The Wonders of UFO Catchers!

Hello everyone and welcome to Tiro Finale for a bit of self contemplation! Today, we will be talking about the wonders of the mysterious and difficult yet endearingly charming wonders of the UFO catchers. If you have ever visited arcades of any sorts before, you would most certainly be accustomed to what I am talking about. These game machines are as old as game arcades are by now and have been featured in countless mass media production, most prominently Toy Story. 

Normal sized Nesoberi not you thing? Go for the Jumbo sized ones then!
Over the years since the peak of its popularity in the early 90s, both UFO Catchers and the game arcades that they are found in have seen a steady decline in popularity. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a game arcade in the city anymore much less a UFO Catcher. Even if you do find a UFO Catcher in your local arcade, it usually has little more than cheap, outdated prizes that no one is interested in getting. As such, it is not hard to understand why UFO Catchers are slowly becoming obsolete in most parts of the world. Everywhere around the globe except for one country, Japan. 

Everything from figures to plush toys can be won from UFO Catcher machines. Some are incredibly difficult such as this Megumin one with its humongous box.
Unlike the others, the citizens of Japan still have an avid love for the UFO Catcher machines and, by extension, game arcades as a whole. A quick to any of Tokyo's central districts and you are bound to stumble upon a multi-floored arcade machine filled with customers.Names like Taito's Game Station and Club Sega are hard to miss with their large signs, bright colors and welcoming interior. More often than not, these arcades would be split into two distinct sections; the games and the prize section.

Tanya despises you so much she would not even look at you!
Prize sections are where you would find the bulk of the UFO Catcher machines which house within its large transparent window the prizes within. These prizes can be anything from the typical plush toys or prize figures to the more eccentric candies and electronics. A whole host of other miscellaneous prizes such as clocks, tapestries and towels are also available. Regardless of the type of prize there is always one constant, there is nothing old. Everything is up to date with the latest releases meaning arcades are often the first place you can hope on getting your hands on that new Nesoberi. Of course, the further out of the city you are, the older the releases but, it is never more than a few month off.

All the Tanya(s)!
More than just the prizes within it, there is also the reason for where the machine gets its name, UFO Catcher, from. Traditionally, UFO Catchers are named as such because the player will position a two/three-pronged arm to pick up the desired prize, drop it into the open hole and collect their prize. Now, this is where the Japanese have developed their UFO Catcher system to an absolute science. More than just the traditional pick and drop, there are now a host of other popular styles which involve pushing, pulling, tilting and rotating your prize to fit into a gap large enough to fall into. If that sounds complicated, that is because it is. 

Some UFO Catchers, such as this one in Nakano Broadway, have sale machines which are only 25 Yen per play.
If you remember UFO Catcher machines to be diabolically difficult then, nothing much has changed. On top of consuming your hard earned currency every time you make a move, modern UFO Catchers often require a great deal of strategics and forward thinking with each move inching ever so slowly to your final goal. That is right, do not expect to win in one go. Rather, the key to any successful UFO Catcher is slow and steady progression. If all else fails and you have sunk a considerable amount of money into one particular game, the arcade attendants are always kind enough to lend you a helping hand usually by giving tops on winning or re-positioning the prize to an appropriate angle (sometimes moving it rather significantly!). After all, the arcade is a place you are supposed to be happy and have fun. At least, that is the impression they want you to leave with.

Yes, the sight of multiple of your favorite prizes placed together may sometimes drive one to do irrational things.
Despite all that, why do people keep returning to UFO Catchers? These incredibly difficult claw machines are little more than money vacuums which take your cash and give nothing in return. Yet, it is human psychology to keep coming back to conquer the machine as the feeling of victory is one unlike any other. Japan knows this and has gotten their UFO Catchers down to a science. With the incredibly bright booths, an abundance of stock laid out and cheerful music being played in the background, it all adds to give positive vibes. Then, there are the finer things such as mirrors placed within the machine (to help reflect light and give players better positional awareness), the complete lack of dark colors and a wealth of paying options (pay cards are even accepted these days). In other words, these UFO Catchers absolutely play towards positive psychology.

Tanya is free!
Seasoned collectors would tell you that whatever you are looking for in UFO Catchers can be easily found in nearby hobby stores and often at a lower price that what you are realistically going to need to spend at the machine. Yet we keep coming back, thinking that we will finally be able to beat the system. That today is finally the day where the crane arms will be in your favor. Sounds familiar? That is right, this is gambling.

On the bright side, if you have any additional credit, you may then transfer it to another machine. And continue the cycle of despair once more!
There may be days where you will indeed "win", getting the prize for a minimal sum of investment. But, more often than not, the opposite is true where you would spend far too much on far too little. Just like a casino, the house always wins and, in Japan, that house knows how to keep you coming back for more. Because more than anything, what you are often chasing for is not the prize within but of beating the system. 

With that, we come to the end of our little deciphering analysis of the wonders of UFO Catchers. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section below. I would love to hear what you think of these arcade prize machines too. Until then, thank you so much for reading and have yourself a wonderful day ahead!


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