The games in online casinos use software that is developed by specialist companies rather than the casinos themselves; instead, the casino hosts the games under license from the developers and provides the platforms on which they can be played.
The competition between the major casino software developers is quite intense, and this has driven the rapid pace of software development. Contemporary online casino games have evolved extraordinarily quickly, with new features and innovations being introduced all the time, largely due to this highly competitive market.
Despite the fact that there are hundreds of different software providers and literally tens of thousands of games in all different categories, the market is nevertheless largely dominated by the three biggest players – Microgaming, Playtech and NetEnt.
In operation since 1994, Microgaming remains the pre-eminent name in online casino software and its games continue to be the most universally popular in casinos worldwide. Slots games are where Microgaming first made its mark and they continue to lead the way in introducing special features that take these games to another level. Their progressive jackpot slots are especially renowned, with Mega Moolah being the most successful online casino game of all time, having paid out more than CAD$800 million in jackpots.
Playtech began back in 1999 and continues to be an extremely progressive and innovative brand, with now more than 500 different online casino games in its catalogue. It’s estimated that in 2015 Playtech had a 40% share of the entire global online gaming market, with its games being featured in more 130 online casinos worldwide. Playtech is particularly well-known for its Marvel Multi-Level Mystery Progressive Jackpot series, and themed slots based on hit TV and movie franchises, like The Sopranos, Kong, Gladiator and Rocky.
Although founded in 1996, it’s only in more recent times that NetEnt’s position in the market has made it a serious rival to Microgaming and Playtech. The award-winning Scandinavian developer’s games now feature in more than 100 different online casinos and their catalogue has grown to more than 200 games. Especially noted for its innovation and bringing new features into the online slots arena, NetEnt games are visually exciting and have imaginative gameplay, while they have also branched into new territory in terms of slot game themes, with its 2016 release Guns N’ Roses being one of biggest online slots success stories of recent years.
Download vs. flash – Until relatively recently, the best online gaming experience came when you played games via a casino’s free software, which you would download from their site and install on your machine. There were more games to choose from, the graphics were more stable and the sound quality was superior.
Improved technology – However, that has all changed and Flash technology has improved so significantly that there is now no difference in the way players experience games between Flash and games played via a software download. As a result, most of the major developers now produce their games in both Flash and download editions.
Flash-only casinos – This has led to a number of online casinos abandoning the idea of software downloads altogether, and are now entirely Flash-based sites. Greater use of Flash-based games has also had an effect on the quality of mobile casinos and the number of games these are able to offer. The only real drawback is that the very first online slots, developed before Flash technology was widely used, are not available at Flash-only sites, but for the majority of players today this isn’t much of an issue.
Casino software developers don’t actually operate online casinos themselves; instead, they license their games to casinos and drive their income from a percentage of the revenue they’re able to generate from these games, and this is why you will find the same online games at a range of different casinos. As well as supplying games, software developers are also responsible for their secure operation.
This means that online casinos can instead focus their attention on the player and creating a positive gaming experience. Whether its bonuses, promotions or customer support, online casinos can concentrate on what they’re best at, leaving the technical operation of the games to the developer.
Until relatively recently, at any online casino you would only find games from a single producer. However, the development of new platforms has changed this situation and it is now quite common to find games from several different developers at the same site. This is what has also opened the way for new, smaller producers to enter the market. They can now get games online without having to have an entire back catalogue behind them – they only have to have a handful of games ready to play before a casino will add them to its selection.
Overall, what these developments mean for the player is greater variety, greater innovation and a much enhanced online gaming experience.