UFO catcher – or claw machines as there are also known as – are arcade machine that are very popular all over the world. The aim of playing the machines is to pick up the prize with the claw, It’s normally made up of two to four prongs, which will grip or move your prize over to the prize hatch and drop the price down, where you then claim the price through sort of a cat flap door in the front of the machine. The machines are usually see through from all sides, which makes it easier to play, or so you would think.
Playing claw machines 101
Is there any skill to playing the machines? Well, the claw machines that I’ve played here in Europe I’ve never had any problems playing. Getting the claw over and even pick up the prize is the easy part. The only real skill you need is being able to place the claw over the price in the right way. After that it’s down to chance from there on. The machines in the UK are simple to play and once you’ve got the hang of the technique, you could win at them all day – if it wasn’t for one thing. The only thing stopping you are the owners of the arcades who set the machines up. The machines are set to only tightly grip the prize for a longer period of time after machine has been feed a certain amount of cash.
One good tip is to try and go for prizes that are close to the hatch, because what happens is the claw becomes weaker the further it has to travel, and the price might drop before it reaches the hatch. Unless the machine is up in the quota it needs, only then will it stay strong enough to carry the prize all the way. You can also try and move prize bit by bit, until you have it close enough. That’s another good work around to getting the prize you have your eyes set on. I usually start with prizes close to the hatch, and the technique works good for me. Another good tip is to watch others play. If they have put loads of cash in the claw, it will normally hold the prize for longer before it weakens. This is giving you more of a chance on bagging the prize you want, if the previous player gives up.
The machines I’ve played in the UK have prizes that are mostly plush toys. One of my best wins as to date on a machine in the UK was a Minion, winning it made my day.
UFO Catchers in Japan
Playing UFO Catchers in Japan is very different than playing the machines like I’ve played in the UK. You still have the element of the the settings by the vendor for how strong and how long the claw will grip the price, but there is so much more skill to it than the other machines I’ve played outside of Japan. First lets start off with the prizes, there are a lot more to choose from. Yes, you do have the plush toy machines, but you also have so much more. Some of the prizes we have won when playing in Japan for example are figurines that are only made as prizes for UFO catchers. There’s also food, bath towls, cutlery, small electrical devices, and so much more.
Most arcades in Japan normally have at least one floor designated to UFO catchers. Usually it’s the first floor of the building. A couple of popular arcades we have played in are the Taito Game Station and Sega’s arcades. Most machines cost around 100 to 200 yen to play, and if you buy more games at once it can sometimes be cheaper.One great thing when you do win your prize is that the staff will usually see you win it and come over and congratulate you and give you a plastic bag to carry your prize away, which is great service.
Playing in Japan
The machines in Japan really do take it to the next level. Of course, you can find the normal claw machines there as well, but they have developed other ways to play, which requires a lot more skill to it, and a lot of the machines only have two claws to the pick up the prize with. There are a couple of different setups of UFO catchers. Of course the basic pick up and drop, but they also have other setups.
One being where the machines has got the prize laying across two metal bars with a gap big enough to pick up the prize and drop it between them. But that would be to easy. Yes, the gap is big enough, but you can’t just pick it up and drop, because mostly of weak claws due to settings. Also the way the staff place the prizes, laying them over the two metal bars and the bars are covered in rubber, which makes it even harder to just push and slide. The main trick is to ether pick it up one end and drop, and do so on and so on until it tips though between the bars.
The next setup is where the prize is hanging on underneath a little piece of plastic, which is balancing on a little rubber ball. At first it seems easy, but then you learn that the plastic rubbing on the rubber ball is a real pain. It can be done, but you have to move the piece of plastic from side to side until the plastic and the prize finally falls from the ball.
The final setup is were the prize has a sort of a plastic ring stuck to the box of the prize. What I found was a good way to win at these sort of UFO catchers is to hook and try to lift it, which can be possible. Another technique is to bring one of the claws to side of plastic hole, so you use the power of the claw closing to drag the prize closer to the hole, which is a good way of winning at this sort of UFO catcher.
My last tip is, if you find one prize you just can’t win but really want (mine was a Super Sonico figurine) is to look around the shops in Akihabara, because there is a chance you find it for sale. They might have one or two available, since they’re not really made for retail. I’m guessing someone has won it and sold it on to the shop and then the shop sells it on – which was great for me, who really wanted it.
It is great fun playing the machines so I really recommend playing them at least once while in Japan.
Check out Taito Game Station homepage to find your closest arcade hall while in Japan: http://www.taito.com/gc