This is gonna sound like I’m doing a goof, and I get why you might think that, but I promise that I’m being completely sincere right now: Sega Catcher Online could ruin my life. Out today in the United States on Android and iOS, Sega Catcher Online lets you dead-ass play real UFO catchers (read: Japanese claw machines) from your phone, for real prizes that Sega will mail to you for free once you win them.
There are no Sega-themed prizes at the moment, which might feel weird to us westerners, but Sega operates arcades in Japan that feature games from all kinds of developers, and their UFO catchers are typically filled with anything from plush Nintendo mascots to big boob anime lady statues, and anything in between.
Each attempt at winning a prize on Sega Catcher Online costs a set number of “SP,” which I’m going to assume stands for Sega Points, though the app never clarifies. You get 500 SP for creating an account and 20 bonus SP as a daily login bonus; most attempts at winning a prize cost 200 SP, but some may cost more or less depending on the size of the prize, or if there’s a special promotion going on.
A stuffed Kirby the size of your head, for instance, is a 200 SP attempt, while a little keychain-sized pillow charm from some idol anime is 100 SP. This means that you essentially get two free 200 SP tries when you sign up, and then another free 200 SP try four days later, assuming that you remember to sign in every day and don’t waste your remaining 100 SP on one of the garbage prizes.
Or, if you’d like, you can give Sega some money and they’ll give you some more SP right then. You can get 130 SP for $1.99, which you’ll notice is barely enough to take a bad turn on its own, but is more than enough to round up your leftover account creation SP into one more try at that Kirby. Sega will also sell you 330 SP for $4.99, 720 SP for $9.99, 1500 SP for $19.99, 2300 SP for $29.99, 4000 SP for $49.99, or 8800 SP for $99.99.
In real life, UFO catchers can cost anywhere from 100 to 500 yen (read: $1 to $5) per attempt, so these conversion rates aren’t highway robbery, but they’re not what I would consider good, either. Having to drop at least $5 for an attempt at one of the big prizes feels pretty rough, and maybe they’ll change out the tiny anime pillows for something better eventually, but right now I couldn’t buy into this in good conscience.
At least, that’s what I told myself before I used my complimentary SP. The game works as advertised, with impressively little lag considering that I’m in Texas and the UFO catcher I’m controlling is in Japan somewhere. I used my first 200 SP attempt on a Fate/Grand Order figurine, which at retail would probably cost upwards of $30. I didn’t win, so after scouting around at some of the other prizes, I came back and made a second attempt. This was also a failure, but if I just had enough SP for a third attempt, dang y’all, I could probably get this thing. I can feel it.
Would I buy this figure otherwise? Absolutely not. I couldn’t even tell you the character’s name. But as a prize from a UFO catcher? In that moment, I had never wanted something so badly in my entire life. What’s two bucks, anyway?
This experience caused me to immediately uninstall the app. I can never be allowed to have Sega Catcher Online on my phone. But if you don’t have an addictive personality or a history of gambling addiction, maybe you could win a big fun dinosaur plush or something with your free SP. Everyone else, be careful.