We’ll admit it—we’ve had some interesting ideas. We’ve entered a demolition derby, made jerky on a box fan and even sewn custom puppets by hand. And we’ve had tons of other ideas that we haven’t even attempted to make happen…yet. The Santa Claw, however, was one of those crazy ideas that became a reality.
Armed with 2,000 pounds of steel, 700 feet of wire, three electric wheelchairs, an Arduino Mega, five refrigerator switches, four cameras, three motor controllers, two power supplies, an actuator, an ultrasonic sensor and enough knowledge to make us slightly dangerous, we set out to build the world’s biggest remote-controlled claw game. After a lot of constructing, programming, and learning along the way, we hooked the 17 x 8 x 12-foot game up to the webcams, filled it with prizes, and we were ready to go live (er, ok, maybe that was simplified just a bit).
Of course we needed to make sure The Claw looked good too. So our designers created custom characters to be used on the Claw and on the site (as avatars) and then designed graphics for the entire Claw, which were printed on vinyl and applied to the machine.
While The Claw was still under construction, we also designed and mailed (the postal service loves us) giant metal tokens that invited our clients and friends to visit TheSantaClaw.com and play the game.
And they came. They waited in the virtual line, sometimes up to eight hours. They played. And they played again.
Saying more people than we thought would visit The Claw on its first day would be a bit of an understatement. Making an appearance on blogs such as Mashable and Laughing Squid resulted in nearly 20,000 visitors checking out The Santa Claw on launch day.
Once visitors came to the site, they could sign in using their email, Facebook or Twitter accounts and then jump in the virtual line, which was almost 500 people long at any time of the day. While in line, players could customize and play with their avatars, chat with other people in line and even buy Claw merchandise to remember their visit.
The best part about The Santa Claw was that it could be played from anywhere—Europe, Australia, Chicago, Austin, you get the picture. Players got 60 seconds to position The Claw—using their arrow keys or mouse—and try to pick up fabulous prizes, such as leather chaps, Snuggies, fruitcake, giant knobby balls and more, which were shipped right to the winners’ doors.
In a little over four months, The Santa Claw had 26 million impressions, 100,000 players and 4,000 winners who received their awesome prizes by mail. It also got some love from the judges at the 2011 AAF Dayton Hermes awards and from the Webby Awards.
Watch The Santa Claw in action on Vimeo.