The expansion of the online slots industry over the last decade has seen huge strides taken in terms of features and gameplay. The industry has tried to keep up with innovations in the tech world and thus pushed the boundaries of what we used to refer to as a ‘standard’ slot game.
In reality, there are now very few ‘standard’ games left, as each new title comes packed with features and themes that keep us interested for longer periods of time.
One of the features that’s seen huge success and instant popularity has been that of tumbling reels. The concept was first introduced around 2010, and since then it has not only been added to a wide range of online slots but it has been adopted by many of the bigger casino game developers in the industry, each putting their own ‘spin’ on things.
What are Tumbling Reels?
Tumbling reels are, well, they are reels that tumble. But it’s not simply a visual feature, it affects gameplay as well.
When you are playing a game with tumbling reels and you hit a winning combination, that payline pays out as normal. However, the tumbling reels mechanics will remove those winning symbols (they explode, or crumble, or whatever fits in with the game’s theme) and the symbols above will fall into their place.
This obviously leaves a few empty spaces at the top, so new symbols will fall into these as part of that same spin. This could lead to another winning combination, and if it does the same thing happens. You can see then that players can win multiple times from a single spin because of tumbling reels.
A simple way to look at it is to compare it to a game like Tetris; when you complete a full row, that row is removed, everything else falls down a space, and more blocks continue to fall. Tumbling reels work in a similar way.
Which Games Have Tumbling Reels?
Like a lot of game features, tumbling reels are very much developer specific, in that not all game developers include them. That being said, the popularity of the feature with players has meant that many of the bigger developers in the industry have rolled this out into at least a handful of their titles in an effort to keep players onside.
The main two instigators of tumbling reels are Betsoft and IGT. Whilst it’s not known for sure, it’s widely believed that Da Vinci Diamonds by IGT was the first slot to use the feature, although it is also rumoured that Betsoft had it ready to go but weren’t able to get it to market quickly enough.
These days, the likes of Microgaming, WMS/Barcrest, Amaya, NetEnt, Elk Studio, and Quickspin all have slots released with this feature included.
What’s interesting about each of the games is the fact that whilst they all include tumbling reels, the way they function can differ quite a lot. For example, some like to apply multipliers to their tumbling reels, so each new winning combination will have a multiplier attached that might keep growing until no new combination is found. Some include the tumbling reels as just a single go and then others only include it in bonus rounds.
Tumbling Reels Example
One of the most famous games to include tumbling reels has to be Gonzo’s Quest. This title is up there with the most iconic online slots in the industry and the fact that so many companies are using NetEnt game technology means that there are a huge number of casinos that will have this game in stock.
It might not be all that obvious, but if you examine the first tow reels in the screenshot above you will see how the winning combination of blocks has resulted in the reels exploding before tumbling. They explode and are removed, then replaced by new blocks.
It’s worth noting that this feature also appears in the Free Spins (Free Falls feature) within this specific game.
Pros and Cons of Tumbling Reels
As with all online slot’s features, there are plus points and minus points to consider. It’s important to understand that whilst what works or is appealing to one player, it might not be to the next.
One of the positive points of tumbling reels is that the games can be much more exciting and lead to big wins. The fact that you could plausibly keep recycling winning paylines as blocks are removed and then replaced means that the games can spiral into huge wins at any time.
The multipliers that may be attached to these features can make a big difference as well. Gonzo’s quest, as you can see from the screenshot above, has multipliers up to 15x in the bonus round (5x in the base game), which is massive for a game like this.
The downside is that these features are usually only attached to games that are high in volatility. NetEnt rate the Gonzo’s Quest game as medium/high in volatility, but it’s widely considered across the industry to be more at the high volatility end of things. This means that wins are less frequent, but tend to be larger. This could be a positive though, depending on what type of slots you are looking to play.
It’s also worth noting that games with tumbling reels have lower jackpots attached. In fact, Gonzo’s Quest doesn’t have a jackpot at all, and the number of other features attached to game are slim to say the least, which is another common trait.
All in all, the tumbling reels feature is one that’s been popular over the last decade or so and we fully expect this trend to continue. It won’t suit all players, but for sheer excitement levels, there are few features that come close.