Writing for SlotBeats, Ross Timmins, SEO Manager at Double Up Media, takes a look at the prominence of Big Time Gaming’s Megaways mechanic before asking whether other mechanics on the market could soon become ‘king’ in the slots space.

Megaways from Big Time Gaming is one of the most popular slot game mechanics ever devised. Launched in 2016 to much fanfare in the igaming industry, it quickly won the hearts of slots developers, casinos and players alike, leading to an almost immediate flurry of licensing activity and a slew of new games incorporating the technology.

The premise is ingenious. Through creative reel structures, which change with different win combinations, Megaways slots can deliver up to 117,649 pay ways – far more than standard fixed reel slots, which tend to deliver no more than 100 paylines, and often far fewer. The result is slots gameplay that is more engaging, as well as the potential for much larger wins compared with standard structure slots games.

The technology has spawned something of its own genre of slots, as anyone who has spun through their fair share of online slots sites will testify. But with new technologies never far away, the era of Megaways dominance could be set to come to an end.

Other game mechanics are now proving increasingly popular, and there is finally serious competition for Megaways in making highly engaging slot titles. But could industry upstarts like Nolimit City with their xWays and xNudge mechanics, or Northern Lights Gaming with their Ultraways technology, eventually come to rival the dominance in popularity of the Megaways engine?

Big Time Gaming’s Megaways – how it works

Big Time Gaming rolled out the Megaways mechanic in their 2016 slot Dragon Born, allowing up to 117,649 ways to win, or paylines, per spin. The game itself wasn’t a massive hit with players, but nevertheless showcased the technology, and its potential as a games engine. It wasn’t until follow-up slot Bonanza Megaways that the Megaways function really came into its own, winning over players and games developers in equal measure.

Megaways slots use reel modifier technology, shifting the number of rows in play on each spin depending on the combinations landed. More rows can be added to the reels by landing certain combinations, with up to 8 symbols appearing on each reel. The reels are of non-standard, non-fixed height, which allows for many more win-ways than on a standard fixed reel mechanic.

Some of the best free spins offers at online slot sites include Megaways slots, because these offer players some of the most exciting gameplay, along with many more chances to win per spin compared with other slots. It’s hardly surprising this is a hit with players.

A number of slots developers have since licensed the Megaways mechanic from Big Time Gaming, including NetEnt, Blueprint Gaming and Playtech to name but a few. While there are loads to choose from, some of the more popular Megaways titles to look out for include Gonzo’s Quest Megaways, Piggy Riches Megaways, Eye of Horus Megaways, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Megaways, Fishin’ Frenzy Megaways and Big Bass Bonanza Megaways.

The challenger – Nolimit City xWays and xNudge

Other mechanics are now increasingly popular with developers and players alike, and for the first time since 2016, presenting a credible challenge to the Megaways mechanic.

Operating out of the igaming hub of Stockholm, Sweden, Nolimit City with their xWays and xNudge mechanics could eventually rival Megaways in popularity, by providing an innovative game engine that makes for engaging gameplay and potentially sizable slot wins. While the technology works differently from Megaways, it delivers some of the same advantages for slots developers. 

The xNudge feature builds in a nudging stacked wild, with progressive multipliers to rack up the win potential. Players can nudge the stacked wild into view, giving multiple chances to win through a reel when it presents. Meanwhile, the progressive multiplier starts to exponentially increase payouts for landing matching combinations as it notches up, giving the attractive combination of more win ways and higher pay multiples.

xWays delivers a duplicating symbols feature which can increase the total number of pay ways in play, thus making it easier for players to land matching combinations across the reels. Both features combine at the same time to create spin wins that can be much larger than your typical slot game, while also enhancing the entertainment value of the spinning session for players.

Ultimately, slots fans want big win potential and entertaining gameplay – xWays and xNudge delivers both. You can find both mechanics in slots such as Pixies vs Pirates and Dragon Tribe. xWays and xNudge technologies are also showcased in the likes of Tombstone, Deadwood, Benji Killed in Vegas and Folsom Prison.

The alternatives – Ultraways, Infinity Reels, InfiniReels

Another interesting slots engine that is increasingly getting attention is Ultraways from Northern Lights Gaming. Ultraways makes use of a splitting symbols feature that boosts your number of ways to win. For example, Rocky’s Gold Ultraways gives players over 60 million ways to win – far more than your typical Megaways slot. In an industry where players often prize new and novel experiences, Ultraways offers another shake-up of the traditional game structures.

Reelplay’s Infinity Reels and NetEnt’s InfiniReels are other mechanics which rival Megaways, offering more ways to win from a single spin than your typical slot. In many ways, these can be seen as a response to the likes of Megaways, with developers devising their own game formats to spice up their offering, and distinguish their games from the competition.

Then there’s the likes of Yggdrasil Gaming – another slots developer at the forefront of building exciting game mechanics. Renowned for their creative spin on slots games, Yggdrasil have form for games that boost player engagement and provide more ways to win. The likes of GigaBlox, MultiMax, DoubleMax and Splitz keep players guessing, creating action-packed slots-play, often in games with high calibre graphics and animations.

When you look across the field, there are some good things happening in slots. What was arguably once a fairly static and largely standard vertical has never seen innovation like it, and the results so far point to an exciting future.

How long will Megaways reign undisputed?

Megaways has stood, and continues to stand, the test of time. Players in their millions have enjoyed Megaways slots in various configurations since 2016 – an eternity in igaming – with the thrill of the gameplay created by the non-standard reelset a major draw. It is unlikely this will change in time. Developers will still build games on the Megaways engine, and players will still turn to Megaways slots for the enhanced number of paylines, and the excitement this delivers

But the future will also likely see more diversity and innovation in game mechanics, with Nolimit City clearly a strong contender amongst the rest. With exciting products also gaining popularity from the likes of Northern Lights Gaming, Reelplay, NetEnt, and perennial innovators Yggdrasil, it is unlikely the Megaways dominance will remain unchallenged for long.

The net result for players is a more engaging selection of games, offering better gameplay, higher win potential, and more ways to win per spin – wrapped up in increasingly action-packed slots titles.