The dark secret of arcade crane games: 17 times out of 18, you will lose

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Looking to bone up on your arcade crane game strategy? (You know the game I'm talking about — the one with the claw and the plush toys crammed all up inside it.) Well, we've got some sad news. It turns out strategy, at least when it comes to crane games, probably isn't as important as you think. Why? Because they're freaking rigged.

Another childhood pastime ruined.

Over on Quora, video game programmer Zack Baker claims that "most crane games are designed so the claw is randomly (and only once in many games) strong enough to let players win."


"Some even weaken in strength after a short time so players get close to victory only to see it slip from their grasp," he explains.

You hear that, people? Perfidy! Perfidy at the arcade! I had trouble coming to grips with Baker's claim at first, but, as he points out, the manuals for many crane games (and a variety of other "skill games") are actually available online, so this is easily verified.


Exhibit A: The manual for the Captain Claw Crane Game, pictured here, wherein it is clearly shown that the default setting is for the claw to be strong enough for plushie-grabbing only once every 18 games. Kinder crane-machine owners can program the machine so that your chances of operating a strong claw are one in three. Soulless, dream-depriving crane machine owners, on the other hand, can program the device so it's only strong enough once every fifty-four games.


Exhibit B: The manual for Panda Vending's Treasure Centers, which can be programmed to switch from "strong claw" mode to "weak claw" mode anywhere from 2—9 seconds after grabbing.

Is nothing sacred?

[Spotted on Quora]

Top image via Shutterstock