One on One Suites Amusement Complex

Most people are familiar with the infamous arcade game that has a crane machine that lowers a single mechanical claw dangling inside its glass box, which the player controls by a joystick or a pair of buttons in hopes of grabbing a prize. Although it appears quite easy to do, its looks are deceiving. The people who decide to play the game rarely win. You would think that by now most people would already know that UFO catchers are a rip-off, a bygone product of the golden age of video arcade games in the 1980s and 1990s.

Modern Claw Arcade Games

Jump now ahead to the present day. The modern claw machines are now fully computerized and can be remotely programmable by the owner operator, in a way that they will make money, and you will lose money!  The settings and features commonly available and programmable by the owner are:

  • The Claw strength and its aperture. The crane machines can be programmed with a dual strength setting that causes the claw to grip with full strength at first and become loose after a certain amount of time or will be loose a majority of the time, tightening once every so often.
  • The motion speed also can be programmed to move the claw in any direction at varying speeds. For example:  (the claw drops slowly but comes up quickly, or it might move to the right or left faster than it moves forward.
  • Operators can specify the claw’s pick-up strength, how long the claw retains its strength as well as create a delay between pick-up and return.
  • The sophisticated electronics allows the owner to have a predicated payout percentage.  Crane machines equipped with such a setting will cause the claw's grip parameters to be continually adjusted to achieve the pre-set payout percentage.  The payout percentage is usually based on the value of the prizes inside the machine.
  • If the machine dispenses too many prizes in a given time period, the owner can program it for a “Fail limit.”  It the game reaches that limit it will stop accepting coins and declare it is out of order!
  • Free replay is usually granted based on a certain percentage of plays
  • The machine can also be programed for “Instant replay.” This option allows a player to push an Instant replay button at which point the claw automatically moves to where it was last dropped.

Japan and the UFO Catcher

The modern day claw machines, usually referred to in Japan as a UFO catcher, are supposedly randomized, like slot machines. However, understanding how the odds of winning can be stacked against the player could be a turn off for some people. Nevertheless, notably in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, claw vending machines are extremely popular.  When you visit these countries you will find that there are entire video arcades dedicated to hosting UFO catcher machines.

However, succeeding at UFO catchers requires thinking outside the standard idea of how claws are usually meant to function. The key difference is with the Asian arcade machines the actual grip force of the claws in what the Japanese call UFO catchers is incredibly weak. The claws can’t lift the prizes into the air for a number of reasons: prizes are too heavy or oversized, prizes too small, claws that are poorly designed for gripping the prizes’ surfaces, and other programmable factors. Yet despite these disadvantages, it is possible to win and the crane games are very popular. As a result there are a number of different kinds UFO catcher crane games you will encounter in Japan.  You can ask attendants at any of the arcades to “adjust” the prize or ask about strategy. They'll usually tell you whether a prize needs to be lifted, dragged, or pushed which is always helpful.

One on One Suites Amusement Complex

Perhaps one of the most unusual UFO catcher games I saw the last time I was in Japan. I was helping a Japanese company with their customize Salesforce implementation so their CRM could be compatilble with their US sister company. The user interface for the Salesforce CRM application Configuration enables organizations to modify objects, fields, validation rules, workflow, security settings, formulas, etc. to help drive their business growth more efficiently. I was working with a Japanese team to help customize certain applications with attributes that would increase user productivity and improve data quality,as well as automate manual processes. We needed Salesforce to adapt quickly to the company's changing requirements. I had already spent hours looking at the company's objectives and challenges while becoming acquainted with this Japanese counterpart company.

I happened to be staying in a hotel in Osaka near the amazing One on One Suites amusement complex where there is a unique claw vending machine. Customers are able to try for “sweets,” not plush toys or other prizes, from a special crane game case that is kept between 5-8 Celsius – that's between 41-48 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside are individually wrapped goodies, packaged in containers designed to keep their sweet treasure from being damaged as a player attempts to win a delicious confection.  Anyone with a sweet tooth will be tempted to try their hand at winning a freshly baked dessert by using the UFO Catcher.

Let's just say I spent every evening at the One on One Suites amusement complex enjoying some tasty Japanese sweets!