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How Online Slots are Made – The 6 Stages of Slot Game Development

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2021 marks 130 years since New York based Sittman and Pitt Company created the first slot machine. The game was inspired by poker: it featured 50 poker faces and five drums and cost a nickel to play.

Interestingly, the game paid rewarded winners with cigars and free beer for triggering strong poker hands like a Straight, full house or royal flush. Simpler times back then. Around 1895, California based Charles Fey created an improved slot machine with three reels and five symbols. 

Fey created a slot whose outcome was so random that California banned it within five years. All the same, his creation survived two world wars, the cold era, and numerous gambling laws before becoming an online sensation in the 21st century.

The modern online slot goes through six stages of creation. It’s more sophisticated than Fey’s level-based machine. It’s more beautiful and pays out at higher rates.

Stage One: Brainstorming

The most popular slots online come from renowned software developers. The companies start their slot creation process by brainstorming for ideas. Cue: they have highly trained teams whose jobs revolve around researching and coming up with ideas.

In many cases, development teams base their slot ideas from popular themes. Think of books, fruit, ancient Egypt, European mythology, TV and film, sports, wildlife, celebrities, space, royals and crime.

Let’s say a company believes there’s a growing market for book themed slots: you can check examples of book-themed slots here. Then it could brainstorm for a slot idea based on a popular book.

Take Play’n Go as an example. The Swedish developer realized there was demand for book-themed and ancient Egypt themed slots. So, it created a game that combines the two themes: Book of the Dead. 

Stage Two: Creating a Prototype

After a company comes up with a potentially great idea, the next stage is to test whether the idea is practical, achievable and profitable. This works by creating a prototype of the idea. Let’s say a developer thinks it can make money from a slot inspired by a famous rockstar.

Rockstars have millions of followers around the world. So, indeed, the idea can be profitable. It is also practical now that there are tons of online slots based on bands like KISS, Motorhead and Guns N’ Roses.

Still, a prototype is needed to show management how the game works, its technical, playabilities, music tracks, betting features and payouts. It’s easier to sell an idea when there’s a working prototype.

Case in point: developers need to talk to the rockstar in question to acquire copyrights for developing the game. And no rockstar will agree to such an idea if they hate the prototype.

Stage Three: Developing a Basic Version

Like video game developers, slot creators progress from a prototype to creating a basic version of the game they intend to release to the market. Think of a draft copy. It features the intended theme, game mechanics, music, RNG software and graphics.

However, it’s not the final project. It’s just a game featuring contributions from the different departments in a gaming studio. Software engineers create the framework. Content creators add the story line.

Music producers chime in with soundtracks while graphic designers choose the best graphics for the game. The goal of this basic version is to put an idea to life. At this stage, some testing will be done to determine the areas that need improvement.

Stage Four: Developing the Final Version

The basic version of a game often features multiple flaws. It might be buggy, meaning glitches appear when someone is playing. Maybe it crashes at some point during gameplay. Or perhaps it has a bigger problem: Everything feels wrong.

Let’s say the team slacked during the basic version stage and the game feels terrible in every aspect. Now, it’s time to deal with all the issues that made the primary version a poor game.

If there’s an issue with mechanics, developers get back to work to ensure the final copy runs smoothly. If it’s an issue of music, the soundtracks are done again. Basically, this stage is about serious development.

The team members are instructed to create the new game in the best way possible. And to ensure a good game is created, there are editors and supervisors who audit them work done and provide guidance to junior developers.

Stage Five: Testing and Polishing

Although the final version is meant to be ready for market release, it has to be tested. First, developers test their game in-house. Every studio has a team of people whose job is to play slots.

They don’t necessarily play these games to have fun. They play them to test how they work. Their goal is to find out if a game is beautiful. Does it run smoothly? Is it easy to bet? Are the reels mean? Is it an entertaining game?

Ideally, these employees critique a slot before it’s released to the market. Some game studios also invite outsiders to test their pre-released slots. The objective is to collect the opinions of actual slot players and not employees.

After collecting feedback, developers polish a slot accordingly. Maybe people the free spin feature doesn’t appear. The game is polished. Maybe some players think the graphics are old. They are improved. 

Stage Six: Releasing the Game

This is the final stage. A slot has been developed. It works as intended. Critics think it’s beautiful, simple to play and entertaining. The final step is to send copies to online casinos. 

Established developers like NetEnt, Playtech and Microgaming don’t need to worry about marketing. They have partnerships with hundreds of casino sites ever ready to showcase their latest games.

However, small developers still have a job to do for their slot to become a success. They need to market it to players and casinos. They might even offer it free of charge through a demo mode. 

Better yet, they can run a promotion to give out free spins to everyone who plays the slot. That way, it’s easier to create a fanbase for the game.