James Ashton, head of content at FindMyUKCasino.com, says that online slot developers are now setting the standard for the entire industry to follow.
Not that long ago, online casino game lobbies were packed full of titles from land-based slot developers that had been re-worked for online. I am talking about industry giants such as IGT and Scientific Games and classic titles Wheel of Fortune and Cleopatra. But in the past three to five years online-only slot developers have taken the market by storm and now dominate online casino game lobbies. These titles have pushed the boundaries when it comes to theme, design, math and mechanics, offering players thrilling experiences that land-based developers have struggled to replicate.
Such is the popularity of online-only slots that some of these studios are now planning to take their online slots onto the floors of bricks-and-mortar casinos. This is very much a reversal of the early days of online casino where the land-based developers were porting their games online and rising to the top of the charts. So why is this happening?
Competition breeds innovation
I think it has a lot to do with the sheer competitiveness of the online casino space, with hundreds of slots developers fighting for the top positions in operator game lobbies. This includes powerhouses like Microgaming and NetEnt to innovators like Big Time Gaming and Red Tiger Gaming via start-ups like Fantasma Games and Green Jade Games.
To stand out from the crowd, they have had to not only nail the basics but offer players something they have never seen before and that can’t be found via other entertainment options. For Big Time Gaming, it has been its revolutionary Megaways slot mechanic, for Red Tiger Gaming it has been its Daily Drop Jackpot slots that pay out before a set time each day. Fantasma, on the other hand, has combined the worlds of gaming and gambling while Green Jade Games allows players to influence the outcome of the game by choosing when to deploy features.
Online slot developers are also having to compete with other entertainment options such as mobile games, Netflix and social media platforms when it comes to capturing consumer attention. Again, this has forced them to design, develop and launch truly innovative features and tools, and to deliver a unique experience that can’t be found anywhere else.
Megaways has changed the game
BTG’s Megaways mechanic is undoubtedly the greatest breakthrough in recent times, debuting in the supplier’s Dragon Born slot but enjoying mass appeal with subsequent release Bonanza.
Megaways is seen by many as the next evolution in slot games, which have gone from three reels to five and now Megaways, which gives players hundreds of thousands of ways to win with each spin. Megaways has been such a big success that other developers – including land-based giants such as Scientific Games – have licensed the mechanic from BTG. They are then combining Megaways with classic titles such as Raging Rhino and Rainbow Riches to ensure they deliver the experience players now expect.
Not satisfied with dominating the online casino world, BTG’s visionary founder Nik Robinson has set his sights on taking Bonanza onto casino floors in Vegas any beyond.
Land-based developers have not given up the fight
Land-based developers have not given up the fight and are going all-out to bring new and exciting products to casino gaming floors.
Gamblit Gaming, for example, is bringing together the worlds of interactive entertainment and gambling to produce highly social games for land-based casinos. This includes taking popular mobile games such as Into the Dead and turning them into casino games that appeal to new, younger audiences. But will this be enough to fend off competition from the likes of Big Time Gaming and other online developers looking to extend their reach into the real world?
Only time will tell, but if the success these developers have enjoyed online is anything to go by then traditional slot developers should be worried. Of course, competition breeds innovation so online slot developers marching into land-based casinos may be a catalyst for studios – land-based and online – to keep pushing the boundaries. And that can only be a good thing for the entire industry.