Bonanza: The Online Slot That Changed Everything

June 7, 2024
James Currie

Slot machines have been a staple of the casino experience for over a century now, and even boast a tremendous amount of appeal when standing in bars or arcades. While in their physical forms, naturally, slots were somewhat limited. A cabinet could only hold and run so many reels with so many symbols and, importantly, paylines. Going digital has rapidly evolved what it means to be a slot machine.

Now, the slots are, more or less, uninhibited in their design. Sure, they need to be wholly randomized and offer payouts that conform to its stated volatility and RTP ratings, but in terms of design and features, almost anything’s game. Online, much of the focus was on expanding what was already present, until Bonanza came along to completely switch things up.

Boosting the payline count bit by bit

The original slot machines, which usually ran three reels, would have on payline. You’d need to hit three of the same symbol directly across the middle of the window to land a win. Nice and simple. As slot machines grew, particularly in the 1990s, more paylines were added, often running three or five ways to win across the still preferred count of three reels.

Some grew a bit further, adding a couple of extra reels and as many as ten paylines that counted for a few symbols being in view per reel. Once slot machines went digital, the five-reel, three-row format became commonplace, as did developers tweaking payline counts and how they work. Some games would have an option for you to use your choice of paylines, particularly in ten-payline games. Others would simply up the number of lines entirely.

Soon, the number of ways to win became a big selling point for slots. Ten paylines became 15, and 15 became 25. Then came the trend of 243-payline slots, and after that, 1,024-payline games. Game of Thrones, the world's most popular show in its day, released a 15-line and a 243-ways slot to meet demand and appeal to both classic and modern spinners. For the most part, these payline increases were deployed onto five-reel games, with the exception of slots with 1,024 ways to win, which usually needed a fourth row to cater to the additional lines. In all of these instances, symbols were a standard size.

Along comes Bonanza

In 2016, Big Time Gaming released a very experimental slot game. A high-volatility slot with a mining theme, Bonanza was unlike anything casino players had seen before. This was the dawn of the Megaways mechanic. With this new format, players get six reels and a variety of symbol sizes on each reel. There could be as many as seven symbols on the first reel and then as few as three symbols on the second reel.

On top of these symbols on the more familiar-looking reel set, there’s also the horizontal reel. Rolling in four more symbols atop the other reels, it can be used by paylines to make bigger combinations. Another big part of the Megaways mechanic in its original form is the cascade. When symbols win, they pay and then pop, making way for more symbols to cascade down onto the reel for another potential win.

The variety of symbol sizes, extra reels, and additional horizontal symbol run enable the slot to land a different payline count on every spin. Going back to the classic days of one to ten paylines, it’s quite incredible that Bonanza can boast up to 117,649 ways to win on any given spin. To this day, Bonanza stands as one of the best online slots real money can pay to play, placing firmly alongside other classics without such massive payline counts, like Starburst, Divine Fortune, and Blood Suckers.

Megaways spreads across the casino world

Knowing they were onto a hit, Big Time Gaming was wise to license out the mechanic to other developers, making for a very creative and diverse section for Megaways slots. One of the more recent creative deployments is found in Pompeii Megareels Megaways. Pompeii was famously obliterated by a volcanic eruption that blanketed the coastal city in ash. In the slot, the cascading reels very much utilize this, letting the lava flow down the reels when wins land.

Megaways has also been deployed to breathe new life into classic slot games. The prime example of this comes in the form of Gonzo’s Quest Megaways. A superb game in its own right that featured a form of cascading wins in its original form, fans can now experience a very similar game but with the popular mixed reels of the additional mechanics.

Bonanza brought Megaways to the mainstream and never looked back. Now, slot fans seek out the Megaways mechanic more than they used to look out for high RTP ratings.

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