A video slot is an online, digital and upgraded version of the old mechanical slot machines. Where the physical slot machines usually had 3 reels, few paylines and limited bonus features, the video slot is usually characterized by 5 reels (sometimes more), stunning animations and 3D graphics, advanced features and bonus games, and paylines ranging from 10 to 1024, and sometimes even into the hundreds of thousands.
Just to be clear, we do not consider the digital online representations of the physical slot machines to be “video slots”. Online casinos usually group these into a category of their own called “classic slots”, and they aim to be exact replica of real mechanical slot machines from past or present - or at least strongly resembling such machines in digital format.
What is a video slot?
The obvious physical limitations of a mechanical slot does not exist in the digital universe of the online video slots. The possibilities are therefore virtually endless when it comes to innovation, features and what exactly a video slot is - or can be. As we shall see, the last point is significant when it comes to pinpointing exactly what a video slot is.
A good example of “endless possibilities” is the very innovative Wildcano slot from Red Rake Gaming. The reels are orbital, and make out the Mayan-like temple leading up to the volcanic crater in the center of the screen. You, as the player, has a birds eye view of the wild spitting vulcano, and this is just one example of the many innovation and possibilities offered by the ever-evolving phenomena that is called video slots.
Of course, there are many video slots that don’t take it as far into the unknown as the example above, but still offer plenty of innovation and features that takes full advantage of the format. A famous example of such a slot is the ever-popular Gonzo’s Quest from Netent. Here the reels are replaced by heavy stone block symbols falling from above, and each winning symbol explodes to give way for new falling symbols in what is known as the Avalanche feature.
The point is that video slots are ever-evolving, and any clear definition would only put unnecessary limitations on something that is bound to exceed expectations every time a developer has a clever new idea. The best definition would probably be that a video slot is any slot that does not fall into the “classic slot” category we mentioned briefly in the intro.
Usually, you’ll find plenty of exciting special features and bonus games on a video slot, but not always. Some video slots, like Starburst and Twin Spin, are strongly inspired by the classic slots, but still contain features only found on video slots. We would not go as far as to call them hybrid slots, but they demonstrate clearly that the boundaries of the category “video slots” can come fairly close to touching base with the classic slots also.
Video slot features
Modern day video slots typically come with an array of different features - some standard to most or all video slots, while other features are exclusive for a specific game. Here we shall briefly discuss some interesting features from both categories.
Paylines (ways to win)
What all video slots have in common is that the number of paylines are usually a lot higher than on the classic slots. Some games have as few as 10 paylines, while others have 243 ways to win, or even as high as 1024. Some slots, for example from Big Time Gaming, even offers flexible paylines and more than a hundred thousand ways to win.
Both Ways Win
Some video slots let you win both ways. Usually, you form winning paylines from left to right, but with these kind of slots it works both ways.
Avalanche feature (cascading reels)
First invented by NetEnt on their legendary flagship game, Gonzo’s Quest, the avalanche feature replaces the normal reels with symbols falling from above. Winning symbols will typically explode, or be removed in other ways, and be replaced by new symbols on the same spin.
Expanding wilds, stacked wilds and sticky wilds
More or less every video slot contains at least one type of wild symbol. The 3 most common types of wilds are the expanding wild, the stacked wild and the sticky wild. The first will expand into covering a full reel, the second will already by large enough to cover a full reel and the third one stays in place for at least one more spin.
This is another symbol featured by most video slots, but not all. Usually, this symbol will trigger the free spins bonus feature if you land at least 3 anywhere on the reels (hence the name “scatter”) at the same time. Landing more scatters than 3 will often mean more free spins, and sometimes landing scatter during the free spin game will give you additional spins.
Another NetEnt innovation, and this feature first appeared on Aloha! Cluster Pays released in March 2016. Other game providers have since copied it, and basically it means that you win by forming clusters of symbols, instead of landing symbols lined up on paylines.