Mark Wadie, founder of online casino comparison site, talks about the resurgence of high variance games.

The online slots vertical has seen a swing towards high variance in the last 12 months, driven by the success of Big Time Gaming’s Megaways game engine. The resulting proliferation of top quality, highly volatile games is great news for fans of high-risk gaming, and affiliates looking for new angles to drive traffic and conversions.

The origins of this trend can be traced back to the arrival of Big Time Gaming’s Bonanza Megaways slot in December 2016, one which raised the bar for high variance games with its cleverly constructed mix of cascading wins, free spins and unlimited multipliers.

It was all built on the new expanding reels format called Megaways on which up to seven symbols would land per reel with each spin, creating a maximum of 117,649 win ways per spin.

High risk slots fans are turned on by the thrill of those big wins that come less frequently than in other slot games, but at higher values. And the art of a good high variance slot is making that win experience as exciting as possible. This is where Big Time Gaming’s Megaways slots have smashed it.

“Fast forward to 2019 and the slots landscape looks very different”

The clever combination of the expanding reels format, with cascading wins, progressive multipliers, and unlimited free spins triggering simultaneously, means that the big win experience is high octane stuff with a big visual thrill.

So never mind those long spells of spins with no rewards, because when it arrives, the win experience comes with bells on. 

In short, Bonanza Megaways hit that illusive sweet spot in online slots that made it an instant classic, and its quality means it remains amongst the most popular online slots at any casino today. 

So fast forward to 2019 and the slots landscape looks very different. 

In April 2018 Big Time Gaming’s CEO Nik Robinson said: “We already have a great deal of interest from leading suppliers in the field wanting to upgrade their offering with Megaways. This is a very successful mechanic and we believe it will eventually dwarf the standard 5×3 format of recent years.” 

Whilst we may not be quite at that stage yet, Nik’s words may yet prove prophetic.

“New games also lend themselves to the social media age”

Not only have Big Time Gaming released a string of further Megaways hits since 2016 with titles like White Rabbit, Extra Chili and the branded Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Megaways, but they have also licensed out their game engine to other developers like Red Tiger, WMS, Blueprint, Relax and Merkur. 

The result is that fans of high-risk video slots have a glut of top-quality games to try their luck on, from WMS’ Battleship! Direct Hit, to Blueprint’s Genie Jackpot’s Megaways and Mystery Reels Megaways from Red Tiger Gaming.

Whilst outside of the Megaways bubble, more and more high variance games are arriving on the market every month, from Red Tiger’s own expanding reels style game, Laser Fruit, to Quickspin’s Sticky Bandit’s Wild Return and Next Gen’s 300 Shields Extreme.

Not only do high variance slots have a real cult appeal, but the new games also lend themselves to the social media age, as players love to share big win experiences through YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. And the bigger the win, the better the video or image capture. Which is where high variance delivers in a way unlike any other slot. 

In fact it is this characteristic of these games that has made them a favourite of slot streamers who share their gambling ups and downs through real time video feeds on 

“The trend that shows no sign of abating is great news for everyone”

The slot streaming community is another to have blossomed in the wake of this wave of high variance games, and their expertise in commenting on the games and the casinos they play at has made them trusted influencers who can create a loyal audience in the way that other affiliates cannot. 

But even as an affiliate working more traditional online channels of PPC and SEO, the burst of new products brought about by the resurgence in high variance slots, generating positive interest and good content opportunities, is a vital boost.

For us, the Megaways revolution has brought more traffic and a more surgical interest in the games that gamblers are spinning on, as they look to understand what goes on behind the mechanics. 

In short, the trend that shows no sign of abating is great news for everyone in the industry.