, some successful :).”
Adding to your bad luck, whether you win a prize is also regulated by the state in which you’re playing.
Under California state regulations, the claw must be strong enough to pick up a prize one in 12 times. In Nevada it’s only required to let the user win one in 15 times.
Video game programmer Zach Baker also confirmed the odds-are-against-you news in a posting on Quora.
“Basically, most crane games are designed so the claw is randomly (and only once in many games) strong enough to let players win,” he wrote. “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.”
To prove his point, Baker points to the owner’s manual for the Captain Claw crane game which explains that the machine’s default setting is to randomly assign a claw strong enough to grab a toy to only one in every 18 people who play.