8 Nov

How Things Work: Megaways Online Slots

Popular iGaming: The secret behind the Megaways slot machines.

Popular iGaming: The Secret Behind the Megaways Slot Machines

Anyone who’s ever played online slots before knows that the gaming menu is teeming with these reel spinners. Every possible theme, in every size and shape imaginable, has been produced again and again. The same situation exists in land-based casinos. The variety is absolutely overwhelming!

With tens of thousands in existence, imagine for a moment being the head of a gaming lab’s development team. The boss comes to you one day and says, “Hey, we need a fresh idea; a new concept; something that will change the slot machine world forever!”

How do you evolve an already over-saturated, century old slots market? Fresh and new ideas don’t come along often. A few years ago, someone in the mechanics department of a small Australian firm known as Big Time Gaming (BTG) had one such idea, and it’s exploded into one of the most intriguing slots concepts to date. They call it… Megaways!

Evolution of Megaways Slot Machines

The phenomena started back in March of 2016 when BTG released its very first Megaways slot, Dragon Born. Its concept was built upon a previous design that emerged from Microgaming many years prior, known as “All Ways” or “Ways to Win”. Those games would automatically present payouts on all possible ways to line up a payline, but without the player having to pay one coin per line. Games with “243 ways to win” (and more) became very common.

Dragon Born expounded on that mechanic by building a game with a random reel design. The reel positions could span anywhere from 2×6 up to 7×6 on any given spin, simply by altering the size of the symbols that appeared on those reels. The more reel positions that appeared, the higher the number of ways to win. In this way, Dragon Born shook the iGaming industry to its core by delivering anywhere from 64 to a jaw-dropping 117,649 ways to win on a single spin. They trademarked this mechanic as Megaways.

Over the next few years, their popularity grew just as fast as their portfolio of Megaways online slots. The feature was such a hit, other software brands actually began licensing the rights to use it. Players can find Megaways titles in the iGaming casino suites of Blueprint, iSoftbet, Relax Gaming, Red Tiger, Scientific Games, and others.

Under the Hood – How Megaways Work

These unique slot machines fall into a niche-market as far as customers go. Some players absolutely adore them, while other find them so intrinsically frustrating, they despise them! I’ll admit, there can be a great deal of confusion when watching the reels spin out anywhere from a few dozen to a hundred thousand win lines.

In an effort to disperse the clouds of confusion surrounding these innovative wonders of slot macine technology, I’ll try to explain what’s happening as simply as possible.

In order to determine the number of paylines on any given slot machine, you have to multiply the number of positions on each reel, by the number on the next reel. Then multiply that result by the positions on the next reel, continuing down the line for each reel.

Calculating Ways to Win on a Standard 5×3 Slot

For example, a 5×3 reel slot machine has 3 positions on each of 5 reels.

3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 243

That is…

3 x 3 = 9

9 x 3 = 27

27 x 3 = 81

81 x 3 = 243

Calculating Lines on a Megaways Slot

In the same way as above, the number of eligible win lines is determined by the number of positions that appear on each reel. If you’ve played them before, you may have noticed that on each spin, the number of active Megaways is displayed somewhere on the screen. For instance, in this dragon Born screenshot (right), we see the reel positions laid out as


Inject that into your handy-dandy calculator (4 x 2 x 2 x 4 x 3 x 3) and you get 576 Ways.

In free spins, the reels stay at the max expansion of 7×7. Put that in your calculator (7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 x 7) and you get the grand total of 117,649 ways.

Calculating Wins on Megaways Slots

Now that you know how to determine exactly how many ways there are to win (it tells you right on the screen – duh!), how about figuring the the number of ways you’ve actually won on any given combination? This time, you add up only the positions per reel that depict a winning symbol.

The image on the right shows a win on 10s that lands across 5 of the 6 reels. The winning symbols appear in 2 locations on the first reel, 2 again on the second reel, 6 times down the third, 3 times on the fourth, and 1 more on reel five. Grab your calculator…

2 x 2 x 6 x 3 x 1 = 72 winning lines

Those Megaways games must be expensive, right?!

Surprisingly no, they are often quite cheap to play. Most of them require a minimum bet of just $0.10 or $0.20 to play; $0.40 at most. Instead of requiring one coin per line, the machine will divide the total bet by the number of lines available.

If there are 243 lines, and you wager $0.40, you are actually betting about $0.00165 per line. So when you hit that 72-win-line payout, the value of the combo is multiplied by 0.00165. Let’s say the combination pays x5 the bet. You hit it on 72 lines, paying 0.00165 per line.

5 x 72 x 0.00165 = 0.594

So you’re going to net a payout of $0.59 for that combo – a profit of $0.19 on your $0.40 bet.

As you can see, games in the Megaways slot machine series don’t generally pay too well for small-time bettor. On the bright side, they can make for a very entertaining session, which is why they’ve become so popular in land-based and online casinos.

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