Once, while waiting to be served my lunch at a diner I found myself with nothing to read and no one with whom to talk. So, rather than read the back of the catsup bottle, AGAIN, I started watching kids try to pick up teddy bears and other cool toys in a claw machine.
I have at times in the past made passing attempts at picking up something in a claw machine. I never succeeded and felt that, perhaps, I was just not good at claw machine. But as I sat in that diner, I noticed that the claws never really closed on the toy. There was, however, one attempt that succeeded and when it did I noticed it was because the claws operated differently. They clamped hard on the toy and successfully delivered it to the delivery chute.
I thought to myself at the time: "The claw must be set to work only once every so many times. This is no game of skill… this is random luck. This is gambling."
Today, thanks to an article on Vox.com, I find that my thoughts were correct. The author Phil Edwards, "Claw machines are rigged — here's why it's so hard to grab that stuffed animal," actually was able to locate the instructions for dealers that tell how to set the claw strength.
Here is what he found in one of the instruction manuals on how to set the claw strength:
As it turns out, you can also set the frequency for the claws suddenly dropping the toy once it is picked up.
Great games, whether on a table top or on a computer, are all about mastery through learning skill sets. It seems to me that the claw machine could actually be a great game if it was skill based. It miight not be as profitable in the short term but over the long haul people are going to spend a lot of money learning to get better.
So, should your child be tempted to test their crane skills on a claw machine, make sure they understand the way it works. No matter how good they are, its all random chance.