Hit any amusement arcade, service station or cafe in the UK and you’ll find at least half a dozen fruit machines propping up the prefabs.
Amazingly, the set-up and gameplay hasn’t changed that much over the years, although gaming law changes have increased or decreased the jackpots on the whim of whatever government is in power.
With the evolution of video slots and progressive jackpot games, the desire for basic fruit machines is diminishing. But there’s still a soft spot for these very British slot machines, both live and online.
Fruit Machine Basics
While fruit machines first appeared in the US as AWP (Amusements with Prizes) took hold in casinos across the country, their migration to the UK was somewhat slower.
Major British firms like Barcrest began manufacturing their own fruit machines for supply across UK pubs and resorts in the 1960s, and while the machines were governed under the Gaming Act 1968, prize payouts remained in place until the laws were changed in the mid-2000s.
Generally played with three reels and a single payline (although some machines play diagonal lines to make 3-6 in total), fruit machines are mechanical slots operated by a button.
With the advent of better CPU technology, some developers began introducing bonus rounds, triggered by lighting up a sequence of symbols on a display above the reels. These bonus features generally follow a ‘Trail Bonus’ as you might see in online video slots, with a jackpot awarded for reaching the end of the trail.
Payouts and RTPs
Fruit machines are still popular today, although with the PRNG (Pseudo Random Number Generators) that govern modern video slots, players are becoming accustomed to a ‘fairer’ game with more random outcomes.
Payout percentages in fruit machines are generally much lower than their video slot counterparts, and certainly much lower than online slots.
Under UK law, there is no minimum payout percentage for a fruitie, although a lower limit of 70% is imposed. Now, compare that to the 90-98% payouts you get in an online slot and you can see the difference.
In addition, fruit machines can come in the form of ‘compensated machines’ (or ‘Legacy gaming machines’) which vary the chance of winning prizes based on the result of a previous game.
Fruit Machine Features
As well as a ‘Spin’ button to kick the action off, many UK “fruities” will feature certain additional touches.
PAYTABLE: Clearly displayed above the reels, the Paytable lists the various prize payouts for each winning combination.
HOLD: At random, the buttons below the three reels will flash, allowing the player to hold in place any number of reels they want for one further spin. It’s an ideal feature for anyone wanting to hold bonus or jackpot symbols in place for another spin.
NUDGE: Also at random, an option will be triggered that allows players to move one or two reels up or down a spot to help form a winning combination.
HI-LO: Similar to the ‘Gamble’ function in an online slot, the ‘Hi-Lo’ feature requires you to guess whether the next number rolled on the display will be lower or higher than the one shown.
TRAIL BONUS: In many fruit machines with bonuses, a prize trail is worked towards by collecting consecutive wins on the reels. Players work their way around the trail picking up cash amounts, multipliers, or triggers to start a further trail bonus.
Advantages of Video Slots Over Fruit Machines
While fruit machines have their fans, despite the low payouts and suspect “randomness”, they can’t really compete with online video slots. Let’s take a look at why video slots trump the fruities every time:
The RTPs Are Higher: The Return to Player percentages (RTPs) will almost always be higher in a 5-reel online slot than a compensated fruit machine.
More Paylines, More Action: Video slots are able to handle more reels and more features due to their superior technology. That means anything from 10-1000 paylines and bonus features like free spins, and instant cash wins.
Truly Random RNGs: RNGs, or PRNGs (Pseudo Random Number Generators) allow for a much more random experience in video slots. Because of the software used, each spin is totally independent from the one before.
Bigger Jackpots: As video slots tend to take bigger stakes and can be linked, progressive jackpots can be formed which pool across casinos and online sites.
Future of the Fruities
‘Classic-style’ fruit machines never went away online; indeed, many online casinos still feature 3-reel games in their lobbies to cater for the nostalgists.
Online ‘fruit machines’ feature the same 3-reel excitement of the old-school machines while doing away with the mechanical element and upping the stakes.
Online there are no such limits to the ones imposed in pubs and amusement arcades, making the new generation of fruit machines more appealing to today’s slots player.