I’ve noticed this with newer claw machines. I was once good at claw machines. I would walk out of an arcade with four or five stuffed animals because I knew the two most common tricks.
The first trick was to see how far forward and back the claw would actually reach. Many machines owners would group animals at the very front and back of the machine, beyond where the claw would be able to reach. The same goes for the claw machines in a row, where the inside walls are short so prizes can sometimes fall out of the claw and between the machines. These machines also grouped prized next to those middle walls where the claw could not reach them. So a well-stocked machine would actually have very little available to win.
The second trick was to pack the stuffed animals in so tightly, the claw would not be able to grab anything at all. It would descend on to a pile of stuffing and lay there uselessly grasping at air, then retract with a lot of nothing. I would walk over to a claw machine and see if anything was actually available to win. A prize that was previously almost-won and dropped on the pile was a good choice. So were slender animals with bodies the claw could easily grab. I was even lucky enough to grab a prize by its tag once.
Even though I still enjoy claw machines, I don’t play them nearly as often because I’ve seen where they simply don’t try to grab the prize. I didn’t know it was all controlled by the machine, but it does not surprise me. The claw that simply doesn’t grab is the biggest letdown because no amount of skill will lead to a win. I might as well hand two quarters to the next child I pass, my return will be just as good.