The evolution of slot machines

Slots games have progressed a long way since a San Francisco mechanic launched the first ever mechanical machine during the mid-1890s.

While Charles Fey’s Liberty Bell was a simplistic affair, it undoubtedly laid the foundations for an industry that has become a true global phenomenon.

Fast forward to the modern era and the best slot machines bears little resemblance to the Liberty Bell beyond the inclusion of reels and symbols.

Read on as we take a closer look at the evolution of slot machines and assess what the future holds for one of the most thrilling forms of entertainment around.

Fey blazes a trail

If someone had told Fey that his invention would pave the way for a multi-billion dollar to be established, he would probably have laughed them out of town.

The Liberty Bell was an extremely simplistic affair, with the machine featuring three reels, five symbols and paying out a jackpot of just 50 cents.

Despite its limitations it was a huge success, laying the foundations for a popular form of entertainment that has truly stood the test of time.

Several other manufacturers latched onto the success of the Liberty Bell, developing similar machines that soon became commonplace across the United States.

Restrictive gambling laws were a hindrance in some states, forcing venues that installed the machines to offer food prizes rather than cash to jackpot winners.

However, this did not stop slots games becoming firmly entrenched within popular culture, forcing lawmakers to reconsider their position after the Second World War.

Bally sparks an electronic revolution

The 1960s saw the slot machine industry move on apace, with the revision of gambling laws in key jurisdictions helping the sector truly take off.

The launch of the first fully electromechanical slot machine in 1963 sparked a boom that has barely slowed down since then.

Bally’s Money Honey was the first machine with a bottomless hopper and an automatic payout of up to 500 coins without needing to call an attendant.

Electronic games of this type soon replaced their mechanical counterparts and it was not too long before another technological advancement transformed the landscape again.

The launch of the first fully functioning video slot machine by Las Vegas–based Fortune Coin Co in 1976 was the catalyst for the industry to take another major leap forward.

International Gaming Technology (IGT) bought the technology in 1978 – a move which helped them become one of the biggest companies in the sector.

Bonus rounds and the shift towards online

The introduction of video technology allowed developers to be more creative with their creations, particularly regarding the integration of additional game features.

Second screen bonus rounds were the next jump forward in the 1990s, helping slot machines become more immersive than was previously the case.

The design of these games was the forerunner to the earliest online slots when the World Wide Web created a whole new wealth of possibilities for the industry.

Image: Pexels

The earliest online casinos were largely dominated by roulette and blackjack, but developers soon got to grips with creating slots for internet sites.

Their structure was largely the same as traditional video slots, with a base game and a second screen bonus round forming the core of each game.

Things advanced rapidly as the new millennium arrived, with slots developers able to leverage advancements in technology to their advantage.

Slots expand their horizons

As we mentioned earlier, slots have progressed a long way since Fey invented the Liberty Bell towards the end of the 1800s.

The days when slots had three reels and five symbols are long gone, with modern slots now all about pushing the boundaries of what technology can deliver.

There are now no limits to the gameplay experience in slots, with expanding reels, numerous bonus levels and additional game features all adding to the excitement.

The incorporation of game themes has also contributed massively to the evolution of online slots over the past couple of decades.

Visit any online casino and you will see row after row of themed slots with Egyptian, television shows, music, sport and comic book characters amongst the most popular.

The integration of the theme into each element of slots immerses the player much deeper into the experience, thus making it tougher for them to stop playing the game.

The future of online slots

The last decade has witnessed a massive evolution in slots development, and this trend is expected to continue over the next few years.

Improvements in mobile technology and Wi-Fi connectivity have been central to the changes, allowing easier access to online slots games.

The ‘next big thing’ to impact slots is expected to be Virtual Reality (VR) technology, which has been skirting on the fringes of the casino industry for some time now.

Evolution Gaming made a major breakthrough last year, successful launching a VR version of Gonzo’s Treasure Hunt to widespread critical acclaim.

This took elements from game shows and slot machines to create a thrilling gameplay experience that is like nothing else in the industry.

Many industry experts have forecast that VR slots will become commonplace over the next few years as developers continue to explore the possibilities in emerging technologies.

Featured image: Via YouTube

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