Video Slots 101: How Are Slot Machines Made?

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Simply put, online gaming is huge. More people than ever are ditching the bricks and mortar style casino and heading over to the online variety of casino. This is a no brainer for most as after all you get all the creature comforts you need, alongside access to a wider range of casino games than you might might a real casino. For some, there is no better gaming experience than lounging on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon with a cold beverage and a game of poker, blackjack, baccarat or roulette.

It’s not just anecdotal evidence that one can rely on when making this assertion though. No, we can even take a look at the figures for the online gaming market for this last decade alone and make some pretty clear assumptions. In 2005, worldwide gaming revenue was around $13.8 billion, with the total revenue of all gaming being $99.7 billion. Move forward to 2015 then, and you will find that online gaming revenue has increased to an incredible  $41.4 billion, with a total market revenue of $182.77 billion. Online gaming in 2005 was taking around 13.84% of all revenue in the gaming market, while in 2015 this has increased to nearly 23%. In just 10 years nearly one person has moved away from the bricks and mortar casino and now plays online.

This success is due partly to the emergence of the modern video slot game, which is now by far the most popular gaming activity both online and in real casinos. Most casino companies don’t share the revenue they make from slot machines, but reports suggest that these games alone make up around 30% of their total revenue.

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Slot machines now reign as the most popular online casino game!

Of course, when there’s a booming market there’s going to be competition for the number one spot. Demand for video slots has ultimately driven increasing  quality in the standards of video slot games; market competition does this, as business aim to create the best product. What was once acceptable to fill a casino floor with one arm bandits – the classic pull and win style slot machines – would now not cut the mustard in a modern casino in the 21st century. No, what players want now is modern graphics, intense action and structured bonus game features and all from an LCD screen. Players want interactive games, and not just regular coin operated slot machines.

1980s – The digital age and the birth of the Video Slot!

It was the 1980s when the affordable computer was born and this resulted in the first video slot games being introduced to real casinos. They were of course very popular, as all advances in consumer tech are, but players were put off by the fact they saw no reels moving. It was a matter of trust between the player and the device; this, as you know, quickly eroded away, and it didn’t take very long for gamers to realise that video slot games were like their older counterparts.

Soon after the introduction of the video slots, designers worked out a way to allow paper bills to be used as credits. This allowed casinos to introduce a much higher maximum stake than previously, making slot machines a lucrative investment for both casinos and high rollers. This was around the time that slots introduced electronic bonus features, which had the potential to pay out customers thousands of dollars. Once this occurred, well, their popularity really did skyrocket.

Bringing the video slot online

Before the internet was invented casino games were available through gaming consoles such as the Atari, Nintendo and the Commodore 64. Of course, these games couldn’t be played with real money and were dependent on a virtual currency system. This was such a minute part of the gaming industry that these games often went unnoticed or unsold.

As soon as the internet made its way into homes though, online gaming truly took off. Soon the internet was filled with various casinos pioneered by companies such as Microgaming and Playtech. These online casinos were immersive, had plenty of games and, of course, took real money deposits. Now casino enthusiasts had access to a wide range of casino games from the comfort of their own home, including video slot games. No longer did somebody have to travel to the casino to experience the thrill of the slots.

How is a video slot created?

These video slot games, like their videogame counterparts, had to be designed by somebody. Everything from coding to designing the user-interface and the user-experience had to be created. Whole teams can be devoted to creating one feature, never mind one agame. The video slot market is one that is constantly changing, and as such, producers often have huge teams

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Animation in video slot games has become more popular than ever before and is now an essential component

The big-brand slot designers who create premium slot games – such as NetEnt, Amaya or NYX Gaming – often take a year to design one slot game. There are around 12 to 15 people in total who are responsible for the whole project, from conception to creation. Professional involved are mathematicians, server developer, game designers, front-end developers, a project manager, a creative team, a configurator and, of course, the game tester. The teams can grow or shrink depending on speciality needs and requirements for the slot game.

Individual slot games might be different in their own right, but designers will use preexisting video slot games are a framework to build upon. There is absolutely no point in reinventing the slot machine for a new game; this tactic reduces overheads and the amount of time it takes to create a premium slot game.

Starting off the process

So, once an idea has been developed it is time to start actually creating the slot game. The concept is passed over to the creative team, who look at turning many meetings looking at strategy, demographics and data from previous campaigns into a concrete product. If it is decided that the slot should be themed on the beach, then the creative team might look at existing slots – such as the extremely popular Mega Moolah – and creative something based on that. They might look to even create something completely different and break a new market. Of course, every little detail is picked out and discussed well before it has gone to market, with most of the conceptualising done during the creative process. As a game develops its aims can often change, and the final product can take a completely different shape to what it was initially meant to be.

One key component of designing a slot game is marketing and branding. Slot games will generally have a common design style, colour set or layout. Certain brands – such as Microgaming – will always have the spin button in the bottom right hand corner. Others – such as anything designed by Net Entertainment – will have the spin button placed at the bottom center of the game. These stylistic themes must be carried over from one slot to another to create brand continuity. Once a gamer has played slots for a while they will notice when playing a certain slot game. This helps players find a brand of slot that they enjoy.

Themed slots such as this classic Batman game have become increasingly popular over the years.

Slot games will also be themed on popular culture. Batman slot games have been extremely popular over the last decade, as have Monopoly themed games. If something is popular in the current market then there is a good chance there is a slot machine already being designed to take advantage. Of course, this means the team needs to concentrate on the brand they are tying in. They do this by looking at the everything surrounding the brand itself – films, TV programmes, memorabilia, games – and emulating what they see there. Branded games are often the most popular slot games on the market and as such a lot of care and attention must be implemented. Slot games themed on Hollywood films often come with a lot of strict terms attached which must be adhered to.

Designers often say that creating a slot from scratch is much more difficult than producing a slot game based on a brand, as they have to do a lot of conceptualising themselves. A branded game already has a dedicated following, and having to create a new game to capture he imagination of others can be quite difficult. The game needs to be exciting and deep in features, but not too complicated, and this is a tricky balance to achieve.

Success is measured by the players

If a sot develops a following and is often played then the project is a success. If a game lies stagnating alongside a load of other unpopular slots, then video slot producers will look at what has gone wrong, and how much a game differs from what is popular at the moment. Game designers must keep up with the times and adapt their games to appeal to a modern consumer market. Machines in real life casinos are often expensive to exchange, and often lose value over time. Digital slot games are a safer investment as they can remain on a site without the costs, and might generate a following over time. Designers can look at what is popular with all the data they can get their hands on, and unfortunately still miss the mark with a poor slot.

Ultimately, a good game will have a good return rate to the player and a tempting progressive jackpot, with the potential of big wins being a necessity in modern video slot games. Games also need HD graphics to capture the imagination of the modern player. Without these key components a slot machine is more than likely destined to fail. Of course, if designing a classic slot game it can retain most of the older features. These games are often designed for specific parts of a website which specialise in nostalgia slots and as such do not generate as much revenue as a modern video slot.

Most do not realise how much effort and organisation it takes to create a successful modern day slot machine. From mathematicians to world class graphic designers, there are often huge teams working tirelessly to create the next big slot for you to enjoy. Drop us a comment in the section below and share your thoughts: what, for you, makes an enjoyable slot game?