The Death of the Second Screen Slots Bonus

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A Scratch Card and Jackpot Wheel on a Casino Floor Next to a Tombstone for Second Screen Bonuses

Slot machines have experienced a constant evolution ever since they were introduced in the late 1800s. These games have gone from being mechanical, three-reel machines to utilizing advanced gaming technology.

Developers have introduced many new concepts to slot machines during this evolution. Second-screen bonuses are among the more notable additions to slots.

Several years ago, the gaming industry heavily touted these bonuses. Fast forward to today, though, and it seems to have largely moved on from such features.

That said, I’ll discuss more on second-screen bonuses along with why they lost popularity and if they’ll ever make a comeback.

What Is a Second-Screen Slots Bonus?

Slot machines have played out on reels throughout their history. Outside of a few unique formats, little has changed in this regard today.

However, some games offer features that take you to a second-screen. When this happens, the reels disappear and you may even see a different background.

These bonuses can involve a number of activities, including pick’em rounds, skill-based games, or selecting face-down cards. The key, though, is that you always see another screen without reels.

Many slots still offer second-screen features. However, these bonuses aren’t as prevalent or touted as they once were.

Different Types of Second Screen Bonuses

These features give developers a variety of ways to deliver rewards. Below, you can see the various types of second-screen bonuses.

Pick’em Round

As the name suggests, a pick’em round sees you choose from different options. You select one or more items to reveal a cash prize, multiplier, or a number of free spins.

If you’re playing an Arabian-themed game, for example, you might visit a room full of decorative pots. This same feature could offer cash prizes in certain pots and snakes that would end the bonus round in others.

A pick’em game contains no true skill. Instead, you simply guess which options offer the most-lucrative prizes while avoiding anything that would end the round.

Jackpot Wheel

Mega Moolah
A jackpot wheel is similar to the game show Wheel of Fortune. It features different slices that can contain free spins, multipliers, cash payouts, and/or jackpots.

The latter is key to this feature. Assuming you spin the wheel and the pointer lands on a jackpot, you could end up with a huge payout.

Microgaming’s Mega Moolah, for example, offers a jackpot wheel with four progressive prizes—Mini, Minor, Major, and Mega. You spin the wheel and hope for the pointer to land on the Mega jackpot, which is worth $12.1 million at the time of this writing.

Scratch Card

These bonuses present a scratch card on the second screen. You select covered spaces to reveal prizes.

Just like with a jackpot wheel or pick’em round, scratch cards offer anything from free spins to multipliers. These bonuses are especially entertaining if you like buying scratch cards from land-based lottery retailers.

Skill Based Game

Slot machines aren’t normally known for their skill element. In fact, these games are as random as it gets.

However, a small percentage of slots offer skill-based rounds. In these cases, your skill level affects your chances of winning a better payout.

Rival Gaming’s online slot Flying Colors, for example, offers a bonus where you try shooting down enemy planes. You must control a machine gun turret and accurately fire it to boost your winnings.

Land-based game developers, such as IGT, have also been experimenting with skill-based games. IGT’s Centipede sees players try to shoot aliens centipedes as they descend towards Earth.

Second Screen Bonuses Aren’t As Prevalent These Days

Bonus Computer Key
Reel’Em was the first slot machine to offer a second-screen bonus in 1995. Therefore, these features have been around for quite some time.

However, second-screen rounds didn’t get popular until the late 2000s, early 2010s. Online developers heavily promoted these bonuses at the time.

The main reason why is because game producers had perfected their second-screen features. They wanted to showcase their major advancements in this area.

Players took the bait for a while. Eventually, though, these games lost their luster after becoming nearly as common as free spins.

Developers no longer put as much emphasis on second-screen bonuses nowadays. Some still include these slot bonuses in their games, but they don’t tout them like in past years.

Why Are Bonus Slots Losing Their Appeal?

Gamblers don’t necessarily dislike second-screen rounds. As you’ll see below, their interests have simply changed.

Players like Random Features

Slots developers eventually realized that they don’t need to take players from the reels to a castle, alien war, or any other exotic scenario. They just need to load their games with more features.

Random bonuses have particularly become popular. They include any combination of random wilds, expanding wilds, and multipliers.

None of these features are anything new in the slots world. But they make for some impressive payouts and visual displays in combination.

The average gambler would rather see an expanding wild and 4x multiplier in the same spin rather than be taken off the reels to a slow-moving bonus round.

New Formats Are All the Rage

Game producers have moved on from trying to create the perfect bonus round to developing unique formats.

Megaways slots have dominated the internet gaming industry for the past few years. Created by Big Time Gaming, Megaways can offer up to 117,649 ways to win or even more in some cases.

This engine sees each reel hold a random amount of symbols. When every reel contains the maximum amount of symbols, the game offers the highest number of winning possibilities.

Infinity reels are a newer concept that’s taking off in online casinos. These games give you an opportunity to add an unlimited amount of reels by earning consecutive payouts or extending existing wins.

Bonus Slots Offer Classic Formats

Traditional pay-line slots are still common today. However, they’ve been forced to make room for Megaways, Infinity Reels, grid games, and other unique formats.

Today, many gamblers see a standard five-reel, 20-line slot as boring. However, this type of format is common among bonus slot machines.

Again, developers got heavy into bonuses several years ago. This point marked a time when pay-line games still dominated the industry.

Video Games Are For the Consoles

PlayStation and Xbox games have pushed slots developers to improve graphics, animation, and storylines. After all, a producer can’t expect a classic three-reel slot with fruit symbols to compete with a 3D video game.

Slots and console gaming obviously aren’t in the exact same arena. But developers must also do their best to keep up with the latest in graphics and technology.

However, some studios overestimated how much they needed to blend video games and slot machines. Second-screen bonuses were the common answer for rising up to console gaming.

A pick’em round that sees you select jars, for example, is never going to compete with Call of Duty. Those who play slots do so for different reasons other than just playing a regular game.

Will Second Screen Bonuses Hang Around the Slots World?

The days when game studios went all out on creating extensive second-screen bonuses are long gone. They’ve moved on to tinkering with formats and overloading games with features.

On the same token, second-screen rounds won’t completely disappear anytime soon. In fact, many slots developers still utilize these bonuses today.

The chase for the perfect skill-based or pick’em bonus has ended. But producers still see second-screen features a potential addition to a quality slot.

Such bonuses will likely be around a decade from now or even longer. You just won’t see many developers promoting these bonuses above all.


The gaming world no longer values second-screen features as much as it once did. These bonuses still have their place in slots, but they’re also nothing new.

Today, developers favour different formats and an abundance of features. They no longer anchor a slot on a detailed pick’em round or skill-based game.

Unique formats and abundant features are better suited for slot machines. Most gamblers want to see as much action on the screen as possible.

Meanwhile, the hype surrounding second-screen bonuses died off a few years ago. But these features will still hang around the gaming world as an extra.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for since early 2016. ...

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