6 May, 2022


Lightning Box Operations Manager Michael Maokhamphiou details the changes online slot games have undergone in recent years, and what the future holds for this hugely popular vertical

What have been the biggest changes in online slot games over the years?

Online slot games have changed dramatically in recent years in order to keep up with player expectations and their changing demands. There was a time when graphics and visuals reigned supreme – and they’re still important. But players now want more engaging features as well as flashy visuals. Graphics alone cannot retain a customer or entertain them long term. To meet that need the industry began to focus on features and mechanics. A good example is our popular Lightning Respin Mechanic. The system holds players’ attention throughout extended play sessions due to its unique collection tally. More importantly, it brings them back time and time again, as players are glued to the screen to see what prizes they land inside the active reels. 

Why are online slot games so popular?

Online slot games are popular because they are simple and easy to pick up. Unlike live table and traditional card games found in casinos, no skill is required, so there is no barrier to entry for players. Any one of them can land a max win on a game. The player is simply taking a chance and pitting their luck on each spin. That is the real magic of online slot games. Theoretically, you could land a big win within a spin of another big win. It’s a numbers game packaged within a mass market appeal product with entertainment, relaxation and, most importantly, fun being the main driving force.   

How will land-based casinos  be impacted by any development of online slot games?

Land-based casinos will always have a home within the gaming industry as they offer truly immerse escapism and a social element that online slots can’t recreate. However, it would be naive to think the rise in online slots hasn’t had a detrimental effect on land-based casinos, particularly when it comes to younger players. Those players can now enjoy many of their favourite games from home. I am always amazed at how adaptable this market is and we are seeing this in land-based casinos as they start offering more than ever at their establishments to increase footfall. There’s food, drink, multi-media entertainment and more to draw players away from their online casino slot games. Offering more entertainment outside of just gambling helps combat the rise of at-home play, by giving additional services that cannot be found within the home.

What does the future hold for online slot games?

Innovation. As mentioned previously, our industry is highly adaptable and willing to take chances and risks. This creates a perfect environment for change to happen and be acted upon quickly, driving evolution. I suspect new markets are the future of online games. Hopefully, the stigma around the industry will wane and restrictions decrease. If they do, many countries adverse to the potential of online slots will begin to create regulators to allow entry into their markets. Slots are an entertainment-first industry that can produce taxable revenue for a country. We are already seeing this change in the US and Latin American countries, who are catching up to what has been a Euro and Asia-centric industry for far too long.    

Will Virtual Reality play a major role in future online slot games?

We thrive on evolution, and delivering players the next big thing in entertainment is important. The biggest drawback I see for VR, however, is the ownership of virtual reality equipment. Will they want to buy a headset or other tools required to enjoy the experience? Without the general public embracing this tech, the pool of prospective players is much narrower than perhaps those who own a PC or smartphone, which is currently all they need to play an online slot. If these products become more accessible and commercially viable, there’s no reason why iGaming won’t adopt them. But, for now, I think it’s a watching brief.

What other technological advances could have an impact on online slot

game development?

The social aspect of gambling is something we as an industry are striving to improve. The sharing of wins, participation in online tournaments and experiences among friends, along with integrating our technology within social media and the wider metaverse, will impact game development in the coming years.

How much potential does the Ontario iGaming market have?

The Ontario iGaming market has the potential to become one of the most lucrative online gambling markets anywhere in North America. Many parties are interested in this burgeoning market as its success could lead to further adoption across the whole of North America. Many of its citizens currently use unregulated means to access the services they want, so there is an established player base who will benefit from having a governing body in place. This will offer them operator integrity, player protection and social responsibility, giving them the opportunity to play safely and with confidence.    

And what about iGaming possibly going live in New York? How much excitement is there for that market?

At the beginning of the year, New York allowed mobile sports betting and enjoyed a busy first day, reporting a value of $5.8m in transactions. That demonstrates the need for regulated gambling, encompassing not only the sports betting industry but all verticals within the iGaming ecosystem. I think we can presume that, prior to the launch of mobile sports betting, these players were using grey markets or unregulated means to access these services. Are there online casino players doing the same? I believe all operators, providers and players are keeping a close eye on New York as it relaxes regulations around gambling. We will just have to wait and see how big the New York market can become.