The claw crane, also known as a UFO catcher, is presumably a reliable moneymaker for owners of coin-operated machines. The rigs taunt players by making it seem as though they’re tantalizingly close to picking up a prize before letting it slip through their grasps. It takes considerable self control to keep from pouring money into the machine until victory is at hand.
A Slate article says the game is generally winnable, although some machines are rigged to only let the claws provide a firm grip once out of every five or 10 plays. Each machine operates on its own wavelength, so if you want to play to win, you should spend some time casing the device, observing how it reacts to a stream of players.
Once you’ve got a read on the hellbeast, have a friend observe and coach you from another side of the machine in order to make sure your claw is properly lined up. The article suggests aiming for the chest. Failing that, you can always use the claw to push prizes out of the reservoir.
If you really want a prize that’s lodged inside a claw crane, you’re best off just buying it at retail. But we all know the appeal of winning at that obnoxious and cruel contest has little to do with the prize itself.
How Do You Win the Claw Game? [Slate]