Australian development studio Big Time Gaming first introduced Megaways slots to the world in 2016 when they released Dragon Born, a mythical-themed slot that utilised ‘Reel Modifier Technology’, allowing for up to 117,649 paylines, as opposed to the usual 10 – 243.
For the uninitiated, Reel Modifier Technology is an innovative piece of tech built into online slots that sees the number of rows that appear on each reel change after each and every spin.
Traditional online slots usually have an equal number of symbols land on each reel (usually between 3 and 5 symbols), whilst Megaways slots can have up to 8 symbols on a single reel. If players manage to land a whole set of reels with the maximum number of symbols on each of them then they’ll have an unnaturally large number of paylines in play.
It would be easy to think that this is where the success story begins, but you’d be wrong. Despite having come up with an industry-changing concept, Dragon Born was a commercial failure. Players didn’t take to the game at all, so it was back to the drawing board.
Almost a year later Big Time Gaming released Bonanza Megaways, a mining-themed slot that dazzled players and took casinos by storm. Such was its success that Big Time Gaming just had to capitalise on its momentum by releasing more Megaways slots such as Extra Chilli, Monopoly Megaways and Who Wants to be a Millionaire Megaways.
Why have Megaways slots been so successful in recent years?
There are almost 200 Megaways slots available to play at casinos across the internet right now. Quite frankly that’s a lot of games, let alone games that all feature the same major mechanic.
So, how on earth did one online slot studio create something so popular that it’s spawned hundreds of new slots? It certainly wasn’t Big Time Gaming who were churning out all of these slots, the studio simply doesn’t have the resources to create that many titles in under 5 years.
The reality was that Megaways proved SO popular that online slot developers were scrambling over each other to get their hands on a licence to make a Megaways slot of their own. Within two years of Bonanza Megaways’ release the market exploded with new Megaways slots.
A whole host of esteemed developers such as Blueprint Gaming, SG Digital, Relax Gaming, Pragmatic Play, Red Tiger Gaming and NetEnt all got in on the act, releasing hit games that proved to be hugely popular with their fan bases… Megaways-branded reboots of classic slots such as Gonzo’s Quest, Divine Fortunes and Fishin’ Frenzy proved to be the most popular slots.
First and foremost, Megaways slots are so popular because of their 117,649 (sometimes more) ways to win. In a world of online slots that offered, at most, 243 ways to win, a mammoth 284x increase on the number of paylines was quite unbelievable to players.
Secondly, Megaways grew in popularity due to so many developers jumping on the bandwagon in such a short space of time. It was (and still is) hard to ignore the fact that Megaways games are filling up casino lobbies at a rate of knots.
The fact that players are actually playing them is hardly a surprise when they’re more often than not the first game they see upon logging into their casino account.
Is Megaways popularity detrimental to the rest of the industry?
There’s a fairly strong argument to be made that Megaways slots have been (and still are) detrimental to the rest of the iGaming industry. Whilst these games are incredibly fun, we believe that they may have stunted innovation within the slots sphere over a few years.
Why should any slot development studio out there spend countless hours and hundreds of thousands of pounds in resources to come up with the next big innovation in slots when it might well prove to be a commercial flop?
Instead, the studio could pay significantly less money to licence the Megaways mechanic, meaning they could quickly develop a new slot (or repurpose a popular old slot) featuring Megaways, knowing that it would draw in players based on name recognition alone.
On the other hand, had Big Time Gaming not invented Reel Modifier Technology, we might still find ourselves in the dark ages, playing online slots with a minuscule amount of paylines and very little in the way of unique gameplay.
It’s also fair to suggest that without the addition of the Megaways mechanic, other developers might not have been motivated to create their own unique online slot mechanics in an attempt to invent the ‘next Megaways’ – mechanics such as those listed below…
Are there viable alternatives to Megaways slots available to play?
It might not seem like it looking at casino lobbies at first glance – but yes – believe us when we tell you that there are actually a whole host of viable alternatives to Megaways slots out there.
Over the last few years, a number of online slots with truly unique gameplay mechanics have been released by top developers… These include: Slingo games, a hybrid between online slots and online bingo, Gigablox slots which feature giant symbols that almost fill entire reels, and of course, Infinity Reels, the mechanic that sees players enjoy infinite game reels!
Whilst they’re three of the most popular game mechanics out there, there are so many more that are worth mentioning, including xWays, Link & Win, Wonderways, Powerways, Ultraways, Megaquads and Megaclusters.
So, now you know! Megaways aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to online slots. Yes, they’re the most popular type of online slot out there, and they may well have oversaturated the iGaming market in the last five years, but their time in the spotlight is almost up.
Talented developers such as Yggdrasil, Nolimit City and ReelPlay are quickly catching up with Big Time Gaming, the creators of the Megaways mechanic… But who knows what cards they’ve got hidden up their sleeves following their big-money acquisition by industry giants Evolution.
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