For the last four decades, we’ve seen not only technology evolve when it’s come to gaming hardware but also gaming genres themselves. There are many that have evolved to a new level far beyond anything that their originators could have ever imagined yet there are others that have all but disappeared completely as the industry has moved on without them.
While it’s clear how some games have evolved over the years from their humble 8-bit origins, others bear little or no resemblance to the games that started them off. We’re all used to seeing an endless swathe of first person shooters regardless of the format we use but who could imagine that all of these spawned from a single groundbreaking ZX81 game back in 1981 – 3D Monster Maze written by Malcolm Evans.
Similarly, platform games have progressed from single screen games centring on collection or goal-oriented mechanics to elaborate vast 3D worlds. Who would have thought decades ago that we would regularly entertain the likes of the Ratchet and Clank series in the palm of our hands? Games we take for granted these days weren’t even thought possible when the genres were first conceived.
Yet others seem to have disappeared without a trace or have faded into obscurity. This is through no direct fault of the games themselves but more of how the industry has evolved over the last 35 years…
Part of the staple of the budget games industry during the 8-bit era, it was astonishing to think how popular fruit machine games were. At the time there were no age restrictions in amusement arcades when it came to playing them – game prices and jackpot payouts were small compared to machines today – so it was easy for kids to spend a few minutes playing while waiting for their turn on the major arcade blockbusters of the day from the likes of Sega, Atari and Capcom.
They weren’t particular difficult to develop with tutorials often turning up in BASIC programming guides so it’s no wonder that publishers like Codemasters and Mastertronic welcomed them to their catalogue. The most successful was Mastertronic’s Vegas Jackpot that achieved a remarkable 300,000 sales over almost every 8-bit format imaginable. It wasn’t their only 8-bit release, and other publishers joined in with their own offerings but it was clear quite quickly that fruit machine games weren’t likely to have a long term commercial future.
Games thinned out when the 16-bit era arrived and once again these were from the already established budget publishers. With the increasing retail prices of games, it was clear that consumers simply weren’t willing to pay £20+ for virtual slot machines. The games disappeared completely from the console generation and when it came to the PC they were relegated to the casual games market and included as part of larger themed compilations. Their time as part of mainstream gaming had passed as gamers turned to playing free slots online.
Things haven’t changed even today with the PS Vita. Even with the bite-sized budget ranges afforded to us with PlayStation Mobile and the Minis, there hasn’t been a resurgence of the genre. We’ve seen games covering almost everything else imaginable but for some reason, this classic game has been overlooked. Instead fruit machines have now been left to reside within other releases.
We’ve seen officially licensed casino themed pinball tables make their way across to the PS Vita for The Pinball Arcade courtesy of Farsight Studios, and FunBox Media added a slots mini game to their somewhat lacklustre Vegas Party.
Taking a different approach, the remake of Team 17s superb Amiga platform game Superfrog and the Free To Play release from Sony Interactive Entertainment Fat Princess: Piece Of Cake both use slot machines as a method for rewarding gamers with in-game bonuses.
It’s this bonus reward angle where slots could still live on with the Vita. It gives players a chance to get a true sense of winning something, capturing the excitement we used to have in the arcades where it all began and after all, isn’t that why we played them in the first place?