Crane games, UFO catchers, claw machines — whatever you want to call them, they’re notorious for being hard to win. They can be so frustrating that it often feels like they’re rigged, and in the past they actually have been.
But most of the accused riggers were contained to just one unscrupulous arcade, as opposed to a bigger scam… until now.
A $5 million dollar lawsuit has been launched against Sega of America, claiming that the Sega arcade game Key Master is deliberately rigged against users.
Key Master isn’t your typical crane game. Rather, the user maneuvers a large key-shaped arm into a keyhole to “unlock” a prize. If the key fits in the hole, you win, but the key and keyhole are almost identical in size, meaning you have to be super accurate.
▼ Even in this video, where the user wins over 100 prizes, you can hear them claiming it’s rigged.
The lawsuit claims that Key Master is deliberately set so that players cannot win until a certain number of unsuccessful attempts are made first. Machines being set to not pay out until a certain amount of money has been spent is nothing new, but according to the plaintiff, Key Master is advertised purely as a skill game, not a luck game, and they are therefore accusing Sega of deceiving its users.
According to a copy of the Key Master Instruction Manual, machines are installed with a function called Compulsory Upper Deviation, meaning no matter how accurately the player may be moving the key, if the machine is not “ready” to let the user win, the arm will move between 0.4 and 3.6 millimeters up so it doesn’t fit in the hole. The default setting is 700, meaning the machine won’t pay out until there have been 700 failed attempts.
Japanese netizens’ reactions were fairly mixed when the news of Sega’s crane game tactics dropped.
“‘You can’t win until a certain amount of money has been put in the machine’ — is that a secret? I thought everyone knew that.”
“If it’s not skill based, they should say so. Maybe put up a sign, saying ‘You can’t win unless you spend at least $7’ or something.”
“Good. Now they should go after the Japanese crane games next, like the ones where you have to knock your prize off a bridge.”
“I haven’t tried one of those crane games for ages, cause I can just go and buy the prizes they have at stores. Less money wasted, less effort spent.”
It’s the cherry on top of a crappy cake for Sega, who have had a pretty rough year. Here’s hoping this high profile case will prevent other companies from employing similar tactics on their users, so we can play crane games to our hearts content!
Who knows, we might even win something really exciting one day, like dish soap.
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