Not many people would have predicted the success of online gambling – especially back in the 1990s when it first started making an appearance. Casinos were naturally lucrative enterprises, but it was difficult to see how the internet could challenge the glitz and glamour of the physical gambling world – where gamblers were using dial-up connections to play the most basic of casino games.
Cue broadband internet and mobile gaming, and online gambling now accounts for over a third of the gambling industry in the UK, and contributes to a global online gambling industry projected to be worth close to $100 billion by 2022.
The rise of online gambling hasn’t been quick. From the explosion in popularity of online poker in the early 2000s to the prevalence of mobile gambling in the late 2000s and early 2010s, new innovations have kept digital gambling convenient and innovative for users, and online operators in profit. Huge FTSE companies have been created out of demand for online gambling, and it’s now estimated that around half of all adults in the UK will use the internet to gamble at some point. At the forefront of this growth, expansion and market excitement are online slot games – the digital equivalent of traditional ‘one armed bandits’ – which are taking the industry to the next level.
What is an online slot game?
If you visit a Vegas casino, you’ll probably walk past thousands of those colourful machines that fill the space in between the blackjack table and the bar. The truth is however, that they make plenty of money – sometimes up to 70% of a casino’s gaming revenue.
An online slot acts just like a physical slot machine. It has reels, slots for coins, paylines, and even themes that help draw players in with immersive lights, colours and sounds. The gameplay on a digital slot is similar, if not easier than a real-world machine, thanks to the lack of actual coins and simple button press rather than a level pull or similar. You’ll also be able to walk away from the slot machine safe in the knowledge that no-one else is going to swoop in and get a payout you’ve helped contribute towards, and you even take it with you in your pocket if you’re playing on a mobile device.
Slot machines have been a long-standing feature in the casino for well over 100 years, so it made sense that slots should also have a presence on the first online casinos, too. In 1996, a game called ‘Reel ‘Em In’ was released, which featured 5 reels, 25 paylines, and even a bonus round. Although colourful, the game was fairly limited, as you can see here.
The themed slot
Attracting new players to online casinos is without doubt the hardest of challenges for online casino operators. Going up against competitors with bigger marketing budgets and more generous payouts can leave some online casinos behind in profit and growth – so it takes something very special to get players to go out of their way to sign up, log in, deposit cash, and start playing. But a themed online slot can help to break down these barriers.
Trust and familiarity are powerful tools that encourage customers to try something new. While branding can help achieve this, so can the theme of a game. That’s because some people even go out of their way to check something out if it features their favourite band, TV show or interest. Themed slots cater for this kind of demand, providing something familiar for slot gamers to try. For example, take a look at some of the games on Rose Slots, which have themes that vary between Viking adventures, Native American stories, 3 Blind Mice and even Fluffy Favourites, a fun game centred around an eccentric claw machine with an unlimited supply of cuddly animal themed toys. As a result, Rose Slots has quickly become one of the more successful and recognised slots providers out there – with a broad selection of immersive and engaging themed slot games.
The mobile factor
Up until fairly recently, playing slot games on smartphones was a bit of a hassle. Thanks to a blanket ban on fully-fledged gambling apps on the Google and Apple app stores, users would have to access their favourite gambling website through their browser, with limited features and often fiddly interfaces that just didn’t match the smoother functionality of an app. In August 2017, however, this ban was finally lifted, allowing gamblers to enjoy their favourite gambling apps without having to skirt around the strict rules enforced by both app stores.
As well as giving their customers easier access to their games, and potentially playing more, this development has given gambling operators another platform to connect with prospective customers – through app charts and app stores. Online slots often having their own section within these platforms – maximising exposure to new players. The apps themselves also provide greater opportunities for operators to communicate with players through push notifications.
The future of slot games
This renewed interest in slot games may end up creating new opportunities for games to improve even further. Current slot games have already benefitted from improved software that allows for more complex animations, HD graphics and fun soundtracks, but what about a Virtual Reality slot game that takes you to a virtual Vegas casino? Or what about an augmented reality slot that projects the reels into real-world environments?
With more gamblers than ever playing slot games, operators need to think of new innovations that will keep them engaged, and bring new players in who have greater expectations of technology and entertainment. Maintaining their interest is never easy, with so many distractions out there, and it remains to be seen how online operators will continue to meet this challenge.