Arcades: entertainment or unfair?

By Davey Burgess

People have been trying to win valuable prizes, like a PS4 or iPhone, from prize dispensing arcade games for years, but is something in those games preventing them from winning the prizes, or is it just skill? Are redemption arcade games and claw machines for entertainment, or just a waste of quarters? 

According to an operator’s manual found for the redemption game named “Cyclone,”  it was discovered that the operators of games that have prizes such as “Stacker,” “Key Master,” “Cyclone,” and “Claw Machine” can set the winning rate to the point where it seems almost impossible to win big prizes or jackpots. DIP switches determine how many lives a player has, like on an amusement arcade game. They also determine how many plays are required to win prizes. The DIP switches are located in the game’s circuit board, and the game’s manual explains what they do.

Another way operators rig a redemption game is through service mode, which not only tests the game but also changes its settings, including the winning rate. The way the winning rate is set is very similar to slot machines, as many players think they are close to a jackpot, but if the certain amount of dollars, coins or the amount of times the game is played have not been reached, the players are not really close at all. The same applies for claw machines. Operators can weaken the claw, so the player can’t grab the prize until the machine’s winning rate or payout has been reached.

The winning rate is very similar to gambling. These arcade and claw machines are targeted at younger audiences, but anyone can play them. On the outside, it may seem like it’s easy to win. On the inside, however, it appears the winning rate system determines whether the game decides the player wins or not. Once a ticket jackpot or a big prize has been won, the claw or arcade machine goes back to being rigged, meaning it’s impossible to win again until the amount paid has been reached.

Vintage arcade machines like “Galaga” and “Pac-Man” don’t usually dispense prizes or tickets, and there are some modern arcade machines too, like racing games, that don’t dispense prizes or tickets. These types of games are usually not rigged, along with pinball machines, and are known as amusement arcade games. Amusement arcade machines are for entertainment, and not for giving out prizes or tickets.

Some redemption games, like “Fish Bowl Frenzy,” aren’t rigged. Some of them are more of a skill game, as players drop the ball and see where it lands. So not all redemption games are rigged, and some are wheel based, like “Big Bass Wheel,” where players spin the wheel and hope to land on the jackpot. It’s a matter of chance in redemption games regardless, as it all depends on the winning rate and luck.

In order to stop wasting quarters on rigged arcade machines, try going for amusement only arcade machines and pinball machines, as there could be a chance players may never know if they will win or not on a claw machine or a redemption machine. Try playing another amusement only game like “Skeeball,” where players roll a ball into one of the holes to score points. After all, why waste quarters on a prize or ticket dispensing game that isn’t going to let the player win until it wants to? Why not try to buy the prize yourself?