Claw Vending Machine

A claw vending machine or toy crane machine is a type of arcade game in the form of a vending machine. They are popular in video arcades (including dedicated claw vending machine arcades), supermarkets, restaurants, movie theaters, and other venues.

A claw vending machine consists of prizes, usually plush toys such as teddy bears, inside a cage made of glass or plexiglas with a claw or crane attached to the ceiling of the cage. The player puts coins into the machine, which then allows the player to manipulate a joystick that controls the claw for a short period of time, usually 15 or 30 seconds (in rare instances, a claw vending machine might offer a full minute of time). The player is able to move the claw back, forth and sideways, but not up or down.

At the end of that time (or earlier if the player presses a trigger button on the joystick), the claw drops down and makes a gripping attempt. Some machines allow the user to move the claw after it has been partially dropped. After making the gripping attempt, the claw then moves over an opening in the corner of the cage and releases its contents. If the player is successful, then the prize the claw is holding is dropped into the opening and dispensed through a chute into a hatch for pickup.

An alternative version of the machine popular in arcades is the "two button" version: one marked with a forward arrow, one with a right arrow. The crane starts near the front, left side of the machine and the user presses first the forward button to move the crane towards the back of the cabinet. Once the button is released the crane stops moving and the button cannot be used again, thus requiring the user to judge depth accurately in one attempt. After this, the right button becomes active in a similar way and as soon as it is released, the crane drops to a certain depth and then raises, closing its claw on the way and returning to the drop hatch in the front left corner. These versions are generally considered to be more difficult.

In general, while getting the claw to pick up a prize is relatively hard, having the claw hold the prize long enough to bring it to the opening is easier. Crane owners can tweak the claw or other settings, or change the prizes, to maintain a fair win ratio; thus, the game can be completely based on skill. The claws are usually engineered to have a low probability of a successful grab for casual players, though skilled players may have a higher probability of success.

As popular as the machines are, they are commonly considered to be rigged in order to prevent easy extraction of the prize. The most frequent criticism is that the claw is too thin or weak to hold a stuffed toy. Sometimes the toys inside the machine are too small to be picked up, or the prizes are jammed in so tightly that it is very difficult to free individual toys and loosening the packed toys will require many attempts,leading to a waste of tokens and/or quarters.

The British show Brainiac showed that inside some machines is a box with two knobs which control grip strength and "pay-out" odds. Every so many turns, the machine will increase the grip strength to the level needed to actually win a prize, although the skill of the operator is still a factor in getting the prize. At other times, it is almost impossible to win due to the setup of the machines. The video can be found on Youtube.

Claw machines in America are found in a lot of popular stores e.g. Fred Meyer, Haggens, Safeway. However, Sugar Loaf is the dominant skill crane provider. Its machines are found most frequently throughout the country.

These machines became popular in the United States in the late 1980s, with a significant presence at Pizza Hut restaurants. Later on, they would spread to other venues. By the early 1990s, the NFL began to advertise their teams with stuffed footballs of each team placed in some of the machines. Soon after, the MLB, NBA, and NHL also joined, although the NBA no longer uses these machines as a means of advertisement.

By the middle 1990s, the machines' popularity had made such establishments as Safeway, Fry's Supermarkets, K-Mart, and Wal-Mart a staple of their locations. Some hotels also acquired them to satisfy their younger guests, as did sports venues that would stuff them with collectibles related to their home teams.

In the 1995 Disney/Pixar computer-animated film "Toy Story", Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody climb into a claw vending machine filled with claw-worshipping aliens.

In 2007, the claw machine became playable over the internet. Visitors to SuperClaw play real-life crane machines, using multiple video feeds and web browser controls to position the claw over a selection of plush prizes.

In East Asia, notably Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, claw vending machines are extremely popular. There are entire video arcades dedicated to hosting these machines.

Japanese claw vending machines are sometimes called UFO catchers, where "UFO" stands for Unidentified Flying Object.

In East Asia, live animals are occasionally the prize in the claw game. In Chinese supermarkets, a live crab or lobster can be won, presumably to be eaten by the winner. In Japan, pet turtles can be won. Of course, these prizes are in addition to the standard teddy bears and toys that are offered by claw games in other parts of the world.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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