Mechanical slot machines or “one-armed bandits” have been around since the 1900s, and became popular in casinos and other establishments around the world due to their simplicity and low barrier of entry. As technologies changed over the decades, these simple mechanical machines were replaced with video slots and 2D graphics, and eventually they moved into the home market via desktop software.
Today, however, virtual reality, reel modifying mechanics, and new elements of skill are being introduced and revolutionising the humble slot machine.
New game mechanics
Traditionally, slot machines had three or five reels and a fixed number of symbols on each reel, so the mechanics of the games were relatively simple. However, web-based slots are not limited to the physical limits of cogs and reels, developers have found a variety of new ways to entice players with so-called shape-shifting reels.
Megaways games are hugely popular and use a random reel modifier mechanic, so that whilst the game has six reels, the number of symbols on each reel varies between one and seven for each game, creating more than 100,000 different paylines.
Another popular new game mechanic is cluster slots, where winning combinations are activated in clusters. This means that symbols can be matched no just left to right like with traditional games, but also top to bottom, bottom to top, or right to left – the only important result is that symbols must land next to each other and meet one of the four corners. Yggdrasil Gaming has introduced Infinity Reels and other slot mechanics such as Splitz, DoubleMax, GigaRise, Gigablox, and MultiMAX – you can check them out here.
Live camera games
Some web-based gaming firms now host live video slots streamed via web cam, with a live presenter adding a social element to online gameplay. The most famous of these are Buffalo Blitz and Age of the Gods: God of Storms, which you can find these slot titles at most new slot sites that host Playtech games and live dealer titles, but Gameplay Interactive and SoftWeave are also expected to launch new titles soon.
Beyond the live presenter, these games also include a live community, where players can chat and cheer each other on, adding a level of social engagement that until now has been missing from most video-based titles.
Virtual reality (VR and augmented reality (AR) games
Half Life: Alyx and Lone Echo may generate the greatest buzz in terms of virtual reality games, but gaming firms are also developing new and exciting uses for the technology. The global VR and AR market is expected to grow to be worth nearly $300bn by 2024, and gaming companies are looking to capitalise on the emerging market.
Virtual reality casinos likes Slotsmillion are already on the market, where players can put on their virtual reality headset from the likes of Oculus, Valve, or Sony and wander around a virtual casino floor, playing a variety of games from slot machines to poker.
To make these virtual experiences more unique, the games could soon include live elements, with real dealers and entertainers blended seamlessly into the virtual world. Here, players could watch a live stream of a top musical performance before exploring the casino floor and immersing themselves in the casino experience in the same way people do in Las Vegas today.
Soon, you should be able to get up close and personal playing progressive jackpot slots like Microgaming’s Mega Moolah + WowPot slots, NetEnt’s Divine Fortune and Hall of Gods, and Playtech’s Age of the Gods slots in special VR slot rooms designed for jackpot players!
An increasing number of slot developers are creating hybrid ‘bingo + video slot’ titles. In the game, a player has 20 turns to “spin” the numbers below his or her bingo card. Five numbers appear on each spin, and if they are found on the card, they can be marked off.
The nickname for these is Slingo which is actually the name of a software developer that creates these slots. Much like the word iPad is synonymous with tablet devices, even though iPad is a specific Apple product, hybrid ‘bingo + slots’ are being called Slingo slots.
Standard video slot machines will payout based on a random number generator that mimics the lack of predictability of physical cogs and reels. Skill-based slots games, however, introduce an element of personal skill within the game, such as shooting targets or finding patterns.
Adding skills to a game of simplicity and pure chance may defeat the object for some, but the developments have been popular with younger players and the industry has taken note. For example, Next Gaming has teamed up with Atari and Taito to create what they say will be “fun, imaginative, immersive, and exciting new skill-based slot machines” that attract a new demographic from the traditional games.