There are two things which have driven the development of online slots more than anything else. The first of these is technology. Without the internet, there would be no such thing as online slots – that goes without saying – but ever since the first online casino was launched in the mid ‘90s, the operators have done their best to utilise the latest technology in order to deliver an enhanced user experience.

This runs all the way from utilising the power of Java in the earliest days to enhance graphics and gameplay to making use of the shared network of worldwide users to build up huge jackpot pay outs.

The other driver behind the on-going development of online slots has been a determination to enhance the user experience. This is based on a realisation on the part of online casino developers that simple games of chance are not enough to attract and retain a growing consumer base.

The fact that online slots bring in more income than any other part of an online casino can be traced back to the simplicity of the game, the fact that many casinos offer the chance to play without making a deposit, the small size of any actual stake usually involved and the simple truth that playing many of the leading online slots is a great deal of fun. 

Over the years, developers have gone to great lengths to emphasise the entertainment aspect of slots, from basing them around popular entertainment brands including films, rock groups and TV programmes to, in recent years, introducing aspects more commonly associated with computer games, such as leader boards and levelling up. 

The next steps

The arrival of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have had a huge impact on the worlds of entertainment and gaming, and it was only ever really a matter of time until this impact made itself felt in the world of online gambling. Although they are often confused, VR and AR are actually two different technologies:

  • Virtual Reality – virtual reality involves a player wearing a headset – the Oculus Rift was one of the first and most well-known, but many more have been developed since – which offers a 360 degree view of a virtual landscape or area. Motion sensors allow them to ‘move around’ and interact with that environment. 
  • Augmented Reality – augmented reality involves aspects of virtual game play being imposed on a real world environment via a device. The most famous example of augmented reality in practice is still probably the Pokemon Go game, which involved players looking through a device like a tablet or smart phone and seeing a Pokemon character superimposed over the real world background they were capturing. 

Virtual Reality and online gambling

The first virtual reality online casino was SlotsMillion, which was launched in 2015. This enabled players to explore the 3D version of an online casino, interacting with other players in a real time, detailed environment. Since then many of the leading online developers have made it their mission to popularise VR online gambling: 

CASEXE – a software development company which creates VR features for online casinos. Developments work with both VR-exclusive casinos and by adding VR bells and whistles to standard online casinos.

Microgaming – a company which has created a VR version of roulette. The technology is based on the Oculus headset, so players will need to use this or something similar to play. Playing the VR version means being able to see a version of your own hands and those of other players as you play the game and place your bets. 

NetEnt – NetEnt has developed a number of slots for VR casinos. These include Gonzo’s Quest and Jack’s World VR. 

The key to VR technology is that it offers a sense of total immersion in the game being played. This chimes neatly with the clear ambition of developers to turn games such as online slots into sources of all-round entertainment as much as they are forms of gambling. The main issue which is holding VR back from becoming the dominant force in online gambling is the expense involved in getting your hands on the equipment needed.

That plus the fact that the current generation of VR headsets are large and bulky and not the kind of thing you could pop on while you’re taking the train home from work. If the story of technological advancement in the last 20 years tells us anything, however, it tells us that progress tends to lead pretty inexorably toward hardware becoming smaller, more user friendly and less expensive. As this happens there’s every chance that VR will become one of the dominant forms of online gambling. 

Augmented Reality and online gambling

Augmented Reality (AR) takes the concept of integrating the real world with an online virtual experience in a way which is seamless, accessible and affordable. The player uses their smart phone or tablet to view the world around them, and the app they are using interposes visual dynamics into what they are viewing in a way that makes it appear to really be there.

An AR version of roulette, for example, would involve the player looking through their device at the table in front of them and ‘seeing ‘ the roulette table and the bets they are placing, as well as the bets being placed by other people. When it comes to playing slots, the AR experience would mean the flashing lights and spinning, flipping twisting reels of the slot are right there in the room with you.

The advantage which AR has over VR is that the only equipment needed is the kind of smart phone or tablet needed to play online in the first place. As well as reducing the cost, this means that AR online casino experience can be accessed anywhere, just like any other mobile casino. 

One of the most striking examples of an AR casino game is Max’s Quest, developed by BetSoft. This is interesting not only because of the element of AR which it offers, but also because it combines the mechanics of a slot game with the kind of team based action adventure tactics more commonly seen in role playing computer games.

It shows how AR, just like VR, is being used to expand the horizons of online gambling in a way that will make the audience ever larger and more varied. The exact nature of future developments is difficult to pin down, but what can be predicted is that for anyone interested in the world of online casinos, they will be very exciting indeed.