Slot games are incredibly influential in the online casino ecosystem, having evolved from purely being available at land-based establishments to cater to a growing audience of web-based players.
In addition to being popular, they are also released in huge numbers each year, with dedicated teams at a number of small and large developers taking on the task of creating brand new experiences for fans to lap up.
If you are an eager slot machine enthusiast, or you are just curious about how they function in the online gambling era, here is a look at some key facts that are worth absorbing so that you are in the loop.
Game volatility varies
Slots are built from the ground up to be predictable, at least in terms of the likelihood of a win being achieved. This is all about making sure that casino operators can make a profit from them, while players can still have a chance of striking it lucky.
This is usually talked about in terms of game volatility, or variance. So do you know what does a high variance mean? The simple answer is that high variance games will have large jackpots, but will have a much lower chance of actually paying out the maximum prize.
Meanwhile low variance slots will have better odds of players winning, but will typically have far smaller payout amounts.
In some regions, operators are required to state the variance of games, while in others this is not an obligation. However, almost everywhere you find a slot, you will be able to learn about the RTP (return to player) rate, which indicates how much of the money it takes in will be paid back out as prizes. The higher the RTP, the less money the operator is making from the machine, although this is obviously another balancing act that is taken into account during development.
Randomness is crucial to fairness
If you have read this far, you might assume that slot games are somehow fixed, whereas the opposite is true; they rely on randomness both to benefit the operators, as well as to provide pay-outs to players.
Random number generators (RNGs) are at the heart of all modern machines, and these are complex yet consistently capable of creating random outcomes whenever the reels are spun.
And it is this element of randomness which keeps slots fair, because it means that every single spin could potentially result in a payout. Of course it is far more likely that the player will not win, because the odds are stacked against them based on the number of reels, then number of symbols, the number of paylines and the aforementioned volatility of the game in question.
Even so, mentioning RNGs is necessary when discussing slot development, because it should dispel the myth that slot games are a con.
Mobile-friendliness comes first
We live in an age when smartphone ownership is essentially universal, so game developers across all genres have to take this into account when creating their latest products.
As well as titles like Fortnite and Apex Legends getting their own mobile-compatible versions, the vast majority of slot games are designed to run on portable devices first and foremost.
That is not to say that you cannot play slots on a desktop computer or a laptop; it is simply true that these platforms are no longer dominant, and so design choices are made with mobile players in mind in many cases.
Of course slot games have the advantage of requiring very simple control schemes, which lend themselves to touch screen interactivity far better than a lot of other game types.
Licensing is lucrative
An increasing number of slot games are moving away from the traditional themes of this scene and instead embracing the opportunity to license a wide variety of pop cultural properties in order to attract a new generation of players.
Whether the latest Hollywood movie or a major musical superstar, a surprising array of slots are not only inspired by, but officially endorsed by stalwarts of the stage and screen.
And when developers are unable to achieve a license, or unwilling to do so, they can always turn to the powerful art of parody to riff on pop culture without infringing on copyright.
So there you have it; slot game development is big business, and relies on a number of intricate systems to function, as well as being susceptible to a cavalcade of market pressures which determine its output.