As slot machines have evolved from three-reel mechanical games to video and online slots, where we have changed too.
Land-based casino remain big business, drawing millions of players every day. Millions more play online on their computers and mobile devices, turning slots into a great game on the go.
Which is the superior experience, online or land-based? Let’s do a short comparison.
CONVENIENCE AND COMFORT
In jurisdictions where online gaming is legal, you can play anywhere you take your smart phone, pad or laptop.
You can relax on your own sofa or favorite chair and play the games of your choice.
Going to a land-based casino involves travel. Even if you live in a casino city and the travel is just a few miles, you still need to get in the car, taxi or bus and make your way out. Do you want to do that in stormy weather, or when the roads are icy?
For convenience and comfort, online play is a clear winner.
PLAYING YOUR GAME OF CHOICE
Land-based casinos offer lots and lots of slots, especially in the United States. Some American casinos have thousands of machines with hundreds of different titles.
But once you’ve made the trip to a land-based casino, you need to search the floor to find your favorites. Sometimes, especially if your favorite game is there in small numbers, you’ll find you can’t get a seat. Others have taken your favorite and you have to find something else to play.
At online casinos, you have access to any game it offers. It doesn’t matter if another player on his or her computer or mobile device is on your game of choice. It’s still available to you, too.
Not only that. You don’t have to pace the floor, looking up and down aisles to find the games you really like. You can just scroll through selection of available games at the touch of the screen – a big plus for online slot play.
Even at the largest casinos, floor space for slots has limits. A game that produces revenue at less than the house average is soon eliminated to make room for something new that might attract more players.
The hardware that cases the games for land-based play is expensive, so the game must earn its keep. The hardware can be reused for new software and different games, and land-based casinos cycle old games off the floor regularly.
Online games get cycled out of play, too, but it doesn’t have to happen with the speed necessary in land-based casinos. An online slot that produces less than average revenue takes up only bandwidth, not precious floor space and expensive machine casings.
Online casinos can keep a game option longer, allowing it more time to find an audience or to cater to a small corps of loyal players devoted to a game ignored by the broader audience.
If you’ve ever really enjoyed a game and suddenly found it missing in action because others didn’t share your enthusiasm, you know what a big edge this is for online play.
TECHNOLOGY AND SPECIAL EFFECTS
Land-based casinos have advantages too. One is that some technology available in land-based casinos is not offered online.
Take the International Game Technology hit Sphinx 3D. The three-dimensional imaging is amazing. After a big win, gold coins seem to fly out of the machine. Players are enthralled with the effect and often are seen reaching out, trying to grab the coins that exist only as images.
Or take WMS Gaming’s Top Gun, a game that has inspired many innovations from various gamemakers. You sit in a special chair with speakers in the back and motion effects. When you get into a bonus round where you’re piloting a jet fighter to shoot down credits, it feels like you’re in the cockpit, soaring, diving, and rolling with the sound roaring around you.
Those are experiences unavailable to online players at this time. When you’re playing on your pad, you don’t have that kind of 3D imaging nor are you sitting in a chair with special effects capability.
THE LATEST, GREATEST GAMES
Many online slots and land-based slots are developed by the same manufacturers. There’s some crossover of games, with games from land-based casinos adapted for online play, though online casinos have games specially developed for them, too.
However, most of the major slot manufacturers’ research and development budgets are spent on producing games that will debut in land-based casinos.
That’s only natural given that the world’s biggest slot market is the United States. The vast majority of U.S. play is in land-based casinos, and manufacturers want to hit that profit center first. So you’ll see hot new games like The Simpsons and Seinfeld in land-based casinos first. If they are appear online later, licenses will need to be negotiated.
Where does that leave the player? It depends on what you want out of the games. In many ways, online players get a superior experience with convenience, comfort and not having to vie with other players for a spot at favorite games.
However, some technology and hot new games are available only in land-based casinos. If what you really want are 3D imaging and special effect, or first look at some of the most popular licensed titles, then land-based casinos are where you’ll find them.
Not every player has the same preferences. That’s a lesson I’ve learned in many years of writing about gaming during which I’ve fielded thousands of questions from readers with different interests and choices.
Which is better, playing online slot or land-based slots? You might as well ask which is better, black coffee or coffee with cream. Both are great, both have their fans, and which is better depends on what you value.