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Sega app lets you play a real claw game in Japan remotely, win prizes

Witness the crane’s ultra-feeble grasp in real time, from your phone

A claw game in Japan from Sega Photo: Sega
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

If you’ve ever wanted to play a claw machine (aka UFO Catcher) in Japan from the comfort of your home in North America, and have the prizes shipped straight to your door, has Sega got the app for you. Seriously.

Sega Catcher Online, a freemium title for iOS and Android mobile devices, launched in the U.S. today. And it’s exactly as advertised, too: Players trying for one of dozens of prizes are taken to a video feed of a UFO Catcher machine, somewhere in Japan, evidently. Players can manipulate a claw (two movements, forward and then left or right) that tries to snag a plushie (or a token representing another prize) from the pile. Prizes won in game are delivered to the player’s door, free of charge.

full screenshot of Sega Catcher Online, showing a compartment full of Kirby plushies and a rather ineffectual crane claw overhead
Dammit! Grab the thing, you stupid robot, don’t fondle it!
Image: Polygon screenshot via Sega

Sega Catcher Online debuted in Japan three years ago; a version of the game launched in the U.S. on Windows PC and Mac back in December. When we logged into the game, we saw an array of towels, pillows, plushies, and other collectibles with anime characters printed on them. Apparently this stuff actually comes from Japan, too, as Sega says U.S. players will wait about a week to get their loot.

They get one delivery per week, free; more frequent deliveries can be bought with an in-game currency, which also buys trips to one of the claw machines. (There is a free practice machine for folks who need to get the timing of the controls down.)

As for what a spin on one of the machines costs, they run between 100 and 200 Sega Points, and 130 of them run $1.99 (with larger amounts available at discounts). But players are also awarded free currency for things like logging in regularly, linking their phone, and other engagement-type tasks.