With more than 1.08 million machines worldwide as of 2016, slots are the lifeblood of both the landbased and the online gaming industry. The first machine of this type was invented toward the end of the 19th century but a lot of things have changed with the introduction of the virtual reel.
The first game that used a video screen instead of mechanical reels was introduced in the mid-1970s and was called the Fortune Coin. Gamblers initially approached the new type of slot machine with suspicion for a variety of reasons.
For starters, the resolution was rather low so the imaging was far from impressive. These early video-screen machines lacked animation, audio effects, and bonus features, not to mention most spinners were not tech-savvy and distrusted the Random Number Generators that determined the spins’ outcomes. The absence of the physical reels caused many to believe the machines were rigged against the players.
The mid-1990s were a turning point in the history of the “one-armed bandits”. This is when the first video slots with bonus features exploded on the scene. In February 1997, manufacturer Silicon Gaming launched The Odyssey machine, a multi-game video slot that featured a larger-sized screen, several bonus features, and significantly improved animation.
The immense popularity of its successor, Reel ‘Em In by WMS Gaming (launched later in 1997), made game designers realize that video slots are the future of the constantly evolving gambling industry.
Soon after classic three-reels slots gave way to their improved cousins as the latter significantly advanced the entertainment value of slot machines. If you are yet to transition from classic to video slots, this article might be just the thing you need.
We explain the differences between the two types of games, the bonus features of video slots, and how betting on multiple lines works. Here you will also find several compelling reasons for and against playing multi-line video slots.
How Are Video Slots Different Than Classic Slots?
1Virtual Instead of Physical Reels
The biggest difference between classic and video slots is that the former used physical reels while the latter are software-driven. Classic games with mechanical reels have become a remnant of the past and are currently sold to collectors only.
Video slots rely on programmable chips called Random Number Generators. The symbols are mapped on virtual instead of physical reels which greatly increases the number of possible combinations. This also enables developers to experiment with different payout percentages and volatility levels.
2More Than 3 Reels
Another distinctive feature of video slots is that they play on five reels instead of only three as is the case with their classic counterparts. The chance of hitting winning combinations is enhanced by the introduction of multiple paylines.
Classic slots paid on a single win line that stretched across the center of their three reels. In contrast, video slots typically utilize anywhere between 9 and 50 win lines although it is possible to find games with more.
The winning conditions themselves are identical to those in three-reel slots. You need to align alike symbols on one or more paylines to pocket a cash prize. Only the top win per line is paid. In most video slots, the win lines pay only if the matching symbols have aligned in succession from the leftmost to the rightmost reel.
4Both Ways Slots
With that in mind, it is also possible to find multi-line games where the alike symbols pay in both directions. These are known as Both Ways slots, with NetEnt’s Fisticuffs and The Invisible Man being two popular examples. Some advanced slots lack any paylines whatsoever, but we shall tackle this subject in more detail later on in the article. You need a minimum of three alike symbols to fall on the paylines to receive a cash prize although there are games that pay for as little as two symbols.
5Bigger Wager per Payline
Video slots typically support several bet levels, which is to say the player has the option to wager multiple coins on each of the available paylines. The number usually reaches up to ten coins per win line.
6Diversity of Themes
Another trait of video slots is that they offer a greater diversity where themes are concerned. Gamemakers no longer restrict themselves to boring fruit and BAR symbols only. Today’s technologies enable them to craft games inspired by mythology, different cultures, adventure, literature, and popular culture.
Multi-Line Slots' Bonus Features in Brief
Video slots would not have risen to such great popularity had it not been for the bonus features they are equipped with. In addition to the standard cash prizes players can collect from the paylines, they can trigger bonus events like free spins and different types of side games.
There are even slots where you can buy your way into these bonuses. Below, we lay out the key features you are likely to come across when playing multi-line video slots.
The Cost of Playing Multiple Paylines
The paylines have been an inseparable part of slots ever since this type of game first emerged. Early slots featured a single payline down the center of the reels. More recent three-reel slots award payouts on three horizontal and two diagonal win lines.
Multi-line games are a more elaborate but also a more expensive breed of slots. The player is expected to cover each payline with a bet. Otherwise, it will fail to produce a cash prize even if the winning symbols align.
The paylines of modern slots form all kinds of shapes. They would snake their way across the reels, zigzag, form V shapes or appear as chevrons. Video slots commonly have 20, 25, 30 or 40 paylines but this number varies greatly between games.
The availability of multiple paylines is beneficial to players because it increases their chances of aligning winning combinations. Furthermore, the same spin can produce wins on several paylines instead of just one.
With that said, the player is expected to post a wager on each active line which significantly increases the cost per spin. There are two types of paylines – fixed and adjustable. The latter give players the option to deactivate one or more of the paylines, which naturally decreases the games' winning potential.
Slots with fixed paylines give you no such opportunity. You play all lines or none. This can be rather expensive for spinners on a limited budget, especially if the game uses a high minimum denomination for its coins. For example, if you play a slot with 30 fixed lines where the minimum coin value is $0.10, each spin will cost you $3.
From the perspective of casino operators, fixed paylines became a necessity when penny slots gained popularity in the early 2000s. With a minimum bet of $0.01 per spin, these machines were not as profitable for the house. This caused game designers to come up with the idea of the “forced bet” aka the fixed payline.
One such machine would not allow players to deactivate any of the available paylines. All they can do is choose how many coins to bet per spin. For example, the gaming controls panel on a slot with 20 fixed lines would feature buttons that read Bet 20, Bet 40, Bet 60, Bet 80, Bet 100, and so on. Bet 20 is the first bet level where you practically cover each of the 20 win lines with a coin. You spend two coins per line with the Bet 40 option and so on.
Many advanced slots have more than one bet level, i.e. you can wager multiple coins on each payline, usually up to ten. Such is the case in NetEnt's Divine Fortune where you have 20 fixed lines, a minimum coin denomination of $0.01 and ten betting levels.
It makes sense that the higher number of win lines increases the hit frequency of slot machines. The trouble is it also lowers the average amount you win back on each payline.
You win some credits but lose the coins you have wagered on the lines that failed to produce winning combinations. Many spins would result in losses despite the machine declaring you have won.
Reasons Against Playing Multi-Line Slots
Despite being the most played games on the casino floor, multi-line video slots have a bad reputation within the gambling community, with many longtime casino goers avoiding them at all cost. Of course, it all comes down to personal preferences and perspective but the three downsides listed below are valid enough reasons to take your action elsewhere.
Reasons to Try Multi-Line Slots
Despite their downsides, video slots remain the most played casino game of all time. Now that we have outlined the main disadvantages associated with multi-line games, let's have a look at some of the most compelling reasons to try them.