Online slots: What’s next in terms of innovation?

Online slots: What’s next in terms of innovation?

Pavlos Sideris, director of Double Up Media, writes for SlotBeats on online slots’ history, present, and future before addressing some of the industry’s issues after the Gambling Act review.

As with any type of entertainment, online slots evolve and change over time as new trends emerge and technological advancements enable studios to improve their games significantly. At the dawn of the new century, players were treated to a simple four or five-reel match with no more than ten or twenty pay lines and, if they were lucky, a progressive jackpot with surprisingly substantial cash awards.

Today, we are spoiled for options. Not only are there thousands of slot machines available, but there are also slots dedicated to specific themes, features, and even unique mechanisms, such as Megaways, Infinity Reels, Link & Win, Cluster Pays, Slingo, and Gigablox (just to name a few).

This article examines some of the most inventive online slot gaming mechanisms from the last decade, what worked, what is currently popular, and most significantly, what innovation we can expect in the future.

The past – The era of Jackpot and Megaways slot machines

Progressive jackpots were the first true slot innovation, making their way into casinos in the 1990s and early 2000s. These include renowned titles such as Cash Splash, King Cashalot, Major Millions, and the all-time classic Mega Moolah.

Jackpots were always the natural first choice when it came to which slots should be immortalized online in those early days, as they were always the most popular sort of game in brick and mortar casinos in areas like Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

As time passed, online slot producers became more inventive, including branded slots to the mix. Additionally, producers began incorporating lucrative additional elements such as free spins, the gamble option, and ‘choose and click’ mini-games into their games. However, it’s fair to say that these were relatively conventional across the board in terms of gameplay and were not particularly inventive.

The first notable slot that truly wowed gamers (and creators) was Big Time Gaming’s Bonanza Megaways. The mining-themed slot is credited with officially debuting the Megaways concept, which provides players with up to 117,649 ways to win through game-changing reel modifier technology.

Due to the mechanic’s success, several of the industry’s most prominent and most excellent online slot companies, including NetEnt, Red Tiger Gaming, Blueprint Gaming, and Microgaming, have lined up to license the technology and make their own unique Megaways games.

The present–Endless possibilities as studios experiment with slot machines

With Big Time Gaming setting the bar for innovation over the last few years, creative teams at studios worldwide were brainstorming ways to compete with the Australian juggernaut.

Recently, a small number of developers have stepped up to the plate, providing intriguing new mechanisms.; Microgaming, arguably the most outstanding of the bunch, introduced the Link & Win mechanic, a novel new bonus feature that replaces free spins with a respin of the reels and resets whenever special cash value symbols appear on the reels. Even though it is a relatively recent invention, several developers have already jumped on board. Hold and Spin was invented by Pragmatic Play, Hold, and Win was developed by iSoftBet, and Hold Wazdan created the Jackpot.

These no-free-spins slots are currently soaring in popularity and are unquestionably the hottest new trend for 2021. They are, however, a long way from outnumbering traditional online slots with standard free spins features.

Other innovative and popular mechanics sweeping the world of online slots are ReelPlay’s Infinity Reels and Yggdrasil’s Gigablox. Infinity Reels begins with only three reels on the screen, but the number of revolutions increases by one whenever a player registers a winning pay line. There is no upper limit to the number of reels that can be used (it is endless), resulting in massive rewards.

Multiple developers have taken notice of Infinity Reels and now have the option of licensing the mechanism for use in their slots. So far, SG Digital, Relax Gaming, Games Lab, PG Soft, and Boomerang Studios have all gotten on board, and we fully anticipate that more studios will follow suit shortly.

The future — Are there new mechanisms for circumventing regulatory hurdles?

In a 2021 interview with Gaming Intelligence, Relax Gaming’s chief product officer, Simon Hammon, discussed how the fast-growing studio has shifted its attention to developing slots compliant with ever-changing legislation and market situations.

“Players are increasingly seeking a high-action, high-entertainment experience, and games must now deliver on their expectations in terms of visuals and graphics, as well as an engaging game flow and mechanisms that depart from the usual 5-3 setups of recent years,” he explained.

“Our game design has developed to reflect this, while also refocusing on market conditions, competition, regulation, and marketing methods.”

There is no better illustration than Relax Gaming’s Money Cart and Money Cart 2 slot machines. These 2021 games contain ‘bonus reels’ and were created to cater to gamers looking for action and act quickly, particularly those who reside in jurisdictions that do not allow feature buys. These games completely sidestep places such as the United Kingdom’s feature purchase ban by omitting base gameplay entirely. Players continue to spin the reels, but they will never encounter a losing spin in which they lose everything unless they trigger the bonus feature.

In essence, these games are ideal for players looking for constant thrills, as a bonus feature is constantly around the corner. At the moment, there are just two of these games available, and they are the Relax mentioned above Gaming slots, but we believe that other developers have taken notice. While they are not conventional, gamers desire action, which bonus reels spaces provide.

With additional regulatory changes anticipated on the horizon, and specific mechanisms such as fast spin and auto spin being prohibited, developers will be scrambling to create innovative new slots that provide a sense of normalcy while still allowing dedicated players to play their way.

About Lou De Aguila

Lou Aguila is a news and feature writer for Golden Casino News. For over a decade, Lou has published news and featured articles for some of the most reputable sports betting and online casino sites in the world, including BetNow.UK, VegasOdds, and BWin. Apart from being a hardcore live casino punter, he also covers sports stories in North American leagues from time to time.