Slot machines once relied on the pure essence of gambling to fuel their popularity. Despite being basic three-reel games, they still drew hordes of players.
However, gaming technology has changed greatly in recent decades. Players are no longer satisfied with the mere thrill of gambling.
They want features and lots of them. US slot machines games that offer multiple bonuses are more likely to be popular than a basic game with no extra frills.
Some very interesting features and formats have arose out of this era. Megaways and cascading reels (a.k.a. avalanche) are two of the most notable developments to arise within the past decade.
Cascading reels and the Megaways format are so popular that they’re becoming common today. But for every Megaways and avalanche, there are features that just don’t catch on.
Certain innovations simply aren’t good enough to draw the average player’s attention. Below, you can see 7 such features that are total failures.
1 – 720 Ways
In 2009, Microgaming introduced a revolutionary format called 243 Ways. This setup defied conventional slots, which, until this point, had always featured paylines.
A 243 Ways game doesn’t have lines. It makes payouts when matching symbols line up in adjacent reels. As the name implies, you have 243 ways to win with these games. The sheer amount of payout possibilities has attracted gamblers to this format for years.
The 720 Ways slot differs from 243 Ways games in the following manners:
- It has five reels and a funky 3-4-5-4-3 setup.
- In contrast, 243 Ways slots have five reels, with each reel being three spaces high (5×3 grid).
- A 720 Ways game pays from left to right (starts on reel 1) and right to left (starts on reel 5).
- A 243 Ways slot, on the other hand, only pay from left to right.
The exciting thing about 720 Ways games is that they almost triple the winning possibilities from their predecessor. The downside, though, is that they’re downright weird and confusing.
A 243 Ways game still looks like a regular slot machine. The 720 Ways slot looks like some Frankenstein hybrid. Gamblers have never taken to the latter concept as a result.
2 – Seven-Reel Slots
Slots formats have begun changing dramatically in recent years. Some games feature as many as eight reels stacked eight spaces high (8×8).
However, a large gap exists between now and when developers began attempting large reel setups. WGS Technology was the first online gaming developer to try this feat.
They rolled out seven-reelers like Farming Fortunes and the 7-Reel Slot (yes, it’s really called this) to much acclaim. These games featured a conventional format (7×3), only with more reels than usual.
The problem with seven-reel slots is that they don’t bring anything new to the table. They aren’t good-looking games or loaded with features.
These slot machines were also really basic from a format standpoint. Farming Futures, for example, only has nine paylines.
WGS just relied on the novelty that these games offered seven reels, instead of the typical three or five. Players never bought it.
Seven-reel slots have since become popular in the form of cluster pays games. Such slot machines often have a 7×7 grid with cluster pays (payouts form anywhere when touching). However, these games also bring more to the table than the original seven-reelers.
3 – Spiral Win Mechanism
NetEnt is arguably the most successful slots developer over the past several years. Their innovation is a big reason behind their success.
Case in point, they invented cascading reels. But even NetEnt has the occasional miss.
In 2017, they released a unique slot called Finn and the Swirly Spin. This game introduced a spiral reel mechanism.
Here’s how it works:
- Symbols come onto the reels from the bottom left-hand corner.
- They move around the outer rim of the reels.
- Eventually, icons make their way to the center of the reels.
- Symbols exit through a keyhole in the center space.
- Wins are formed in clusters.
Some have found this format to be interesting. However, many have also complained about the confusing spiral pattern.
NetEnt isn’t giving up on the spiral win mechanism. They’ve released a sequel called Finn’s Golden Tavern. This game brings back the spiral reel format. However, it has less features than the previous game to help cut down on the confusion.
Maybe the spiral pattern can still catch on. But it probably won’t happen outside of NetEnt, given that other developers aren’t rushing to steal this idea.
4 – Skill-Based Bonuses
The failed innovations that I’ve covered so far have taken place in real money online gambling. Of course, the land-based gambling industry also has its share of follies.
Skill-based slot machines are one of its greatest failures to date. These games were conceived to attract millennials. But they’re not drawing young adults nor traditionalists. Before I get to the reasoning, let me unpack how a skill-based slot works:
- These games are like standard slot machines.
- However, they have bonuses that require skill.
- For example, you might have to shoot Wild West outlaws in first-person shooter mode.
- The more outlaws you hit, the more money you win.
These bonus rounds sound great in theory. They combine video games with slot machines to create a more interactive experience.
However, developers have failed to find the right combination to draw gamblers. Perhaps one problem is that their slot machines are based on old arcade games.
Centipede and Space Invaders, both produced around four decades ago, are two of the most ballyhooed skill-based slots. Neither has developed much popularity in their few years of existence.
The problem with skill-based games is that slots enthusiasts normally prefer a simplistic experience. Millennials, on the other hand, have grown up with sophisticated technology and aren’t moved by old arcade games.
5 – Generic Betting Strategies
Elk Studios is behind plenty of hit online slots. Ecuador Gold, Electric Sam, and Taco Brothers Saving Christmas are some of their biggest hits.
However, one area where Elk Studios has fallen vastly short is with their “betting strategies.”
Each strategy automatically guides your bets when activated. You can turn your chosen strategy on and off at any given time.
Here’s an example of how the “Jumper” works:
- You increase your bet level after every winning round.
- The increase stops once you reach four levels above base level (e.g. 10x the base level).
- Your bet level resets to the base amount following any loss.
The idea of “betting strategies” sounds cool in theory. Rather than just making random wagers, you use a predefined gambling system.
But this concept doesn’t have much practicality in the modern gaming world. Slots are already risky enough. Few want to throw a volatile betting system into the mix as well.
6 – Colossal Reels
WMS has produced a series of slot machines with “colossal reels.” Available in online and land-based casinos, these games are notable for their, well, colossal reels.
Here’s how they work:
- Two sets of reels.
- The set on the left-hand side features a 5×4 grid.
- The set on the right-hand side offers a 5×12 grid.
- Both sets combine for 100 paylines.
These slot machines have a couple of things going for them. First off, the 100 lines offer lots of chances to win.
Being able to form wins on two different sets of reels is also entertaining. You may even feel like you’re playing two slot machines at once.
Colossal reels have been successful within the WMS family of games. However, they haven’t interested any other developers. Like 720 Ways slots, colossal reels are ugly. The two mismatched sets of reels can also make for a confusing experience.
7 – Synced Reels
Synced reels refer to a format where two or more reels contain identical symbols. This feature can lead to more prizes thanks to how so many identical icons are sitting next to each other.
Here’s an example:
- You’re playing a 5×3 game.
- You spin the reels.
- Reel 2 and 3 flash to indicate that they’re synced.
- A diamond symbol fills up both reels (six spaces total).
You can see the possibilities available with such slots. After all, you’re getting the exact same icon in the initial synced reels.
Despite the originality here, synced reels have never caught on. They’re still confined to the NetEnt library several years after being introduced.
Developers will never stop thinking up features. After all, new bonuses and formats keep things exciting and help the slots industry retain and draw players.
However, some features are just flat-out bombs. Usual reasons for failure include ugly formats, confusion, and the novelty effect. 720 Ways and colossal reels have both struggled due to their looks. Neither of these formats are aesthetically pleasing and can quickly turn off players.
Seven-reel slot machines and betting strategies fall under the novelty categories. Neither offers enough to players beyond being unique. At least in the case of betting strategies, they’re just failed add-ons to otherwise successful games.
The spiral win format has proven confusing for many players. It’s still prevalent due to the “Finn” series, but it probably won’t spread beyond NetEnt games.
Skill-based bonuses were rolled out in the mid-2010s as the solution for grabbing millennials’ attention. So far, they’ve failed in their mission. Synced reels are an original feature from NetEnt that I thought were destined for success. However, this feature has failed to gain any traction so far.
The features covered here will likely never take off the way their developers intended. Instead, they’ll simply serve as reminders that not all slots innovations are winners.