It’s been awhile since I’ve written a good article on scams. I used to cover MLM scams all the time, but since now everyone does it, it doesn’t seem like I need to any more. However, I recently read about claw machines being a scam and figured that I need to write about it.
We’ve all been there. Or maybe you’ve just been smart enough to avoid the claw machines in the first place.
I can’t remember ever really playing with one… until recently. When you have a 4 and 5 year old, a fun game to get an awesome toy is a great idea. I give them each one shot at the local arcade and they oh so close every time.
I figured that the claws were rigged to never work. I’ve never seen anyone win. At least I’ve seen people win at carnivals.
What I never knew is that the claw machines are rigged, but they DO work a small fraction of the time. What appears to be a game of skill is actually essentially a slot machine that relies totally on the luck of machine picking you as the winner.
Don’t believe me? Watch the video:
Or if you don’t happen to be a good place to watch a video, you can read the Vox article Claw machines are rigged — here’s why it’s so hard to grab that stuffed animal.
If you are too lazy to do either, I’ll give my short version of the story. Claw machines can by programmed by the operator to throttle the number of times that the claw has any actual gripping strength. There are things like “drop percentages” backed into the machines. So essentially the machine owner can set whatever profit level they want by using the price of the toy, the cost per play, and the percentage of having the claw work properly.
Of course, when Vox reported that these document were available online, BMI Gaming took them down.
I’m curious how this is legal. It seems little different than just a slot machine. Maybe you don’t get money directly, but you get something of value. At least the slot machine doesn’t deceive people into thinking it is a game of skill… it’s pretty obvious that it’s a game of luck, right?
Finally, this scam is often played on children. That’s pretty low. So little Johnny or Jill start a lemonade stand to make a few dollars and then get tricked out of it by a grocery store or restaurant owner? It’s almost literally taking candy from a baby.
Am I making too much of this? Let me know in the comments.
Looking for further reading? Kotaku had a detailed this back in 2012. There’s also some good news as some game companies promised not to rig them any more.
Also, they’ve also been part of the this Quartz obsession