SPECIAL SYMBOLS IN SLOTS

Symbols are the fundamental part of any casino slot machine. Without them, there wouldn’t be much to follow on the screen except waiting for the outcome of the game round. Thanks to those little images on the reels, slots become much more dynamic and attractive. On top of that, the customization possibilities they provide are limited only by the creators’ imagination.

The majority of symbols are the so-called ‘regular’ ones, which means that their primary purpose is to create simple winning combinations formed out of a minimum required number of matching symbols on a pay line, way, or in a cluster. They appear on the screen most frequently, and in most slots, you will find from 6 to 12 of them spread around the reels in
multiple instances.

SPECIAL SYMBOLS IN SLOTS

Symbols are the fundamental part of any casino slot machine. Without them, there wouldn’t be much to follow on the screen except waiting for the outcome of the game round. Thanks to those little images on the reels, slots become much more dynamic and attractive. On top of that, the customization possibilities they provide are limited only by the creators’ imagination.

The majority of symbols are the so-called ‘regular’ ones, which means that their primary purpose is to create simple winning combinations formed out of a minimum required number of matching symbols on a pay line, way, or in a cluster. They appear on the screen most frequently, and in most slots, you will find from 6 to 12 of them spread around the reels in
multiple instances.

While regular symbols will be the source of most wins in the game, special symbols are usually anticipated the most. There are many different ones connected to various features and mechanisms in slots. Some land as a single instance to help create better wins. Others need to form particular combinations to trigger an event. There are also those that players collect to release a reward after a certain amount. Game designers constantly invent new ways of implementing them into the slots in various mixtures. In this article, I’d like to shed some more light on those which I noticed to appear most frequently.

Wild

Placing a Wild among regular symbols became so common that it’s almost impossible to imagine a slot without it. Its function is elementary yet powerful. Wild substitutes for any other symbol in the game, therefore increasing the chance of scoring a win or turning a small prize into a big win. Such substitution is usually limited to regular symbols, but there are games where a Wild can also take the place of some special ones. A perfect example is the Gonzo’s Quest slot by NetEnt, where Wilds also connect with bonus symbols, helping trigger the free spins.
Throughout the years, slot creators came up with numerous variations of the Wild, depending on their behavior on the reels. These days there are so many that it’s difficult to list every single type.

Scatter

Probably equally common as the Wild, but with a completely different function. Scatters are most frequently used as a triggering symbol for free spins or some other type of bonus round. They can appear on all reels in a slot or be limited to selected ones, in which case obtaining them might seem way more complicated. Scatters usually don’t follow the pay lines, hence their name. They can be ‘scattered’ anywhere on the reels as long as they appear in the main view.

Aside from triggering the bonus, on many occasions, they also award a cash prize, especially when there is a possibility of scoring more than 3. It’s also a common logic that the more Scatters you score, the better your bonus round starting conditions will be (more free spins, better multiplier, etc.). Some software providers combined those two most popular symbols into one, and the Scatter Wild was born. It’s a special symbol that offers both functions simultaneously.

Multiplier

Not an actual standalone symbol but an addition that is also very common and, in my opinion, has the right to be on this list. Multipliers come in many forms. They can be a completely separate feature, not directly visible on the reels, that multiplies a final round win by a fixed value (or a random one from a specific range). They can also appear as an addition to a symbol, a group of symbols, a particular spot on the reels, or an entire reel. There’s a lot of flexibility regarding multipliers, as you can see. It’s not surprising, either. After all, who wouldn’t want to have their win multiplied, regardless of the method through which it happened? The cool thing about multipliers added to symbols or reels is that they work with each other. In many slots, if you hit more than one in view, they will be added together or even multiplied by each other. It goes without saying that the situation can escalate very quickly when you hit a whole bunch of them at once.

Instant Win

This is usually a single symbol that triggers the payout from a collectible pot or carries a cash amount paid right after the spin concludes, regardless of whether you created any other wins. Instant Win symbols can behave a bit like Scatters, meaning they don’t need to follow pay lines, and they award the prize anywhere they land. And vice versa, they can act exactly like other regular symbols and pay only when connected on a particular line or adjacent reels. A trendy variant of Instant Win symbols is linking a needed amount of them to activate a payout that will award all their values, sometimes even with a multiplier. For example, on a 5×3 grid, you need to hit 6 or more such symbols, and only then they reward you with a collective prize.

Mystery symbols

These are a great way to enhance every single spin and elevate the anticipation to the highest levels. They add an enticing feeling, especially when your hope for a win rapidly falls. The thing about Mystery Symbols is that they don’t reveal their secret until the spin has concluded. Only after all the reels have stopped will you be able to unravel their identity. The game will choose one symbol from the pool of regular (sometimes even special) ones, and all Mystery Symbols will transform into it. It’s a great way of extending the anticipation past the end of a spin. Even if you haven’t landed a regular win, but Mystery Symbols are already on the first three reels on a required pay line(s), it’s a guaranteed hit. However, they can often build plenty of hope when they land on multiple consecutive reels (except the first one) and fail to connect in the beginning.

Charging symbols

Many slots these days come with some collection or charging mechanism. Hoping to get players to commit to the game for a more extended period, producers introduce all kinds of meters and progressive pots which need to be filled or completed before releasing a reward. Charging symbols are nothing else but a way to achieve that. Sometimes these are just the regular symbols that act as charges through scoring wins on them, but they can also be a completely separate symbol that doesn’t pay on its own but contributes to increasing the value of the meter.

Double symbols

Since, in most games, the space on the reels and the number of visible symbols are limited, game producers try to make the best out of the available space. That’s why some games offer double, triple, or even quadruple symbols. Such a feature makes a single instance act as a multiple. For example, if you score a 3-of-a-kind win and one of the symbols in the sequence is a double, the game will treat the win as a 4-of-a-kind instead. It works analogically for any other combination, so the primary function of such a mechanism is to potentially improve the value of any win.

Final thoughts

The spectrum of games in the iGaming industry contains thousands of various titles. Some are simple, some more complex, and others require a significantly longer learning curve to grasp their mechanics. One thing is sure, though. None of them would be as attractive as they are without introducing special symbols. If not for them, most slots would vary only in theme and the audiovisual setting, and that certainly wouldn’t provide as much excitement as different ways of achieving wins.
More unique variants are available, some being crazy combinations of the ones mentioned in this article and some completely new, appearing only in productions from one studio. However, all of them ensure that games are thrilling and filled to the brim with anticipation of big wins.