When we look back at the last decade of 2009 through 2019, it’s hard to remember at first thought what has changed. The recent 2009 vs. 2019 social media photo craze gave us a good glimpse of our friends and a sometimes surprising reminder in regards to ourselves. It also offered insight into fashion “advances” that led us to say good-bye to low-rise jeans, and embrace the surprisingly enduring trend of leggings as pants.
Back in 2009 topics like swine flu, Susan Boyle, and Harry Potter trended on Twitter. In technology, 2009 is also considered the year smartphones came to truly dominate our lives, and change the way we do just about everything. Facebook spread internationally, people started swarming to e-books, bloggers started influencing international regimes, internet searches delivered instant updates, and gaming moved out of the living room and into our hands, officially becoming both a social affair and a mobile pastime.
In other words, 2009 was a year in which our lives subtly but significantly changed, and every industry has responded in turn. This of course, includes online casinos and the pokies within.
A short history of slots
Before we get into recent changes in online pokies, it’s interesting to take a look back at the history of slots. Best known as slot machines in the US, fruit machines in the UK, and poker machines (aka pokies) in Australia and New Zealand, this casino gambling machine has been around for well over a century. In fact, its history goes all the way back to around 1890, when something resembling today’s one-armed bandit made its first appearance in New York. A mechanism with five drums, 50 cards with faces and a pull lever on the side, this machine was based on a standard poker game, and grew to become quite popular in US bars.
Not long after came a simpler version with three spinning reels, five symbols and an automatic payout mechanism. Three bell symbols produced the biggest payout of all, hence the machine’s name, the Liberty Bell. This simpler, automated machine turned out to be even more popular than its predecessor, and helped spawn what was to become a massive mechanical gaming device industry.
In 1963 came what is considered the first fully electromechanical pokies, with the Money Honey machine developed by Bally. It offered two main updates to the previous format – a bottomless hopper, plus up to 500 coins automatically paid out, without the need for an attendant on-hand. After that, in 1976 came the first “true” video slots. Developed by Fortune Coin Co. this new machine made its debut at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, and soon after became a popular attraction along the Strip.
It was only some 20 years later, with the advent of the internet that online pokies came along. And the rest is history. Without any limitations on physical space, a casino could suddenly easily accommodate hundreds of machines. This meant game software developers could unleash their full imagination, and find a home for an endless assortment of slot machines.
Moving on to more casino game developers and multi-platform casino sites
After online pokies came along, the gaming industry as a whole was changed irreversibly. But the game itself has also changed over the years.
Generally speaking, there are two big differences between 2009 and 2019 regarding the very casino software used to power pokies machines. For starters, there are simply more casino software companies out there. While the industry used to be dominated by a couple of giants back in 2009, today, while most of the big guys are still around, they now compete with any number of boutique pokies creators, that in some cases better answer the needs of varying tastes, and widening markets.
In addition, back in 2009, most online casinos were powered by a single software provider. The casino was either created by the software company itself, or the software was licensed to a third-party who built the interface. Either way, using that model meant that a decade ago, you only got one type of software per casino.
These days, more and more online casinos are moving towards the multi-platform model. That is, they work with a number of software providers, to ensure more game variety for players. This way, they also aren’t reliant on any one company, which gives them more flexibility in terms of operations. In addition, a multi-platform slots offering gives them a unique edge over the competition, as they can boast a selection of pokies games that cannot be found anywhere else.
Introducing better functionality and amazing pokies themes
While slots in 2009 were certainly fun, there have been a few changes since that have helped make them even more engaging. For example, with so many software developers making pokies games, there is an endless variety of themes available covering just about any topic you can imagine. This means blockbuster slots with the latest superhero like Batman, Spiderman, or whoever’s in the cinema these days, as well as special pokies for each holiday, like Halloween, Easter and Christmas in between.
Besides the variety, players love video slots because they are more interactive than traditional pokies games, with animated reels, movie clips, and multiple bonus round features mixed in. Video pokies also offer an unprecedented number of ways to win, sometimes reaching into the hundreds, even thousands of different payouts.
For even more engagement, 3D slots also came onto the scene in the interim, adding a unique spin to pokies games. Featuring 3D graphics and high definition displays, they are particularly well loved by players both for their entertainment value as well as their amazing aesthetics. And if all that wasn’t enough, in recent years, there’s been a race to create virtual reality pokies, which in all likelihood will make their debut in online casinos in 2019.
The move to web play – And the end of the required casino download
Another big change that has impacted the casino industry as a whole, as much as the online pokies niche in particular, is the change in technology. Once upon a time ago, you needed to download the casino’s software to your computer in order to play. This was awkward if you wanted to play at work or when visiting a friend. And while the casino software was certainly safe for the most part, many people simply didn’t like the idea of having to download anything to their machine. Enter the instant Flash casino.
At first, it was rare to find an online casino that offered Flash games. But bit by bit, over the past decade, instant Flash casinos are taking over the online casino world. Also called a no download casino, instant casinos are simply online casinos that can be accessed directly from your web browser.
This change makes playing pokies in 2019 so much more accessible. Now you can easily browse over to your favourite online casino from any machine, any web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome) log in, and enjoy the full casino functionality from there. This casino trend is so strong, that it’s starting to become rare to find an online casino that can be downloaded, even if you wanted to. In fact, from our experience, the new online casinos that have come along in the past few years have been developed exclusively for web play.
Complete mobile pokies play in 2019
The move to browser-based casinos has also had a tremendous impact on the pokies market, making pokies fully accessible on the go.
In 2009, it was so rare to find a mobile pokies game, that the online casino would give players a specific list of mobile pokies on offer. Often the online casino only had one or two mobile pokies games, and made a huge deal about them. Now that pretty much everyone is glued to their mobile phones, this certainly wouldn’t fly. And with Flash casinos, it’s certainly no longer necessary, as pretty much any pokies game that you can play from your web browser can be played from your mobile. This includes Android phones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, and Windows devices.
The pokies games of 2019, like all other games, are programmed to automatically adjust to the smaller screen format. This means you get the exact same experience traditionally associated with desktop play, with all the graphics, sound effects, and functionality, in the palm of your hand.
Tonnes of free spin offers
A decade ago, when mobile pokies were few and far between there were also very few bonuses associated with them. Maximum you might have expected to get a few free spins to try these new mobile pokies out. Or you may have received the occasional deposit bonus, which could be used exclusively for mobile play. These tactics were generally used by online casinos who wanted to push players to try out their mobile slots, as they added to them, and improved the format.
Nowadays the offers mostly aren’t for mobile play per se. Instead, most online casinos will allow you to use whichever bonus you claim anywhere you want. This includes the welcome bonus which you can use to play pokies from any device you please. Similarly, any free spins offer that comes your way can now be played wherever the game is available, desktop, laptop or mobile if you prefer.
In addition, because online pokies are the most popular (and prolific) game around, most online casinos over the last number of years have started to offer more free spin promotions. So while there were certainly free spin bonuses to collect every now and then in 2009, by 2019 there are essentially free spin bonuses up for grabs at many online casinos on a daily basis. Some are completely free, while others are based on a deposit, but either way, we love the direction free spins are going. What a difference a decade makes!
Licensing and regulation
Another big change that has come our way in the past ten years has to do with licensing and regulation. While all reputable online casinos likely always had licensing from a recognised gambling authority in places like Malta, Gibraltar or Curacao, local laws have been altered a fair bit since.
True, things haven’t changed much in Australia since the Interactive Gambling Act of 2001, but there have been significant changes across Europe in places like the UK, France, Germany and Italy, where online casinos are now subject to local licensing and regulation. As a whole, this doesn’t affect us in Australia or New Zealand much. And if it does, we’d have to say it’s only on the positive side, as tighter regulation means another pair of eyes watching to ensure the online casinos and their pokies games are even more safe, fair and secure.
Better casino banking
While the connection may not be immediately obvious, better banking definitely makes a difference between 2009 and 2019 pokies play. And the improvements here are multi-fold.
For starters, more online casinos have started working with more currencies. That makes it easier for you to bank as you can choose AUD, CDN, USD, EUR or any number of options that make sense to you. Second, banking has gotten quicker and more convenient. Most online casinos process payments instantly, and let you withdraw winnings faster than ever, down to just 48 hours in many cases. And on the casino’s side of the transaction, it’s becoming more and more rare to be charged a processing fee, i.e. banking has been made free (another big like!). Furthermore, reaching the casino cashier is no longer a cumbersome process. More than that, it’s actually easy, with many online casinos allowing for in-game banking, so you don’t have to stop your pokies play to add more money to your account.
Online pokies are constantly evolving, much like online casinos themselves. The changes that have taken place in the online pokies niche from 2009 through 2019 may seem subtle at first, but have actually had a pretty big impact on players. And that impact, we’d have to say, has been overwhelmingly positive.
The most obvious change is the fact that there are far more pokies games on the market (like thousands and thousands more). And these pokies are designed with more themes than ever, to appeal to every type of player and his or her individual taste. Beyond aesthetics, these games are faster, more engaging, and often offer exciting interactive effects whether its 3D graphics or movie clips worked in. Plus, the number of paylines has grown exponentially. Add to that better banking, more free spins promotions, and the complete accessibility of mobile slots, and it’s no wonder pokies are growing in popularity, year after year.