Behind the Glitz and Glamour: The Allure and Strategy of Japanese Arcades

Japan is filled with a seemingly endless amount of arcades. You can find them in most of the big cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. But you will find plenty in lesser known places across Japan like Hokkaido and Saitama. Arcades are the embodiment of the thought “I’m not going to win, but I will still try’’. This thought has crossed many heads in all of Japan because hey, why not try to win a relatively cool figure for 100 yen. This thought is where it all goes wrong. I have seen friends that told me ‘’1 try won’t hurt’’ and they ended up going to the ATM to get 5000 yen 3 times in 1 evening (*editor nervously sweats*).

Why even go to an arcade?

Arcades make the most money on people who walk in there to ‘’just take a quick look’’, these people switch from just looking to desperately running to the ATM to get cash within the timespan of 10 minutes. I can not say that I have not fallen victim to this disaster and I have spent a good amount of money on figures I did not want to get in the first place.

The thing about these stores is that they give you the idea that you can win, they do this by positioning the figures and other prices in such a way that they seem to fall over from just looking at them. But do not be deceived, this is all but a false truth and this is where they lure you into spending your weekly allowance in one go on things you didn’t even want in the first place.

Can you even win?

There is a long version and a short version to answer that question. The short version is: yes, but occasionally. The long version is: yes, but you have to know when to ask, when to see things through and when to give up. The truth is that you will get ‘lucky’ every once in a while and win a figure within a couple of tries, but this is highly unlikely. You need to be able to know when it is worth it and not, this is a very thin line and easy to overlook.

How does the arcade make so much money?

A lot of money comes from people who went in with the thought of just looking around, they are usually the ones who spend all of their cash on 1 figure. But the arcade also makes a lot of money from tourists who think they have the skills to succeed. The tourists usually walk around and say to each other: ‘one try won’t hurt’, next thing you know is that they emptied their wallet to win that 1 plushy that is worth 400 yen online.

The thought that you might have a chance to win something is equivalent to thinking this game of roulette seems like a safe investment. This is something we see in all kinds of everyday scenarios, from the casino to lottery tickets and even the fair. There is a certain part in the brain that gets triggered when you see a 400 yen plushy get grabbed and fall again to end up in the same position as before, and it is addictive.

My experience(s)

Yes, I do have one too many experiences within the arcade and most of them involve losing money and my hopes of winning something. But sometimes when the stars align you can get gifted by the crane game gods. In Osaka I tried a crane game and won it in one go. Yes, you read that right: I won it by spending 100 yen. This was a pretty exciting experience as you can imagine. I won a Jojo figure of a stand named ‘Stone Free’ that is worth around 3000 yen. Of course I’m not selling mine because it is a good memory but I could if I wanted. Of course I did disgrace myself the next day by losing an absorbent amount of money due to my new found confidence but hey, you win some and you lose some.

Tips on how to win:

There are certain tactics that you can use to win your beloved prize faster and for a cheaper price, there is nothing wrong with asking for help and the staff won’t laugh at you so don’t worry.

The first tips are things you can do on your own.

  1. Walk around the crane game to see the exact position of the prize. This might come in handy when you need to decide where to move the grappler to since this gives you a 3-D look instead of a 2-D look.
  1. Watch the pro’s. You can watch others to see what they are doing. All you have to do is either wait until they give up and pick up where they left off. Or you straight up copy their tactics when they win something.
  1. Ask a staff member to reposition the prize. This is the best tactic to win a prize since it is free.

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