Slot machines have started their life several decades ago. Initially, they were fairly simple and crude, but even as such, they managed to capture the imagination and attention of the players. After the success of the first slot machines, game developers figured out they were onto something and started to explore their options.
Over the years, slots have developed tremendously. From those first machines with mechanical drums, a single payline, and just few symbols, they’ve become the staple of the gambling industry with a kind of variety you won’t find with any other casino game.
Today, we have a huge number of options available to us when it comes to slots, both online and at land-based casino venues. For the most part, though, although they have all sorts of themes and graphical solutions, most slots have similar features. In this blog, we’ll look into different types of slot machines to see what’s on offer out there.
Slots & Paylines: From One to Millions
As mentioned in the introduction, slots initially had just one payline across the middle. To win, players needed to land the same symbol in the middle spot on each of the three reels. Naturally, these slots weren’t too exciting as most spins were losing ones. Payments on single-line slot machines are usually quite good but they don’t come around very often.
To up the excitement, developers started to add more paylines to their slot machines, increasing the number to three and then five paylines. This made slots more attractive to the players as with five paylines there was more to look forward to.
The Video Slots Revolution
Game makers did what they could to make slots more entertaining but they were limited in options because of technical restrictions. All of this changed when video slots were introduced, exchanging physical reels for virtual ones, opening up the whole new world of possibilities.
First video slots, many of which are still available today, featured nine and ten paylines, and this was a real game-changer. With more paylines, the volatility of machines was decreased significantly, so players could enjoy many more smaller wins along the way.
But, why stop at 10?
As things progressed, we’ve started seeing slots with even more paylines: first 25, then 40 and 50, finally reaching 100. These days, the trend seems to be in favor of slots with as many paylines as possible as players enjoy the possibilities offered by these games. The level of excitement and anticipation in slots with many paylines is truly amazing.
Introducing Ways to Win
With a regular 5-reel slot, the number of actual paylines is limited, even if big. Game developers are on the constant lookout to make things even more exciting, though, so they weren’t satisfied to just let things be and see what happens. Instead, they came up with ways to win or pay-ways.
Unlike with paylines, ways to win don’t follow any particular patterns. The only requirement is for the symbols to appear on adjacent reels from left to right to form a winning combination. With this development, another layer of opportunities opened up, as the regular 3×5 slot can offer up to 256 ways to win. Add another row into the mix and there is the maximum of 1,024 pay-ways.
Of course, modern technologies these days allow slot makers to do pretty much whatever they feel like doing, so they aren’t limited in terms of reels and rows. So, lately, we’ve seen some slots offering hundreds of thousands and even millions of ways to win.
From a player’s point of view, these slots are truly a dream come true. The definition of a big win is taken to a whole new level with these games as potential scores exceed 10,000x the stake. Even though such games can sometimes be very volatile and big wins don’t come that often, players want to have that possibility.
Which Ones to Play?
With so many different slots out there, the questions is, which ones you should be playing? Are those games with millions of ways to win better than the single payline slots?
The fact of the matter is that modern-day slots with many pay-ways do offer chances for some massive wins. You won’t find these opportunities with any of the older games with few paylines, so if you’re interested in huge wins, you’re better off playing 256+ ways slots.
At the same time, these slots can be very volatile and aren’t quite bankroll-friendly. So, games with fewer paylines, while not offering such huge potential wins, will usually provide you with more play for your money. There are exceptions on both sides, of course, but this is the general principle to keep in mind.
In the end, you should play the games you enjoy most. Almost all slots have a potential to provide a nice payout so it is what happens in the meantime that counts. If you derive most pleasure from playing classic, one-line machines, then do it by all means. You might be losing few percentage points in terms of RTP but the fact you’re having fun will more than make up for it.
Common Bonus Features in Slot Machines
Although they come in different shapes and colors, most slots actually have a few basic bonus features. These features are sometimes made better with extra functionalities or some novelties but, fundamentally, they remain unchanged.
One of the most common features found in probably 90% of slot machines out there is the free spins feature. Usually triggered by scatter symbols, free spins are probably the favorite bonus feature among the players as well, which explains why slot developers stick to it and don’t feel the need to change much in this particular area.
Different slots will offer a different number of free spins, but the premise is the same: you get some spins you don’t have to pay for but get to keep any winnings produced by the bonus round.
To spice things up, free spins features will usually include some extra perks such as:
- Win multipliers
- Expanding wilds
- Extra wilds
- Additional scatters
These and other special features make the free spins bonus a very attractive proposition because the winning potential grows exponentially in the bonus.
Pick & Click Bonuses
Another commonly found type of bonus is the pick and click feature. As the name suggests, these bonuses will have you take your pick from a number of symbols or objects to reveal your prize. Usually, prizes are expressed as a number of credits but sometimes you can land a free spins bonus from a pick and click feature as well.
These bonuses aren’t particularly appealing to players because, in general, the amount you can win is limited. The average win from a pick and click bonus on most slot machines is around 10-20x, which is hardly something to get excited about. A 20x line hit is decent, for example, but players expect more from the bonus, because there is the feeling of expectation building up, only to be let down by a 5x win.
Jackpots (Progressive & Otherwise)
Some slot machines will feature a jackpot win for those players who get lucky enough to land a certain combination on the reels. These jackpots can be fixed, meaning they are always same for a certain stake, or progressive, accumulating over time.
Slots with a jackpot feature are usually exciting to play because you can win really big in comparison to your stake. The downside of these machines is the fact that a certain portion of RTP is locked in the jackpot, which means base-game and regular bonus hits will be lower. These numbers are offset by the jackpot but jackpot winners are few and far between.
Like with everything else related to slots, whether you’ll play jackpot games or not is entirely up to you. If the idea of chasing that big, elusive win provides you with entertainment and enjoyment, then the increased volatility is worth it. However, if the lack of regular wins and small returns are frustrating you, perhaps you should stay away from jackpot slots.
Conclusion: The Ever-changing World of Slots
In the world of gambling, slots are easily the type of game subject to most changes and developments over the years. While other games, like roulette, blackjack, and baccarat, have remained almost unchanged for decades, slots keep on reinventing themselves.
Constant development of technologies gives game makers everything they need to keep coming up with new, fresh ideas, which they then serve to the players and see how we react. That’s exactly why the number of paylines has increased so drastically over the years. Players want games that offer more excitement and slot makers are more than happy to oblige.
In the years to come, we’re likely to see even more changes and developments. Advances in Virtual Reality and similar technologies are opening up yet another new world for the developers to explore and we can be pretty sure they’ll be jumping on the opportunity. We’ve already seen some developments in this direction and these are likely to grow stronger and stronger in the months and years to come.