Technological advancement has been one of the largest drivers of innovation for the iGaming industry. Slots have benefited the most from casino games swapping to an online format. No longer restricted by the boundaries of the real world, software providers were able to go all-out with their titles. This has led to brand new special features, reel layouts, and ways for cash prizes to be awarded.
What started with just paylines has seen many adjustments over the years. Ways to win, cluster pays and Megaways are some of the most popular changes to granting wins recently. In this article, we will break down these systems and see how they stack up to one another. Without further ado, let us start where it all began.
Slots first appeared in online casinos in a much more subdued capacity than what we see now. They were physical machines, which meant they could not get too complex. The earliest options came with just one payline. However, as time went on, more were added to the board. As slots moved online, the number of paylines steadily increased. Twenty-five paylines became a default, and you could frequently find even more!
Initially, you were able to choose how many paylines you wanted to have active in each release. However, that option slowly went away as most punters always opted for the maximum amount of paylines. This increased the minimum wager but ensured all players benefitted from a higher slot RTP. Games with flexible paylines are still around, but there are fewer of them every year. Most titles that stick with paylines opt to have a fixed amount.
Regardless of what type of paylines you like, some parts of the playing field are useless. Only winning combinations in the right reel positions matter. It is a rather arbitrary decision where paylines are set, and many players recognized such. By the time ways to win came out, software providers were already offering more paylines as a selling point. Making the jump from paylines to ways to win was not that difficult.
The main benefit ways to win offers is there is no need to stick to a set payline. Instead, winning combinations grant prizes by finding matching symbols in adjacent positions. Most slots add additional requirements like wins having to start with the leftmost reel. However, there are titles without such restrictions that make ways to win that much better for players.
The exact number of ways to win you have available depends on the size of the playing field. Five-reel, three-row boards usually have 243 ways to win, while five-reel, four-row boards come with 1024 ways to win. However, once the number of ways to win is set, it does not change. Not without changing the number of available reels or rows! This sets it apart from the next system on our list.
When Megaways slots first launched in 2016, nobody knew how big they would get. Big Time Gaming was the team behind this new system, which was inspired using ways to win. Once again, how many winning positions are available depends on the playing field. Unlike ways to win slots, the height of each reel is constantly shifting with Megaways.
At the start of a spin, all available reels spin. The game will then set how many symbols will be held in each reel. Most releases that use Megaways allow reels to show between two to seven icons, without counting any extra reels. As a general rule of thumb, Megaways titles allow you up to 117,649 ways to win. However, this is only if all reels reach their maximum size, which is quite rare outside of special features.
While it does not fall into the same category, cluster pays are another way of replacing paylines. However, it does not follow the same ruleset as the previous three. Instead, adjacent positions can grant prizes regardless of where they start. There just needs to be enough of them in a cluster to count. This makes them an Indian Casino Club favourite!
Cluster pay slots are usually combined with a cascading reels mechanic. The special feature makes it score multiple cluster wins. All of our favourite cluster pay games use this combination!