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The first question players will no doubt have is… what is the difference between a video slot and a normal slot machine? The answer is pretty self-explanatory. Historically, the slot machine was a physical mechanical device. The technology became more advanced with the introduction of computerization.
Eventually, in the latter part of the 20th century, the video slot was born. The reels were no longer mechanical. Rather, players were watching a screen of the reels moving on video slot terminals, or VLTs (Pokies in Australia). These strides in the development of slots owe a great deal to the first electromechanical slot, the Money Honey.
As mentioned on our online slots page, the Money Honey was pioneering in the history of slot machines and soon advanced the basic concepts of automated pay-outs seen in early 1940s machines. Released in 1963 by Bally, it was the first of its kind to utilise a bottomless hopper and could pay out coins unassisted. Previous slots required an attendant to retrieve a player’s winnings. Clearly, this wasn’t a sustainable method. The Money Honey removed this requirement completely.
The enormous popularity of Bally’s revolutionary slot paved the way for the first video slot machine, which was developed by Fortune Coin in 1976. The prototype featured a 19-inch video screen that displayed the reels which were in turn operated by a series of logic boards. These were then mounted in cabinets. The early units, named after the company, were trialled at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. Following a few upgrades, they were approved by the Nevada State Gaming Commission and became popular on the strip during the late 1970s and early 80s.
The advent of the microprocessor during this period also had a huge impact on video slots development. They began to be used extensively in US and UK machines and could monitor the path of coins as well as their amounts inserted by the user. They could also control the stepper motors by way of proximity sensors. In addition, casino software enabled the processor to determine which symbols were being displayed on the reels as well as the extent of each pay-out. The microprocessor also ushered in random number generators. Whereas original slot machines relied on a series of gears to spin their reels, which were activated by a lever, video slots make use of RNGs. This made the lever redundant, improved reliability and prevented casino owners from tinkering with the RTPs.
These new electronic slots began to proliferate in a big way after IGT acquired Fortune Coin. They became popular with operators because of their reliability and ease-of-use. Free from the mechanical restraints of their more primitive predecessors, the use of graphical reels and computerised displays allowed developers to include more symbols and pay-lines which in turn resulted in more lucrative jackpots. Unsurprisingly, they went down a storm with players. Because of this, IGT started to focus their attention and considerable budget on video slots instead of traditional mechanical machines. Their innovations led to the introduction of slots like Reel ‘em In’ – the first to introduce a second bonus round screen.
Due to this video game transformation, the scope of what video slots could achieve eventually became grander. Bonus rounds, free spin games, and mini tangential adventures all became part of the video slot experience. And to this day, most of the latest, most innovative online slots incorporate some if not all of these elements.
Of course, this isn’t to say that the classic slots of old have ceased to be popular amongst players. In fact, they continue to be a major draw for those looking to enjoy no-frills old-school game-play. The best ones do a good job in recapturing some of the magic of traditional fruit machines with simple 3-reel play and a limited number of pay-lines.
Some of the most ground-breaking online slots that owe a great deal to the bricks and mortar video games of old, include Thunderstruck by Microgaming, Rainbow Riches by Barcrest and Starburst by Netent.