When you picture a casino, the first thing that likely springs to mind is a slot machine. Row upon row of them, each with flashing lights and electronic sounds to entice players into choosing their machine over all the others.
These simple yet involving games give players the potential to win huge pay outs without the need of putting in much effort. Often players only have to press a button or, in true retro fashion, pull a handle.
Slot machines are a staple within any average bricks and mortar casino, and they also play a vital role online. Online slots are often designed to attract players with their colourful designs and appealing themes that tap into an assortment of niches – including music, movies and more. What’s more, they’re more technologically advanced than ever before.
One only has to look at the UK’s Gambling Commission’s figures to see just what a major contribution slots make to gambling as a whole. Over the period from April 2016 to March 2017 remote gaming raised a total of £5.4 billion, £2 billion of which came from slots – a rise of over 19% on the previous year.
From bonuses to multipliers: why are slots a hit?
As you’d expect, there must be plenty of replay value to generate numbers like these.
The principle is simple. With each play the casino visitor is hoping to hit on a winning combination of symbols that will either lead to a pay-out or trigger a bonus, whether that’s several free spins, entry into a progressive jackpot or some other kind of extra round.
It’s the technology that leads to this combination that is at the heart of every slot game that doesn’t have reels that physically spin – this means ones that are presented on a flat video screen and combine other elements such as clips of popular movies, animations and other impressive video displays.
But while the multimedia varies from game to game, there are some common slots features that keep players coming back for more. These include:
- Bonus games – offering you the chance to win extra cash with new opportunities to win
- Cascading reels – a dazzling transformation of symbols that’s more entertaining on the eye than the typical rolling style of a one-barmed bandit, and provides even more of a winning chance
- Expanding wilds – icons that appear at random moments in the game to give you more opportunities to match a winning payline
- Free spins – allows you to spin the reels without using any more playing money, effectively extending your game for free
- Gamble feature – the chance to potentially double your winnings by betting everything on a higher/lower, red/black scenario
- Progressive jackpots – where the pot keeps rising with every player on the network. The more players, the more jackpots and winnings
- Multipliers – with this feature you can multiply your winnings by a certain amount, even up to 10X what you currently have in the bank
Check out this insightful blog post which expands even more about the benefits of these features of online slots.
The thrill of randomness
At the heart of all these slots, there is a Random Number Generator, or RNG for short. This is a complex algorithm that constantly creates a unique series of random numbers with no relation to any that have come before or will follow later. Each number generated corresponds with a symbol on a reel that constantly changes.
We can be sure the results are randomly generated because all slot games are regularly checked by the bodies who are responsible for the fair running of casinos.
Another feature built into the algorithm of the RNG of a slot game is the Return to Player, or RTP. This is expressed as a percentage to show the amount of the money wagered a player can expect to win back. This figure is generally between 92% and 96% depending on the game, and all reputable online casinos should include this in the overall slot’s information. It’s best to opt for the games with the highest RTP – even if they don’t always offer the highest jackpot.
Slot games: a century in the making
It’s evident just how far the beloved slot machine has come since its creation in the 19th century. Designed by inventor Charles Fey, the original machine was mechanical, rang a bell when the jackpot was won and had just three reels. Within months of inventing the “Liberty Bell”, Fey was able to leave his full-time job to set up a factory producing the machines, demonstrating how quickly slots fervour took over the country.
Over the following decades this simple idea became increasingly sophisticated, first by becoming electro-mechanically driven and finally by becoming the video machines that we have today, which have evolved to include high-quality graphics made possible with huge advances in digital technology.
It was with the advent of the online casino that slot machines really took off, bringing in a wider audience and fan base.
Developers can now spend up to a year developing a game to ensure it is perfect for the audience, whether by opting for retro-styled like many popular video games or even linking to a popular movie or TV show.
Looking to the future – what’s next for slots?
The increasing popularity of mobile gaming over PC-based play has changed the way that the games have been developed, as they now to be played with ease on a smaller screen. Looking to the future, other considerations may allowing play with cryptocurrencies as the stake, which will need an extra layer of tech.
But, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, so it shouldn’t be too long before we see this and many other developments appear in the world of both online and physical slots machines.