SEGA Sued for $5 Million Over Rigged ‘Key Master’ Arcade Machine

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated July 14, 2021

SEGA is facing serious legal trouble from a class-action lawsuit filed in California, not so much for the $5 million that is requested as reimbursement, but for the allegations of selling “rigged” arcade machines. This is further aggrandized by the fact that the machine in question is the ‘Key Master,’ a ubiquitous arcade game that offers players a chance to win something that stopping a robotic arm at the right point/moment and managing to have the key enter the hole that will push the gift item to drop.

According to the allegations made by the lead plaintiff, Marcelo Muto, the Key Master isn’t a game of skill as it’s being promoted, but a rigged machine that only allows the awarding of the gift based on its internal programming. As such, no matter what the player does with timing the arm and hitting the buttons, the Key Master will only award the prize when the pre-defined interval point is reached. The intervals that correspond to a number of failures are set by the operator. The lawsuit presents evidence of this in the form of the official manual distributed by SEGA.

If players knew that crucial detail, they would not have paid to play Key Master. Also, presenting the arcade machine as a game of skill constitutes customer deception, so it violates California’s consumer protection laws, fraud, and unjust enrichment. These accusations burden SEGA because the gaming company engaged in false marketing and failed to inform consumers of the true nature of the Key Master machines.

The programming of Key Master simulates that of a slot machine, which operates on a similar interval-based cash-out function. If SEGA wanted to take such an approach, the Key Master could only find a hosting place in locations that are licensed as casinos.

The response of the gaming company was immediate following the embarrassing revelations. They have removed the “programming” part from the machine, renamed it “Prize Locker,” and made it “100% skill-based”. However, players should note that Key Master arcade machines are still in circulation, so if you see one filled with enticing gifts, you may want to keep the coins in your pocket. Or maybe only give it a try after you see a notable number of other people failing to win anything.

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