How Game Developers Create Online Pokies!


Pokies and other slot machines have had a real boost from all the tech innovation of the last 30 years, but they have always been popular for people heading to game clubs.

The original slot machine was invented back in 1895 by Charles Fey in the US. Known as Liberty Bell, the game was designed to pay out money, but gambling laws in America soon banned betting for cash, so the machine paid out small useful items like gum and fruit. 

Other ‘one-armed bandit’ games based on the same premise were invented, and the symbols used to demonstrate a win became stylised items of fruit – hence the term ‘fruit machine’ that we know recognise as a pokie. 

When NZ parliament allowed the operation of gaming clubs in 1989, pokies were already less clunky and more reliant on simple push-button technology, but it is the advent of online gaming that has really made the pokie popular.

The Popularity of the Pokies

What started with a small tech company called Microgaming became a worldwide phenomenon – online casinos

The software they developed might have only had a handful of casino games to begin with, but it heralded a new era in gaming because it came at a time where the global internet was still mostly in its infancy—not everyone had access to a computer or a modem to get online at this point. 

However, by the early 2000s global internet access became more of the norm, and many huge casino companies around the world started creating their own online casinos to get more custom. 

The game developers were never far behind, creating online versions of popular games that could be played from anywhere in the world. Everything from online poker to roulette, blackjack, and even bingo – but especially pokies. 

There are now a large number of pokies sites available in NZ, offering a range of pokies games, some with basic rules, simple symbols, and just three reels (reminiscent of the earliest slot machines). Others have more complicated set-ups, bonus games and free spins, and even hundreds of thousands of paylines thanks to cascading symbols and expanding reels. 

Part of the popularity of the pokies is the fun and easy to understand gameplay with a focus on winning being about luck or chance – but some of it is down to the technology used in each game, as well as the theme. 


Random Number Generation (RNG) programming has been a defining innovation in all sorts of games, from console games where the enemy can spawn in various places for each restart of the level to the pokies where the algorithms dictate where the reels will land. 

True random is hard to achieve by a human; give someone the ‘random’ choice of three numbers between 1-10 and they will likely pick numbers that are evenly spaced (2, 5, 8). 

A truly random selection of three numbers in this small sample could just as easily be 1, 2, 3 or 8, 9, 10 – or it could be 1, 1, 1. The chances of that series of numbers coming up in a random number generation is just as high as the evenly spaced numbers, but we wouldn’t usually choose numbers like that. 

The RNG software is an algorithm that assigns random number combinations to the reels to decide when each one will stop. In a licensed and regulated online casino (or even a land-based game club), any RNG tech in a pokie must be regularly tested to ensure that it remains truly random, negating the ‘house edge’ aspect of a game that is meant to be based solely on luck, rather than any sort of skill. 


Technology isn’t all about what happens behind the scenes – innovation and development in animation techniques, 4K and ultra-high definition in movies and console games have helped develop a gaming environment that is more than simple fruit symbols or board games

One of the most popular types of pokie is one that has a specific theme. Themed online slots have been around since the early days of the online pokies, and there is a theme available that suits every player. From movies to animals to sports or even TV shows, pokies use themed graphics, clips, and designs to be more tempting for the player. 

If you love movies, you can get on board and play pokies based on Jurassic Park, complete with dinosaurs. In Fast and Furious pokies there are muscle cars and races. These games combine familiar symbols and images from our favourite franchises, but also cut-away scenes from the movies themselves and fast, seamless animations that we might expect from a movie. 

Gamers are also spoiled in themes. One of the earliest examples of a themed pokie was Tomb Raider, featuring the Lara Croft we would all recognise from early versions of the console game. Of course, more modern games also exist as pokies, including firm favourites like Call of Duty and Hitman. 

Sports fans are not left wanting in the pokies world either. Football themed pokies feature popular teams from leagues around the world, and other sports are catered for, from basketball to horse racing and even professional wrestling. Who doesn’t want to play a slot machine featuring Hulk Hogan or Brock Lesnar?

Themed games aren’t always about franchises and recognised actors, however. Some of the most popular pokies go back to simplicity of gameplay and comfortable, bright environments, like the evergreen and colourful Rainbow Riches. 

The technology behind pokies is complex and always developing, but as a player it means that the games remain fun and exhilarating – and those 2,500x jackpots remain truly random.

Pokies article and permission to publish here provided by Jessica Foreman. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on August 31, 2022.