Slots has always been a game that might look simple but offers tons of room for customisation and alteration depending on what the theme of the game is. While they keep the rolling reels and random allocation as a standard feature, what symbols you can get on and potential bonuses you have can be brilliantly versatile. The intriguing part though is how one machines theme can influence slots as a whole based on how well they work!

It all starts with the very first slot machines back in the 1880’s, though which came first is not totally clear, one of them was designed by Sittman and Pitt with 5 reels and had 50 cards on offer. The idea of the machine was to simulate the experience of playing Poker by dealing the player a hand with a reward that was usually not money but an offer from the casino. It was Charles Fey who produced the precursor to the modern slot machine with 3 reels and a cash pay-out depending on the result. This introduced the Liberty Bell, still a common feature even though the playing card motif is now much less common.

The next big revelation in theme was the use of Fruit symbols, something that most people will still be familiar with today. Originally used as a way to win flavoured chewing gym and skirt around America’s anti-gambling laws of the time, the fruit machine is still incredibly popular and a bulk of slot machines still use the theme. Like the liberty bell, Cherries are still widely used in slot machines and this is even where the BAR symbol came from (a popular gum manufacturer in the US at the time.) This type of design is still popular today, so much so it’s probably not well known that it was originally a themed take on the concept, a great example of how a strong theme has had a massive impact on a machine’s popularity.

But it wasn’t until the advent of fully electronic video slots that slot machines started really playing around with the idea of having a unique theme to the machines. With the invention of games like Wheel of Fortune in 1996, based around the TV show, the slot machine added an extra layer with a ‘spin the wheel’ moment inspired by the show that helped make the machine stand out from the standard slot machine designs of the time. This bit of extra detail is used by a wide range of tie-in machines but none with quite as much success as Wheel of Fortune has had. “Wheel is without question the most successful slot game there is” according to Dan Adkins, vice president of Mardi Gras Gaming. While it wasn’t the first video poker game, it’s likely Wheel of Fortune’s success had a pretty huge impact on how slot machines approached taking a theme.

Nowadays if you go to an online casino like Paddy Power betting, you’ll find a huge selection of slot machines based on TV, movies, books and all offer a little more than some different symbols to line up for a win. Taking inspiration from popular media is a great way to help spice up a familiar game and are massively popular in both land and online casinos. One thing that’s pretty clear though, as long as you pick the right theme, it definitely works to make a game more popular!