The slot machine has a long history.
Invented sometime in the late nineteenth century, the first recognised machine was the creation of San Francisco-born Charles Fey. Whilst his iconic Liberty Bell proved an unprecedented hit across America – and was, undoubtedly, the catalyst for bringing slots into mass production – plucky gamblers did little more than cross their fingers as the mechanical reels spun in the hope of landing a win. It was hardly a test of ability.
Nowadays, however, slot play is a whole different game. You only have to take a look at the hundreds of online slots available, or the modern machines popping up in land-based casinos, to know that this generation of gamblers wants, and expects, much more from the games they play. And demand for a more immersive, entertaining experience has seen a dramatic shift towards skills-based play.
Crossing the Atlantic
The astonishing popularity of those first slot machines in the US saw the invention quickly cross the Atlantic. Finding its way to British shores somewhere during the fifties, the classic fruit machine (or ‘fruity’, as it has since become affectionately known among us Brits) quickly became a pub, arcade, and chip shop staple.
Unlike any of the earlier ‘one-armed bandit’ American models that come before it (where the pull of a lever was all the participation required from the player), the fruity was developed with distinct Nudge and Hold features. A ‘hold’ allows players to secure some of the reels in place for another spin. A ‘nudge’, on the other hand, gives players the option of nudging one of the reels to help complete a winning combination.
As you’ll know if you’ve ever spun on a fruity before, it’s fairly easy to recognise when a ‘nudge’ or ‘hold’ bonus could prove useful. Yet these were, nonetheless, features which marked the shift towards more skills-based play. It was the first time a player’s decision making during the game (rather than just Lady Luck herself) influenced the outcome on the reels.
The move to the world wide web
With the skill element of the fruit machine proving popular, new digital machines were later released boasting a range of testing (and fun!) bonus features. But the real leap towards more strategy-focused slot play came with the move online.
Being computerised enabled arcade-style bonus features and interactive story lines to be even more seamlessly woven into the slots. Today, software developers continue to innovate exciting features in video slots to better suit the tastes of challenge-hungry gaming millennials, accustomed to playing on PS4/Xbox consoles or smartphone games.
Taking over the casino floor
And this game-loving generation of gamblers isn’t just shaping the innovation of online video slots. ‘Skill-based slot machines’, where a player’s ability directly impacts on the pay-out potential, are rapidly taking over real casino floors across the world to help draw in more punters. They’ve already found their way through the doors of many popular Vegas venues, and look set to seriously grow in popularity over the next few years.
So, whilst early slot machines may have been games of chance, slots these days – both land-based machines and online games – are being continuously developed to be greater, even more exciting tests of skill.