Slot machines are one of the most familiar symbols of casinos, and of gambling in general, and have become a popular game online, too. In the beginning, online slot machines were very basic, and there was commonly only one type of game available to the player, the ‘one-armed bandit’.
This period in fact lasted for some years, and well into the second decade of the 21st century, the predominant slot machine in online gambling was still the one-armed bandit. This was replicated in the physical casino, where less and less time was spent in developing slot machines, and the single-pull machine dominated the floor. The standard casino of the 2000’s looked very much like that of the 1990s and of the 1980s too. Slot machines had fallen into a time warp, and while casinos were unchallenged, there was no incentive to change.
A recent history of slot machines
The growth of mobile gambling has, surprisingly, also lead to increased developments in the real world of slot machines. There are several reasons why this might be, but clearly there is a strong link between the challenge of the mobile gambling website to the town casino, and the increased development of slot machines for a new generation. Up until then, not much had changed since the development of the electronic slot in the 70s, and certainly the graphics on a slot machine couldn’t compete with those of a mobile phone.
The standard, boxy game was used throughout the industry, and technology has been lagging behind other forms of gaming and gambling for the last two decades. However, even the regulatory bodies for casinos now acknowledge that there is a need for change, with A. G. Burnett saying that “Gaming must keep up, and to do that the old style of slots simply needs to change.”
Video games vs. the slot machine
Perhaps the biggest reason for these changes is the development of the video game, and graphics which some are suggesting are the first step towards virtual reality being used in every home. Experts, such as Kim Cohn, say that the reason for the changes in slot machines is that ‘The industry is a lot more competitive than it used to be’. She also connects the primitive state of the gaming industry in 2002 with the lack of invention in slot machines, pointing out that it is much easier to create new slot games with graphics:
‘We’re constantly trying to come up with new ideas’.
The push for more excitement and better graphics from slot machines is one of the reasons why technology has advanced. The rivalry between video games and slot machines has partially driven the demand for new technology, but some technical advances have also inspired slot machine designers, which has led to the changing of slot machines for the better.
The way forward for slot machines: Touch screens
The strongest connection between mobile phones and slot machines has come with the implementation of touch screens in the next generation of slots. The chief writer of Lucky Admiral said that while some players may miss the pull lever of the past, ‘touch screens allow for a greater hands-on experience, which increases excitement’.
They also pointed out that the connection between mobile gaming and slots gambling is enhanced through the use of immersive technology which reduces the noise from the casino surroundings. “This is very like the sensation that mobile casino gamers experience when they are committed to playing a game of slots online”. The use of touch screens also allows the machine to be connected remotely to the internet, which could prove to be a useful advance for future generations of machine.
The way forward for slot machines: Themed slots games
Next generation slot machines also try to keep up with mobile gambling sites through the introduction of ‘themed’ slots. While some themes have been around for decades, such as the familiar one-armed-bandit, they have usually been traditional, and as a result rather dull and uninteresting.
Modern casinos are therefore theming their slot machines around celebrities, sports and more unusual slot figures, including Ellen DeGeneres, Wonderwoman, Nascar and even the TV show Sons of Anarchy. These themes are chosen by using market research, designed to specifically target parts of the gambling population who might be interested in these new slots. This appeal seems a lot closer to the aims of some online casino sites, which target particular areas of the population such as young women.
What does the future hold?
When A.G. Burnett described the need for slots to change, he also asked for an increasing level of other elements taken from online mobile casinos, such as social communications between players, and increasing skill levels.
These could be the way forward for another generation of slot machines, and may even be incorporated within the next generation, with Facebook and Twitter connections likely to be added to machines which are already online.