It seems that every slot developer is releasing Megaways slots like they’re going out of fashion. Which, of course, they aren’t. No sooner than NetEnt released Gonzo’s Quest Megaways – arguably the most anticipated slot release in a decade – than Big Time Gaming upped the ante with Star Clusters Megaclusters, a Cluster Pays-style slot that elevates everyone’s favourite game engine to the next level.
But what next? Surely the innovation in slots won’t stop there. History tells us that, when it comes to playing online slots, we have plenty more innovation to look forward to from the world’s top game developers.
1. Playing Slots On Mobile Kickstarted Slots Innovation
We don’t need to go too deep into how innovative smartphones are today. But if you are old enough to remember playing Snake on the Nokia 3210 and thinking it was the bees knees you will no doubt be astounded by the improvements and abilities of modern mobile phones. The graphics capability and processing power of current smartphones mean that playing mobile slots is as seamless and enjoyable as playing slots on desktop. If not more so.
All slot developers are responsible for pushing innovation on mobile, but it was NetEnt who really placed developing mobile slots at the forefront of its business. As early as 2011 NetEnt centred its slots releases slate around the feasibility of playing slots on mobile with NetEnt Touch™, the product through which slots and online casino game players could enjoy their favourite games on their mobiles. Soon after the Swedish studio released Gonzo’s Quest Touch, the smash hit slot game released in 2010. The mobile slot revolution had well and truly begun, with games like Mega Money Rush (Skillz, 2016), Tetris Extreme Megadrop (Microgaming, 2018) and Spinball (Tom Horn Gaming, 2019) all examples of casual game-come-slots that push gaming boundaries and translate superbly to mobile gaming.
2. Remember Three Reel Slots?
Those fresh to the online and mobile slot scene may not remember the original three reel slots. The clunky one-arm-bandits that you can still find across the globe in pubs, amusements and casino halls were the first port of call for online slot studios. From a business perspective it makes sense to translate regular slots that we know and love into online versions that are ready to go with little development required. Barcrest’s Rainbow Riches, one of the most famous and popular slots of all time that to this day remains in most slots fans top 5 lists, began life as a “real” slot in a brick and mortar casino. Look at the sequels and innovations that game alone spurred, pushing the boundaries of online slot development and challenging every slot player – and developer – to think bigger. ELK Studios released Hit It Hard in 2020, a retro-homage to three reel slots with added bonus elements that brought classic three reel slots play into the 21st century. Three reel slots undoubtedly still have an important role to play in the world of online casinos.
3. The Growth of Virtual Sports and ICE Expo
The Ice Totally Gaming Expo – the world’s best online gaming showcase – gets bigger every year. Game developers use it to launch their biggest game releases, and it’s no coincidence that several of these games go on to win prestigious gaming awards, like NetEnt’s smash hit Guns N Roses and Lightning Roulette from Evolution Gaming. Ice grows each year, with slots developers unveiling their biggest and most innovative releases for the coming year. Throw in the remarkable developments in Virtual Sports from studios like Inspired and Leap Gaming and the ever-growing popularity of eSports and it’s no surprise to see the growth of this expo.
Virtual Sports like Leap’s Virtual Football game now play highlights like a game of FIFA and offer exceptional options for punters who prefer simulated gameplay and RTPs over the variables of chance and ability of real players playing eSports. Could the next slot innovation come from a hybrid between eSports/Virtual Sports/Megaways and slots? Now there’s a challenge for all slots developers reading this!
4. Cluster Pays Came Before Before Megaways
NetEnt released Aloha! Cluster Pays™ in 2016, and though it is often cited as the first online slot to use the Cluster Pays™ mechanic this is actually misattributed. A little known slot from OpenBet called Chain Reactors pioneered the Cluster Pays system, though the game was dismissed by slots fans and critics alike. Surely nothing could break the popularity of five reel, multi-payline slots? Throw the full weight of NetEnt’s development team behind it and, hey presto! Suddenly the Cluster Pays system was the bright new thing. NetEnt, of course, knows a thing or two about how to make successful online slots that are must haves for online casino games providers and must plays for online and mobile slots fans. While the current trend for the Megaways™ game engine is still on the rise, there was a time when the must play slots were Cluster Pays. NetEnt continues to release further Cluster Pays slots – along with regular five reel slots and online casino games – as the popularity for the Cluster Pay mechanic shows no signs of abating.
5. The Megaways™ Game Is Evolving
Just as every slot developer is getting on the Megaways Bandwagon, the Megaways style itself is evolving. Big Time Gaming’s release of Star Clusters Megaclusters takes the Megaways idea and runs with it, challenging it to become more than it is. Hyper-playable and superb on mobile, in particular, Star Clusters Megaclusters once again shows that Big Time Gaming is at the heart of online slot innovation. Will this mean that we see Gonzo’s Quest Megaclusters or Streetfighter II Megaclusters, surely more likely as this latter title is a Cluster Pays game already? Or maybe there will be something new. A new pay system, or a new method of symbol interaction or level-based gameplay the like of which we saw in Castle Builder and Castle Builder II. One thing is for sure, we can expect to be delighted and amazed as online slots studios refuse to rest on their laurels and strive to innovate. Legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis said, “It’s not about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.” The continued innovations in online slots and casual games prove that Miles is right on the money.