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While playing your favourite slot, have you ever wondered where it came from? Who made the casino software? How did it end up on your favourite casino? How come the same slot can be found on numerous UK online casinos?
The reason the same slot can appear on multiple online casinos (have you ever seen one that doesn’t have Starburst on it?), is because the casinos do not create the games themselves. They leave it to the experts – the software developers who design and develop the games, package them into platforms and sell licences to the casino operators.
Some casinos stick with one developer’s platform, throw a bit of branded jazz over it (“a skin”) and chuck it out. However, the best casinos tend to offer a comprehensive range of games that are also in keeping with the feel and the brand of their online platform.
When playing your favourite online slots, it’s worth noting the developer, whose name will often appear as the game is loading. You may even begin to see a pattern developing. Once you’ve latched onto your favourite casino game developer, it’s going to be that much easier to keep track of its latest releases.
So who are the most respected online casino software developers? On this page, we feature some of the companies that you should really be aware of.
Based in Canada, Amaya was formed in 2004. You may have heard of the trials and tribulations of its ex-CEO David Baazov and you may also know that they struck a deal with Aristocrat games to bring their slot games online. However, you probably won’t know that they bought software application provider Cryptologic.
Games to look out for: Arthur’s Quest, Spin ‘N Win, Vampire vs. Werewolves, Wild Panda Slot.
Aristocrat is an Australian casino gaming company that’s based in Sydney. It’s been in operation since 1953 and is one of the largest manufacturers of slot machines in the world, second only to US giant, IGT. Known for its Reel Power system in which players purchase reels instead of lines, the company has successfully ported many of its land-based slots to the internet. Some of the best ones are listed below.
Games to look out for: Double Happiness, Goblin’s Gold, Mrs Kitty, Queen of the Nile, Red Baron
Genesis Gaming was established in 2008 and was originally based out of Las Vegas. The company has grown considerably since then and now has offices throughout the world including London, Hong Kong and Vancouver. Beginning life as a supplier of casino games to major land-based establishments it now also develops online casino slots.
Games to look out for: Attack of the Zombies, Bloodlines, Gothic, Temple of Luxor, Will Space, Wu Xing
IGT is the world’s largest slot machine manufacturer. Born and bred in Las Vegas, it was bought by GTECH who in turn were bought by Lottomatic, an Italian lottery company. Over the years, they created an array of legendary slot machines including Wheel of Fortune, based on the classic American TV show, and Cleopatra, the most sought after online slot in the UK.
Games to look out for: Cleopatra, Da Vinci Diamonds, Icy Wilds, Kitty Glitter, Siberian Storm
Microgaming is one of the most storied developers of online casino software in the business. Formed in 1994, this famed Isle of Man outfit fashioned the acclaimed and widely-used Quickfire platform. It also claims to be the first company to release a bona fide online casino. Today, Microgaming boasts a massive range of titles and has forged a formidable reputation within the industry.
Games to look out for: Dragonz, Hot as Hades, Immortal Romance, Jungle Jim: El Dorado, Thunderstruck
Founded in 1996 in Sweden, NetEnt is another major, well-established casino brand that launched its first casino way back in 2002. It features an extensive portfolio of casino games and has also developed an impressive Live Dealer platform as well as an assortment of progressive jackpot games – the most famous, Mega Fortune, entered the Guinness Book of World Records after one of its players bagged a jackpot of £15 million.
Games to look out for: Gonzo’s Quest, Guns n Roses, Jimi Hendrix, Motorhead, Starburst
NextGen is another Swedish casino software developer that’s garnered plenty of positive attention for its well-regarded multi-channel Open Gaming System (OGS). Veterans of game development having been founded 1999 the company continues to make strides in the creation and distribution of slots and traditional casino games.
Games to look out for: Dragon Wins, Foxin Wins, Jackpot Jester, Witch Riches, Merlin’s Magic
Playtech were founded in Estonia in 1999 and is now based on the Isle of Man. Considered to be one of the leading suppliers of online gambling software in the world, they feature a massive back-catalogue of casino games and have also developed cutting-edge bingo, poker and live dealer platforms.
Games to look out for: Age of Gods Series, Fate Sisters, King of Olympus, Ultimate Power
Scientific Games specialises in the development of gambling products including casino games. Based in Las Vegas and established back in 1974, the company’s product portfolio comprises an extensive range of online slots. It also owns numerous big-name subsidiaries such as Bally Technologies and WMS Industries.
Games to look out for: Emerald City, Gold Fish, Frozen Inferno, Raging Rhino, Montezuma, Spartacus
Thunderkick is a relatively new developer that was launched in 2012. Their goal from the outset was to create unique online slot games. To this end, they’ve created hundreds of titles which can be found on a host of major online casinos including Casumo, 888, LeoVegas and Dunder. In the eight years since their inception, the company has developed a formidable pedigree within the industry for developing high-end casino games.
Games to look out for: Carnival Queen, Dragon Horn, Yeti: Battle of Greenhat Peak, Pink Elephants, Flux
These Swedish young guns (est. 2013) take their name from Norse cosmology and were one of the first online casino game developers to ditch Flash. Thus, their entire gaming portfolio is now built using the HTML5 framework which means that they can be played across all devices with a minimum of fuss. As the recipient of numerous industry awards, this dynamic company continues to make serious waves within the online casino gaming sector.
Games to look out for: Champions of Rome, Dwarf Mine, Trolls Bridge, Wolf Hunters, Ozwin’s Jackpots
The technologies behind online casino software have undergone some major changes in recent years. The most significant of these relate to Flash and its successor HTML 5. Before we delve into the intricacies of casino game design, here’s some background.
The origins of casino game development can be traced back to 1992 when Cryptologic and Microgaming launched the first gambling platform. Consisting of a small collection of games, the platform was designed to securely store online transactions and personal details. Although groundbreaking, the software wasn’t made available for commercial use until online gambling was legalised in 1994.
Towards the end of the 1990s, Adobe Flash was released. Able to run slick animations and video content on large screens, Flash was also capable of operating interaction-based, graphically intensive games. It was also portable and came bundled with internet browsers which made it accessible to around 98% of all internet users.
Flash was best viewed on web pages and included server-sided integration features which were ideal for online deployment. The ability to create vector graphics and compress sound files also meant that Flash-based casino games were extremely lightweight. So it was of little surprise that developers started to exploit the platform’s full capabilities. However, Flash was not without its problems.
For one thing, the platform was underpowered in a big way – this was because of Macromedia’s preoccupation with keeping the plug-in as compact and small as possible. While this didn’t present too many problems in the early years, it became a major headache as the demand for more sophisticated casino games grew.
Then there was the craze for ‘gaming on the go’, with players looking to play online slots and traditional casino games on smaller devices. While Flash worked on mobile devices, it wasn’t exactly smooth – an issue that caused Apple CEO Steve Jobs to declare it obsolete. In an open letter, Jobs criticised Flash citing its poor mobile performance, security problems and lack of touch support. He also identified HTML5 as being the future standard for the creation of online multimedia entertainment. Despite being derided by many industry commentators, Jobs was eventually proved correct.
HTML 5 was launched in 2014 and is the fifth iteration of the famed mark-up language used to create web documents. Offering improved performance, easier integration and refined visuals, it provides the ideal platform upon which developers can write online casino software.
As with Flash, HTML 5 allows users to play audio and video within web pages and can also be used to create scalable vector graphics. With regards to online casino software development, one of the major advantages is that it doesn’t require the installation of a plug-in on mobile devices. It’s also much easier to develop casino games.
Unsurprisingly, HTML5 has become the standard for the creation of online casino games and will remain so for many years to come. While there remain a few issues to rectify, it’s ideally suited to casino gaming, whether on desktop computers or smart devices.
Trust and fair play are absolutely crucial for the success of online casino software. Thankfully, to ensure that players are protected there exist a variety of regulatory bodies which oversee the industry and which require all games to be thoroughly tested.
In the UK, we have the UK Gambling Commission which, along with its foreign counterparts, requires all gambling software to meet sufficient standards of fairness. This is specifically stipulated in the Gambling Commission’s Licensing Conditions and Codes of Practice, Condition 2.3.1, relating to gambling software licences and remote operating licences:
“Licensees must comply with the Commission’s technical standards and with the requirements set by the Commission relating to the timing and procedures for testing.”
The testing of online casino software in the UK is rigorous and thorough. One of the most important elements of testing relates to the evaluation of a game’s random number generator. The outcomes of all casino games are generated by RNGs. Therefore, to ensure fairness, these numbers must be unbiased, unpredictable and have an equal probability of being generated.
Then you’ve got the pay-out percentages (RTPs) which is what the player can expect to win when calculated over the wagering of 100 credits. This area is especially important given that gamers pay particularly close attention to RTPs when choosing an online casino game. As with testing, a game’s RTP must be officially ratified by an independent agency before it can be displayed online. For UK operators, eCOGRA undertakes these tests.
eCommerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance (eCOGRA), is an independent and certified testing agency. Launched in 2003 and based in the UK it is considered to be one of the leading testing agencies in the world. It takes a holistic approach to auditing and requires that all casino games are fair. They must also be impervious to criminal tampering, ensure a secure environment and have a robustly tested RNG (Random Number Generator) and RTP (Return to Player).
For more information about the many casino software developers included on Inside Casino, check out the companies listed to the right. We offer detailed background information about each one included the types of games they offer, the online platforms which operate their games as well as the pros and cons of each developer.