Slots games are so-called because they were originally coin-operated machines which required the player to insert a coin into a slot. Whilst no such coin operation applies to their online counterparts, the word has been retained, since online slots are very much the same as far as the actual gaming experience is concerned.
Like their mechanical ancestors, online slots games feature a number of reels (mostly commonly three or five), each of which bears a variety of symbols. The player spins the reels, and if the combination of symbols which come to rest on the pay line is deemed to be a winner, a cash prize is paid out. Almost all online slots offer a range of prizes, from quite modest ones all the way up to the jackpot, which is the maximum win that can be achieved on the game. A Pay Table is built into most slots games so that players can view the winning combinations and the prizes paid for each at any time.
The outcome of an online slots game is determined by a random number generator, or RNG. This ensures that the game is perfectly fair to all players, and it also means that no skill is involved. On the contrary, winning or losing at online slots is almost always a matter of pure luck, and that makes it just as easy (or challenging) for a brand new player to win a big prize than it is for one who has been playing slots for years or even decades.
Whilst the basic principles of online slots games are fairly standard, there are thousands of variations in terms of theme and presentation. Some slots try to replicate mechanical machines that one might expect to play in Las Vegas or Monte Carlo, others are based on popular movies, characters and video games, such as Jurassic Park, Batman or Resident Evil, and many more attempt to be as original as possible by featuring unique symbols, sound effects and special features.
The special features mentioned a moment ago can often be viewed as side-games which are triggered by getting a certain combination of symbols on the reels at the same time. For example, it is common for three or more Free Spin symbols on the reels to trigger a bonus round of free spins, giving the player the chance to win cash prizes without spending a penny of their own money. Similarly, three or more Feature symbols on the reels may trigger a bonus game which is related to the overall theme of the slot being played. For example, in the game Rainbow Riches it is possible to trigger a Pots of Gold feature.
We have already said that the top prize which can be won in an online slots game is referred to as the jackpot, but some games offer something called a progressive jackpot instead. These progressive jackpots do not have a maximum value, but rather a minimum one. The value of the jackpot then climbs from that minimum as players enjoy the game, until someone eventually wins whatever amount has been reached by the time the win occurs. Some progressive jackpots can be substantial, and there have even been quite a few payouts which have turned the lucky winners into multimillionaires.
Because online slots are so easy to play, they tend to be the most popular of all casino games. For that reason, game designers all over the world are constantly coming up with ideas for brand new titles and also for sequels to existing titles which are proving to be particularly big hits. This means that the range of games that is available is constantly expanding, so online slots players can look forward to plenty of fresh and exciting new titles appearing in casinos worldwide for many years to come.