Two Singaporeans have created what they believe is the first locally developed claw machine app, and it comes with a twist - players can accumulate catches for bigger prizes such as Beats wireless headphones.
Launched last week on the Google Play Store, the DinoMao app is the brainchild of 28-year-old Jeremy Foo and 29-year-old Jacky Goh. The iOS version will available in the coming weeks.
Claw machines, which let players win prizes such as plush toys by deftly manoeuvring pincers to grab the items, are a familiar sight in malls and gaming arcades here.
In recent years, claw machine apps - where fans score plushies by tapping on their phones instead - have sprouted.
DinoMao's founders say most of such apps do not let players accumulate prizes.
"As frequent arcade players, owning our very own arcade has always been something we were keen to explore. However, nothing pushed us to start this until we felt we could stand out from the competition," said Mr Foo, its chief executive officer.
The DinoMao app allows players to remotely control a physical claw machine to catch plushies such as Hello Kitty and Pokemon dolls. Download is free, and upon signing up, players have 40 tokens to get them started with the game.
Once play starts, the player has limited time (ranging from 35 seconds to a minute) to use the arrow keys on the app to control the "jaws" of the claw machine and try to catch a doll. Players can switch between the front and side views of the app's livestream to see where they are positioning the jaws.
DinoMao's claw machines are at an office in Woodlands. There are now 12 machines in operation.
Players receive eight to 12 free tokens when they log in each day. But to increase the chance of catching, more tokens are needed for more tries. The app offers a number of packages for tokens, such as 60 for $9.99.
Unlike most claw machine apps, DinoMao rewards players with tickets for each play. Players have the option to turn their prizes into tickets, which can be accumulated to redeem prizes ranging from plushies to Beats wireless headphones. Players can use tickets to pay for shipping as well. Shipping now is free only if there are at least three dolls caught.
Mr Foo and Mr Goh, the company's chief technology officer, took two years to build the ecosystem from scratch, creating both the claw machines and the app. They took out $100,000 from their savings to fund the business.
"As both of us do not have an engineering background, setting up the eco-system was a great challenge," said Mr Foo, who has a banking and finance degree from RMIT. Mr Goh has a diploma in business information technology from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
The duo did a lot of research and relied on trial and error to build their first miniature claw machine before starting work on an actual one.
Mr Goh said: "We had to source different parts and pieces to build our claw machines." He explained that typical claw machines have a lot of displays and sounds that are not required for online use.
"We had the manufacturer strip the machines to their most minimal functionalities to lower the cost," he added.
Mr Foo said the major challenge was linking the app to the claw machines. For instance, one wrong move when tinkering with the claw machine's motherboard would cause damage and incur great costs. He said that they lost eight to 10 claw machines as a result.
Looking ahead, Mr Goh said they are making changes to improve gameplay and studying markets before rolling out the app to other countries in the region.
They also plan to introduce a greater range of games in the coming months.
"We will be releasing games like 'Drop The Ping Pong', 'Plush On The Pole' and 'Hook The Plush' as variations of claw games to create a more fun experience," said Mr Goh.