Lawsuit claims Sega rigged arcade games ‘Key Master’

A class-action lawsuit has alleged that entertainment behemoth Sega “rigged” one of its arcade games, Key Master, so that it can only be won after a certain number of players have lost.

The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in California, said the game was “systematically marketed and sold … with images and advertising which indicate the machines are games of pure skill when, in reality, the machines are rigged and are designed to prevent even highly-skilled users from being able to win until a set number of unsuccessful plays have been completed.”

The plaintiff, Marcelo Muto, is suing the company for $5 million.

“Plaintiff and other consumers would not have otherwise paid money to play the Key Master Machine, or paid for others to play, or would not have paid as much, had they known that the machines were not purely based on skill, and instead were programmed to allow the operator of the machine to undermine the player’s skills by preventing the key from entering the lock,” the suit continues.

Sega's Key Master arcade game
The plaintiff is suing Sega for $5 million over the Key Master arcade game.
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In the game, which is found in arcades and malls across the US, players use a joystick and button system to maneuver a key into a specific hole. Winners are rewarded with prizes, such as earbuds and video games.

If a player were to get the key into the correct position to win — but it’s not at the pre-determined time, the machine will overshoot, causing a loss, the suit alleges.

Each machine, the lawsuit says, can be programmed to only allow a win after a certain number of losses, but the machines are set to allow one win after 700 losses by default.

Sega's Key Master game, displaying its prizes inside.
Sega’s Key Master game, displaying its prizes inside.
Arcade Matt Youtube

The machine has hit legal snags in the past, this week’s lawsuit noted. In 2019, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich found that the Key Master machines were gamified and settled with a company that had distributed them in Arizona for $1 million.

“Under Arizona law, outside of casinos, it is illegal for gaming machines to have settings that permit an operator to alter the odds of participants winning the game,” Brnovich said at the time. 

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