5 Steps to win Claw Machines


The science behind the claw!

De-Engineered by B.Kanesh

Exchanged for A larger line bear at Play United SG

Claw machines are interesting pieces of entertainment equipment that contain prizes, usually plush toys or alternatives such as toys, shirts, figures, candy and electronics. The difficulty of the game depends on the value of the prize. In simple terms the higher the value the more difficult it becomes. This guide is not written against any entity or against claw machine owners. The concept is pretty close to gambling because the machine can be controlled to offer calculated payouts based on probability and budget. Simply said, the claw is only to give you your prize if you or someone else have fully paid for it.

However, to clarify all the myths and legends, I started to test this skill/luck-based game on my own to understand the dynamics. I played for about 3 months to truly understand the gameplay, since December 2019 until I managed to get this line friends bear above. Since, I have donated, gifted and shared many of the toys I have won to others to enlighten their day! So its all about having fun!

The gameplay requires the user to insert a particular value of coins/credits and allows the player to control the mechanical claw for a variable amount of time and the user has to trigger the button to activate the movement of the claw. The claw then attempts to grip the item, move over to an opening of the machine that gives you access to the dropped contents. The control mechanics differ from machine to machine and we will discuss some of the common types in this article.

Note the Gameplay Phases, so that you can follow the article easily

  • Preplay (The time before you attempt the machine)
  • Gameplay ( During the time of the 30s countdown)
  • Transversing Claw Movement (The movement of the claw across the machine in X-Y Direction)
  • Claw Drop ( Movement of the claw in Z direction downwards)
  • Claw Pickup (Movement of the claw in the Z direction Upwards)
  • Claw Shake (Momentum induced into the claw)

How Rigged are claw machines?

Yes, claw machines are rigged so that it can profit the owners. Ok the right word should be programmed. The machine is simply programmed to offer full strength grab only occasionally. Sometimes it can be very predictable. Some shops in Singapore, are programmed to offer a playout every 3-4 coins. Which is pretty decent putting the toy at about 3-5 dollars. They are offering entertainment in exchange for money. Guess its a fair trade.

The machines are also programmed based on the value of the prize. If you are trying for higher valued prizes, then you might end up paying more before you end up with a strong enough grab. But note, your strong grab must also be perfectly positioned. I normally watch the claw machines right after they offered a payout, in exactly 3-4 tries, the claw has a stronger grip. This leads to my first step. The preplay.

That’s 10 dollars worth of coins.

Now let’s discuss the two types of programming commonly used for claw machines. Feel free to jump directly to the 5 steps if you don’t want to read all the technicalities.

Manual Strength Programming – operator to set the strength of the claw for manual percentage. Available claw strengths are 40— 99 with 99 = 100% claw strength. NOTE: When in this mode, the claw will open and close with the strength set in this mode. The operator will be able to feel each strength setting to determine which best suits their needs. When the correct strength setting is determined, the operator can just move to the next option, and the manual strength option is set.

Skill Leveling Programming (Common) – This option allows the operator to set the claw strength for the skill levelling mode. Available claw strengths are 40—99 = 100% claw strength. NOTE: When in the auto skill levelling mode, the claw will, at bottoming, close with 100% strength and will then be backed off to the number set in this mode. i.e. With this mode set to 75, the claw will, at bottoming, close with 100% strength then back off to 75. NOTE: The claw will open and close allowing the operator to feel each strength setting to determine which best suits their needs. When the correct setting is determined, the operator can just move to the next option and the skill levelling option is set.

Calculations – Here are the common calculations used by the claw machine owners to run their games. These are great for maths questions in exams and for kids to learn their math while they play! If you’re a parent, you can always tinkle your kid’s mind. Wait, maybe even tinkle your own!

Calculation 1 :

  • 1) 100 * (Game cost) = A (# of dollars received for 100 games)
  • 2) A * (Desired payout %) = B (# of dollars worth of plush that should be dispensed in 100 games)
  • 3) B / (Cost of plush) = C (# of pieces of plush that should be dispensed in 100 games)
  • 4) 100 / C = Y (Proper plush dispensing intervals)

Calculation 1 Example :

  • 1) 100 * ($0.50) = $50
  • 2) $50 * (.33) = $16.5 worth of plush in 100 games to give a 33% payout
  • 3) $16.5 / ($2.00) = 8.25 pieces of plush per 100 games to give a 33% payout
  • 4) 100 / (8.25) = 12.12 round off to 12.

Calculation 2:

  • 1) (Plush Cost) / (Game Cost) = X (# of games required to pay for one piece of plush)
  • 2) (X) / (Desired Payout %) = Y (Proper plush dispensing interval)

Calculation 2 Example:

  • 1) $2.00 / ($0.50) = 4
  • 2) (4) / (.33) = 12.12 round off to 12

NOTE: This means that for approximately every 12th game played, 1 piece of plush should be won.

Are there Hacks for claw machines?

Not really, claw machines do have maintenance modes. However, they are designed in such a manner than it only operates in such a mode when the door is opened fully. All the “hack” youtube videos are just fraudulent.

Winning in 5 Steps…

Step 1: Preplay

Step 1: Always watch the gameplay of the machine by others before you. The game is pretty much passing the baton on from the previous player. Sometimes you may not have the luxury of doing so. But ultimately during the Preplay phase, it is most important to understand the claw strength and claw setup.

Walk around the arcade and watch people play so you can relate to a few pointers that you will read up here. By watching people play, you can also gauge the machine claw strengths over time. Generally, one or two machines offer better payout rates than others. Also, identify the type of game modes set for each machine. This section helps you understand the machine well so you can get a better payout.

Types of game modes set into a machine. Note that nudge means the claw drops in increments as you press the drop button.

Mode 1: Left, Right, Forward, Backward, Nudge (SUPER RARE)

Mode 2: Left, Right, Forward, Backward, Drop (COMMON)

Mode 3: Right, Forward, Nudge (SUPER RARE)

Mode 4 : Right, Forward, Drop (VERY COMMON)

Mode 5: Single, Move Drop (RARE) , Normally specially setup games

This machine was at Bugis Plus, as you can see, this machine has a unique game setup. All you have to do is knock the doll into the prize chute. Therefore, the claw will move into a preset position before you can start playing. You have to swing the claw such that when it reaches the toy, it would just flick it into the bin. You also have the option of picking up the toy that is holding it, and push it over.

The claw setup involves 5 things. Size, Strength, functions, Attachments and type of Prize.

Diagram of Claw Mechanism

The curvature of the claw prongs also offers different advantages. The more curved the prong, the more mechanical advantage you have. Normally these are changed depending on the type of prize.

The size of the claw simply is an obvious guess. If the claw is too big or small for the prize you intend to capture, it just won’t work. In many cases, this is done at some shops where the operator does it on purpose. If you have a larger claw and smaller prizes, you need to make use of the added functions in the machine.

The strength of the claw differs each time. As mentioned previously it differs from time to time. However, there’s an additional golden rule to it. The claw has to be closed equally at all times. if any of the claw prongs does not close, the claw does not magnetise to offer you strength. With already a probability added to the number of times you get added strength, you want to make sure you always magnetise your claws fully.

The functions include something called double clamp technique. It’s used when the claw is very large for the toy. Or to get a more accurate clamp on the toy. The double clamp is the second time you press after you press the claw drop button. When the claw is descending, you can tap the same button again to activate the claw to close early to grab the prize exactly at the point you want.

Rotate Function – Use it to your advantage. In most cases, the claw prongs actually rotate as they descend. Sometimes you have to shake the claw the re-position it such that when it reaches the bottom, the prongs exactly grip the part of the prize that is needed. Sometimes one of the prongs gets hit by an odd-shaped prize, and you will never achieve closing the all the prongs equally to magnetize.

The attachments differ from machine to machine depending on the type of toys. For three-prong claw games, you will rubber/plastic grip attachments. NOTE: Never play on a machine with just 2 grips on a 3 prong claw. Its meant so that its harder to catch your item. There must be always grips for prizes such as boxes etc.

Note: Ensure there are all three plastic grips before you play. Some machines have 2 out of 3 grips, which technically means your chances of winning are slim.

The type of prize is a very important factor. Furry toys and scaley toys are harder to catch then general soft toys. Boxes require more accuracy and techniques. Boxes need necessary grips to play so don’t waste your money on the wrong machine.

The furry Pikachu (Yellow) you see here is more tricky than the latex plush(black) you see.

Step 2: Prize Placement

The placement of the prize is about 50 percent of the game. Because identifying the placement offers you an additional advantage over other players.

A common man will see only see the prize. A winner only sees the winning prize. – Claw Shifu

Let’s identify the common placements.

1.The High roller – The high roller is technical prizes stacked up high and they offer an advantage of rolling down into your prize chute. Sometimes you only need to slightly toss it in order to retrieve the prize.

The high roller is another to look out for, because you may force the prize to tumble down the mountain of other toys.

2. The Cliff Hanger – The cliff hanger are prizes ride beside the prize chute and are waiting to be pushed over. Now, this can also be setup. Always lookout if part of the toy is stuck to something else. The toy may look like it’s going to make it, but one part of it may be severely stuck. Many people fall for this trick. Cliff hangers require an additional momentum technique to help pull them out of the position.

The prizes are sticking out into the prize chute and can be won using the sinking pit technique.

3. The Open Swimmer – These prizes are left right in the middle of the pile, open and easily clawed. However, sometimes its recommended to use the momentum technique to win the prize even without the claw strength. Open swimmers are the most basic and straightforward gameplay. They offer an equal chance of winning or losing. As long as the claw is able to bring the toy up, there’s a good chance you could use it to your favour. If your claw barely picks up the toy. Run!

The open swimmer has a toy left undisturbed by anything else, and perfectly positioned for the claw prongs to close equally.

Be also warned that these machines are meant to trick you. Anything that looks easy to get, has a higher chance it is more rigged than normal. It’s a psychological invitation to make people think they have a chance.

4. The Stuck Spider (Do not play) The Stuck spider are prizes randomly placed interlocking each other in some way. It also might be that one leg, one hand or some part of the prize is caught or held down by another prize ontop. Sometimes one part of the prize is squeezed to the size of the prize chute while the rest looks like they are falling over. In actual case, the claw will never have enough strength to bring them out of their positions. If you barely moved on your first try, don’t bother on the second.

The toy looks like it will easily make it, however, 4 other contact points reduce your chance of winning if one of the contact points stop your toy from being pulled up.

Step 3 : The Momentum Techqiue (Claw Shake)

The momentum technique is one common method used to move your prizes into the chute or position them for a win. In both cases, the idea is to move your prize to your advantage. This is possible even if your claw is weak and counting down to your strong grip. The technique takes time to perfect and master and might lose you some cash in the beginning.

The momentum technique is simply using your joystick to swing the claw. Now many would just let their claw swing crazy with no plan or whatsoever. Hoping something magical happens. However, you are expected to have the claw swing while it descends upon a toy. The swing should end with the toy being caught and pulled into the chute. If you swing too hard, you will lose accuracy. You swing too soft, you will lose the momentum on the toy.

The momentum Technique Illustrated

Step 4 : The Lever Technique

The lever technique is another common technique that can be used if your prize is heavy on one side. For example, your toy may have a large head and a really small body. Your claw should concentrate more on the heavier part of the toy. Sometimes this method should be tagged along with the momentum technique.

The lever Technique Illustrated

Step 5: The Sinking Pit Technique

When the prize is sticking out right at the corner of the prize chut, sometimes you can take advantage of the claw that can descend down the chute all the way. The claw is able to move down really low and while it does, it brings along anything that is in its way. But of course, be prepared for a miss as the claw prongs rotate. So you must have played 1-2 times to understand how fast the claw rotates. This will allow you to shake and claw and preposition the prongs.

The Sinking Pit Technique Illustrated

The online claw game

I will do another article soon on this! Follow us on Facebook for more updates.

Have Fun Clawing!

I will continue to update this article with more physics, science, math and engineering of the gameplay. Also will update with more photos to help you. But I think that’s all for now! Thank you for reading. Shoot me if you have any questions at adlabssg@gmail.com !

Go Big or Go Home, It is recommended that if you decided to play, it is more worth it to get the bulk coin deals offered by stores. This play was about 70 Coins for $50.
Some shops allow you to convert your catches for bigger plush. Make sure you check with them before you start playing. They normally have a point system in place. Play United has an app that you can download on Andriod/ios.

Here’s a great place to enjoy and test your skills by playing claw in Singapore! Currently at the following locations, Kinex mall , Hougang Mall ,Boon lay shopping centre , Yew Tee Point and Tiong Bahru. 

Author: adlabs2

Arrowdynamic Laboratories Pte. Ltd. (ADLABS) was founded in 2008 anticipating imminent technological pervasion. ADLABS operates with two wings, Education and Engineering. Education involves the development of skills training programs and STEM-based enrichment programs for everyone. The engineering wing conducts research and development activities on new prototypes with potential to form into a new branch startup. Our engineering team also offers specialised services for startups, companies and institutions.