Hello everyone, not much has been going on with me so it’s time for another info post! Today I am going to be talking about UFO catchers – and as the title says, the games, not the guys who seek to catch Extra-Terrestrial beings. UFO catchers are very popular in Japan just like the Gachapon machines, and they are even more popular with foreigners because of the high quality and branded merchandise available as prizes, which can be very expensive to purchase out-of-country.
In the UK, these machines are known as ‘Claw’ or ‘Crane’ machines and are commonly found in supermarkets, amusement centres (arcades), cinemas, bowling alleys and family restaurants; the best place to find them in the UK is by the coast (seaside/beach areas) where the arcades are found (there are not many arcades around except for gambling ones). There you can find rows of different Claw machines that hold prizes of various quality, but are usually a cheap, unbranded variety; the better quality prizes are usually more recognisable characters such as The Simpsons, Scooby-Doo, Angry Birds, Hello Kitty, Peppa Pig, Winnie the Pooh, and sometimes if you’re lucky, a wider range of Disney or Nintendo characters. They can cost up to £1.00 for 5 go’s or 20p a turn, depending on the quality of the prize it may cost more; the claws vary in size depending on the size of the prize, and can range from small toys and currency (such as £10.00-£50.00), to medium and large plush toys.
Most of the time the prize is of a cheap, poorly made quality with little or no resemblance to known characters (obvious fakes); they are extremely hard to win from as prizes can be tied down or the claw is programmed to have poor strength, with every number of plays resulting in one lucky tight grasp. Unfortunately it is one of the reasons why I do not waste my money on these machines because the chances of you winning anything of decent quality is extremely slim; however saying that, Pixie did manage to win me an official Disney Nala plush from Blackpool so there must be some decent machines up there.
The Claw machines in Japan however, are known as UFO Catchers and hold much higher quality prizes; their prizes are extremely popular to foreign tourists who are known to purchase the merchandise online for a much higher price. The majority of UFO Catcher prizes are branded products that are common in Japan such as Hello Kitty, whereas the prizes from the UK are mostly unbranded as mentioned above; it would be like the majority of Western Claw machines holding top quality Disney Store plushes!!
The works are pretty much the same, although I have seen some different game types such as the hook/single finger, pincher and nails vs. paper. With a price roughly the same as the Gachapon machines (between ¥100-500), it’s just up to you to try and secure yourself an awesome prize! If you are a fan of Japanese Pop Culture, Anime or anything kawaii, then you may recognise some of these popular UFO Catcher prizes!! If you are after any of these brands and are hoping to go to Japan like me, then you might want to save your money from online shopping or conventions, and have a go at trying to win one from the UFO Catchers!!
And so many more!! Quite often when I read other posts from those who have visited Japan, there will always be something that they got from a UFO catcher; you would be one of the extremely lucky ones if you were to walk away from a UK Claw machine with a prize! So now that you guys are all aware of what a UFO machine is, and the differences between Japanese and UK machines, let me share with you some researched tricks (for the Japanese UFO machines) to get the most out of your plays!
- Go to the larger game centres – Larger game centres with big names are more trustworthy than the smaller, stricter, money-grabbing independent game centres; the reason being is that they are big for a reason, they have a much higher revenue. How does that affect you? Simply because they can afford to let you win. Quite often the machines out front will be easier to win from because they want to make you think that all the machines are fairly easy to win from; it will draw you inside when you think that your chances of winning prizes are high, especially when you see other people coming out with prizes. This is a win-win for them because they are self-advertising themselves with those that leave with many wins, drawing more people in and spending more money because of the easier wins. Even though their stock depletes a little faster, they are earning far more from the vast amount of customers willing to pay more on a number of machines – and you get to leave with several Hello Kitty and Rilakkuma dolls with the hunger of winning satisfied.
- Pick the right toy – This is incredibly important if you wish to win! There will always be at least one toy in a favourable position, so pick wisely! Again this is to make the win easier and increase enjoyment; these game centres want you to come back, and more importantly want you to spread the word about how much you won and how much fun you had. I’ve read that some staff members (especially in the larger centres) even give you tips on how to win! You want to pick the toy closest to the chute that is not being restrained in any way (squished or packed), there will always be one put in this position on purpose!
- Don’t rely on luck – You get a claw and you are expected to try and win a prize, what do you do? Most people (especially those who don’t play often) will attempt to grab the prize with the claw, but like the UK claw machines, the claw strength is incredibly weak and some work on the basis of how many times they have been played; the claws themselves are programmed to be like this, so you’ll be a lucky person if you manage to win a prize by actually picking it up with the claw. Best bet is to go straight in with the strategy of pushing/dragging/using gravity to make the prize fall into the chute; team this with picking the correct toy and you’re sure to win!
- Think about your location – Even though you are looking for larger, trust-worthy game centres, be wise about where they are located. If you are hoping to go to Akihabara and win a large amount, then you will be severely disappointed. This is the Geek district for Otaku, the prizes will usually be new and limited-edition items that will become collectable and valuable after their time as a UFO prize runs to an end; fanatics flock here to test their skills in the hopes of getting their hands on these prizes, therefore the machines will be of a much harder level. Unless you are after a specific prize or collector’s item, look elsewhere for your Gloomy Bear plush.
- Ask for a reset – Unless you approach a machine that looks like it has a winnable target, ask a member of staff for the machine to be reset (especially if you have just seen someone win from it); following the idea that they want you to win and have fun for their reputation, most will be willing to put the toy in a favourable position for you – some may even ask what toy you want or make it easier for you!! I read that if you are a girl, find a male employee and ask sweetly, but if you are a guy then find a female employee and act like it is a must that you win this toy for your girlfriend/sister/mother; act vulnerable and play on their softer side. As Tokyo Desu says – “Ask as cutely and helplessly as possible. Be nice. Smile. Be winning. Be shameless. Remember, the goal is the toy. Nothing is too low in the pursuit of that goal.”
- If you are foreign looking, you are a tourist – This is a good thing because those lovely staff members want you to have a good time, return to your country happy and spread the word about how great Japan is, but more importantly what a great time you had at their game centre.
- Time your visit wisely – According to Tokyo Desu, if you time your visit to be during off-peak times then you’ll have a better chance of winning and sometimes for a lower price! Off-peak times would be before school has finished, when everyone is at work or later in the evening when the majority of young people have gone home; with more people visiting during the ‘rush hour’ times, they will want people to try harder and spend a little more for a prize but some places are willing to put their prices down and make prizes easier to win during the times of the day that are less busy!
So these are the main tips that I researched (mostly from Tokyo Desu here – http://tokyodesu.com/2013/03/14/10-tips-for-sticking-it-to-the-man-and-winning-on-ufo-catchers/ – thank you!!!) I will definitely be using these tricks when I visit Japan and have a go myself!! Check out Tokyo Desu’s blog for more information on Japan, direct from the source!!
I’ve also noticed that looking at the pictures of Japanese UFO Catchers, the barrier stopping the prizes falling into the chute is relatively small, just enough so that they don’t fall in; the ones on the UK Claw machines however are much, much higher, risking any prize you do manage to grab to bump into it and possibly be dropped.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Japanese UFO Catchers with me! I find it really fun to research these things; I know some people might not understand why I write posts like these, but tbh I’ve had an interest in Japan for most of my life and thanks to getting more involved I’ve learnt so much! This time last year I had no idea what a UFO Catcher or a Gachapon was, I kept reading it on blogs and thinking ‘wtf is a UFO machine?’ I hope to continue making these informative blog posts (probably on South Korea and Japan) so that others who stumble onto my posts may learn something new, especially those who are new to sharing my interests!
When I first did anything remotely Japanese (see KPP live), I felt so out of place just because I didn’t know any Japanese or much general knowledge of Japan, so I hope those of you who are new to the interest of Japan can read my posts and feel at ease that there is someone out there who remembers what it is like to be new to a ‘community’ (I guess I can say that since so many people are interested in Japan/Lolita/Anime etc.) and is willing to research in-depth information to help others learn!! If you want to find more of my Japan-related posts, scroll down to my Category list at the bottom and click ‘Japan ♥’! Bye for now~♥