in search of Space Monsters

exploring arcade game design with HTML5 and JavaScript

Are slot games becoming overly complicated?

Posted on | October 6, 2014 | No Comments

I’ve always had a real soft spot for slot machines. The old ones, the ‘bandits’ as we used to call them when I was a boy.
I loved the execution. Drop a coin, pull the lever and see what comes up. It is of course no more than a flip of a coin but it was mesmerising. With that next coin you might just win!

HTML5 has of course seen us take a step back to producing simple arcade games and in my travels I’ve seen a fair share of mobile friendly HTML5 slot games. Somewhat surprisingly they’re almost always good.
I think that’s possibly because that “flip of a coin” mechanic is rather simple to implement.

I thought I’d spend a little bit of time looking around at other implementations and slot gaming in general.

More and more JavaScript developers are emerging by the day and the competition is stiff.
Casual games of the past are slowly disappearing in favour of more “innovative” games.

But, as with just about any other “innovation”, these developments beg the question, “is newer always better?” 

When we look at the kind of slot games that are being churned out now, we see that they’ve come a long way from the Liberty Bell, the first mechanical slot machine invented in 1895. Not only have fruit machines migrated to the internet, but they way they’re played has also changed significantly. As I mentioned one of the most popular aspects of the fruit machine was its simplicity – because really, what could be more simple than pulling a lever and hoping that the symbols match up for you to win, right? This is what made it possible for Atari to develop Atari Slots for the Atari 2600 in 1979. The modern fruit machine, however, deals with so much more.

Most of today’s fruit machines are integrated with more gameplay changes than ever before. Spin Genie, a newcomer in the field, has even turned the fruit machine into an adventure game with different levels and an actual storyline. From what I’ve seen of it it actually works! Atari (of course, I’m an Atari nerd) has teamed up with renowned developer IGT to create Atari Centipede Slots. But I do wonder if this is doing the industry (casual gaming) good or not?

There are thousands upon thousands of slot games on the mobile markets that cater to casual gamers, and while many of them still offer the same gameplay (click a button and wait for the reels to stop spinning), they’ve also integrated various minigames into the mix. While overcomplicating games has been hurtful to some industries, it seems the slot industry might be benefitting from this move. After all, a game that’s so simple could serve to benefit from slot slight alterations, but developers working in this industry need to be wary of the amount of change they’re inviting. How long before we see slots that don’t even have reels anymore? How long before the actual essence of fruit machines are lost? How long before they start relying on skill, and not just chance, as the world’s first slot games had?

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