It’s likely that you have been wronged by a claw machine one too many times and haven’t been able to win that stuffed animal. There is a reason for that to happen.
According to Vox claw machines are rigged in such a way that they don’t grab the toys tightly enough to be able to hold them for a long time. The online magainze even has proof for this claim.
It turns out that the claw is programmed to grab tightly with only one pincer at a time, while the rest are holding a looser grip. The site BMI Gaming even has posted the instructions for programming a claw machine and the claw strenght.
This shows that it is nothing to do with the stuffed animals being packed together way too close. The programming even allows to set up a strong grip for the claw only a fraction of the times people are playing.
This basically means that winning a stuffed animal from a claw machine is more luck than skill. Of course it is possible to be so careful that you pull out the toy even when you don’t have full strength on the claw. Sadly there is no way of telling whether you have luck and have scored a strong claw or not.
The machines can even calculate a desired level of profit according to the number of games played. This way they automatically adjust the claw strength to ensure that there are at least a few people winning and keeping interest in the machine but also get the needed profit for the owner.
According to Vox, if owners set the machine so that the claw operates on full power one out of 23 times, in theory that would create a profit of around 50 percent. There are even ways to ensure that if player wins wint a weak claw, then the full power claw will be delayed to even out the profit setting.
Basically it all depends on the owners desire to set up a profit that they like. Usually they set up lower profits to keep players interested in using the machine. If player after player can’t win, they will all lose interest in the machine thus leading to losses for the owner. Of course exceptions are always possible.
In the end, yes, there is a bit of skill involded in grabbing and winning a stuffed animal from a claw machine. But you also need luck to be the player that will get the full strength claw.