Though it may sometimes seem as if online pokies have been around for ever, gambling in arcade formats actually migrated online as soon as the technology allowed. But the whole modern online casino games format owes a lot to the earlier invention of slot machines.
Slot machines: A history
The American company Sittman and Pitt, based in New York city, developed the first commercial slot machines back in 1891. These machines played 50 cards (two cards were missing to improve the odds in favour of the house) across five drums, and the only prizes available were cigars and free drinks. Alongside this initiative, the inventor Charles Fey was creating his own auto-pay slot machine during the period 1887-1895. This machine became known as the Liberty Bell because it paid out when the player was lucky enough to line up three bell symbols.
Fey’s machine, which strangely had no patent, was also the first to dispense with cards in favour of five symbols: A liberty bell, plus horseshoes, hearts, diamonds and spades. Even though the US banned slot machines as early as 1902, companies still turned them out with just a few changes. Now fruit symbols appeared for the first time and the Bell-Fruit company brought in the famous BAR symbol, which is still in use today.
During this era, and in fact right through to the 1960s, slot machines worked on mechanical principles and featured a pull-down lever to spin the reels and operate the game. One reason for this was that this ‘hands-on’ approach gave players the illusion they could somehow remain more in control of the outcome of every game. Nevertheless, players continued to lose money to these so-called ‘one armed bandits’ in great numbers.
The first electromechanical slot machine arrived in 1964, and proved an instant hit with game players. It offered auto payouts of up to 500 coins, but still retained the traditional lever. Electromechanical slots became the new arcade game standard, flooding the market until 1976 when the first Fortune Coin video slots appeared. As has now become the norm in the industry, this new technology, which introduced new features like extra bonus rounds, rapidly replaced electromechanical slots.
From 1996 onwards, slots rapidly took advantage of new developments in computers. This prompted the appearance of new second-screen bonus rounds and then, thanks to the spread of the Internet, introduced online casinos, thereby making gaming even more accessible. Such trends seem set to continue with online casino games now available on different mobile devices and in a variety of new formats.
In the early days, slot players were aiming to match symbols appearing in a defined area known as a payline (or a win line). In this long-standing arrangement, different symbol combinations in alignment would win different payout amounts. Later efforts to make games more attractive gave players the option to pay more money in order to access extra paylines – which, at least in theory, gave them more options to win within any one game. Of course, the idea of gaining extra chances to win was popular with players, but they were not quite so keen on paying more and more money to access multiple paylines.
‘All ways’ formats: A new gaming genre
Some newer slot machines have now dispensed with the whole idea of paylines. Instead they have introduced a much more flexible approach to winning combinations in which there is no such thing as one ‘winning line’. In its place, players pay a more realistic flat fee in order to play a system which gives them far more winning options. These new ‘ways to win’ games heavily promote their increased win potential and so are invariably known by this feature e.g. a 243 ways to win game, or a 1024 ways to win choice. So let’s look at this new concept in further detail.
243 Way Slots
With a ways to win machine, the winning symbols need to land on adjacent reels starting from the leftmost position. And like any typical video slot, a 243 ways machine has the classic three visible symbol positions per reel, and a total of five reels. So that gives a potential number of winning combinations of 3x3x3x3x3, which comes to a total of 243 winning symbol combinations. In addition, some games will even accept right-to-left combinations as well as the standard left-to-right mode. Players find the initial look and feel of this format very familiar, which is one reason why there is a good choice of popular titles in this specific genre.
1024 Way Slots
This slot variant can offer many ways to win with prizes usually awarded for matching three or more combinations – and the longer the combination, the greater your prize. A 1024 game will feature four symbol positions per reel, and there will be five spinning reels. As a result, that increases the number of winning combinations to 4x4x4x4x4 – which is a total of 1,024 combinations. And once again, there is often an additional right-to-left mode available.
So which is best: Paylines or Ways to Win?
It’s not always easy to make the choice, but with more ways to win, most players might regard 243- and 1024-Way slots as the better bet. However, payline games have a lower volatility (i.e. fewer prizes but higher amounts), whereas ways to win slots are high-volatility games (i.e. more prizes but smaller amounts).
It may often come down to your strategy and expectations, but most of all it should reflect your gaming budget: With lots of cash at your disposal, you might want to play for the bigger prizes on offer with paylines. But if you have less cash to play with, you may wish to play on ways to win machines, because you will then at least have a greater chance of securing a win.
Of course, the best way to decide your preference for paylines or ways to win formats is really to thoroughly explore the benefits of each option. So why not visit JackpotCity casino and find out for yourself by playing both types of slot games.