|From one arm bandits to fruities and beyond
history of slots
|When Charles Fey
invented the first slot machine at the beginning of the 20th century, it became
immediately obvious that he was onto something. The machines were a big hit
across the United States, but even Fey could scarcely have imagined just how
his idea would evolve over the subsequent 100 years or so.
earliest days, through the prohibition years to the electronic age and the
digital era, lets take a look at some of the most popular slot style
games, and see how the sector is continuing to change and develop today.
First steps and the first fruities
The very first slot
machine was a cast iron affair that had three spinning reels showing the
traditional symbols from a deck of cards. Get three matching, and a prize would
be forthcoming. The machines were soon a common sight in cigar shops across the
USA, and the symbols have a logic to them. So how did spades and diamonds
become cherries and oranges?
The answer lies with Americas
uncomfortable and fraught relationship with gambling. A machine that involves
wagering and cards in order to win, for example, a cigar or a bottle of bourbon
was always going to court controversy, and thats exactly what happened.
When the authorities outlawed these gambling devices, an enterprising soul came
up with a way to reinvent them in a more wholesome way. Out went the cards and
the cigars, and in came fruit nobody could object to a game where the
prize was an orange!
The electronic age
20th century, the format remained much the same, and the traditional one arm
bandits that you can still see in some arcades and casinos are much the same in
appearance as they have been for the past 50 years or more. But at the same
time, electronics brought in a range of new style slots games.
electronic random number generators instead of physical reels, electronic slots
could offer more paylines, larger reels and, most important of all, much larger
jackpots. With five reels and billions of potential combinations, it is
possible to offer those
multi million payouts that you sometimes read about in the
Picture the reels as being physical and you can soon see how
that is possible. Suppose there are five reels, and each has 30 symbols on it.
Some symbols appear multiple times per reel, but the jackpot symbol appears
only once on each. The odds of landing five jackpots would be 30 to the power
of 5, which amounts to more than 24 million to one. This goes some way to
explaining why across the thousands of machines in Las Vegas and Atlantic City
that are being played day in and day out, a truly enormous pay out is an event
that occurs perhaps once every five years.
The transition to
The internet has changed so many aspects of our lives, and the
world of slots has certainly felt the effect. Today, online casinos are big
business, and new entrants enter the fray every day. But it was the pioneers of
electronic slots that first blazed a trail into the virtual. Today,
slot games like Rainbow
Riches are hugely popular online, but this is actually a game from the
Barcrest stable. Back in the 1980s and 90s, Barcrest games dominated the fruit
machine sector, and while the online age might be associated more with
developers like NetEnt and Microgaming, Barcrest remains a key player that
knows more about the industry than anyone.
The point is, the online
gambling market is huge. There are millions of players spread across the globe,
and its an industry that generates around $50 billion every year. In
other words, there is room for everyone, and healthy competition between the
developers is good news for all those consumers. There are hundreds of online
casinos, each of which has hundreds, or even thousands of different slots
Fruit machines have evolved dramatically
through the electronic and digital eras, but for all that, the essential
concept created by Charles Fey all those years ago remains at their heart. From
a gameplay perspective, however, the biggest change of all could be one that is
arriving right now.
Legislation from Nevada has
permitted developers to increase the skill-based component of
slots games. This means the spinning of the reels will take on steadily less
significance compared with peripheral activities in the bonus games.
Another major area of development is in the rise of virtual reality. 3D
slots played in virtual casinos where you physically reach out to pull the
lever represent an intriguing blend of traditional gameplay with the most
cutting edge technology. Fruit machines will undoubtedly go through plenty more
changes in the years to come.