While arcade culture has largely died out in the United States, it’s doing much better over in Japan, and SEGA’s arcades seem to be among the best in the country. Still, despite the attention they receive, for the past two years, the company has been hiding a secret, and despite not putting much effort into obscuring it, it’s only being discovered just now.
Above is a photo of the plastic bags players are given when the win prizes in the crane games, which SEGA calls “UFO Catchers.” You’ve probably noticed the sequence of squares and dots on the top and bottom borders of the graphic, and you may have also noticed that there’s not really any uniformity to them.
If you saw that and thought that they could be Morse code, you’re absolutely right, and the message reads, “UFO Catcher is not a vending machine.”
たまたま貰ったSEGAの袋に●と■が不規則に並んでるから気になってモールス信号で調べたら「UFO catcher is not a veding machine.」って出てきた pic.twitter.com/hzjDl8drCO
— 千堂 (@raika0510) August 20, 2016
Some context: The UFO Catchers are usually positioned near the entrance of the arcades as a way to get people through the door, and if you’ve ever played a crane game before, you know that you’re not guaranteed a prize just for playing; no participation trophies here. Apparently SEGA either grew tired of complaints about the game or just wanted to reinforce the nature of the beast, and a designer hid the code on the bags when the design was introduced in 2014.
SEGA confirmed on Twitter that the message is in fact Morse code, in response to the user who seems to have been the first to figure it out (above). Let this be a lesson: Play the crane games, but manage your expectations.
Featured image: iPlaySEGA