Developing The Reels: An Overview Of The Casino Game Industry

Photo by Alexandru Acea on Unsplash
8 months ago

The term “slot machine” originally referred to automatic vending machines, later becoming associated mainly with gambling devices in the 20th century. Early versions included novelties like toy horse races, while later machines paid winners in drinks, cigars, or trade checks.

Charles “Charlie” August Fey, an American inventor, created the first true modern slot machines, with his Liberty Bell machine being particularly popular after its introduction in 1899.

Fast forward to 2023, and now we have even more options as these colorful slots move online. The slot machine industry has evolved, moving towards more transparency and algorithm, highlighting its resemblance to regular PC and console game development. For instance, its prototyping and development tools, such as Macromedia Director, C/C++, and graphics software, are similar to non-gambling games.

Massive evolution

Game development in the gambling industry follows a familiar cycle similar to PC, console, and coin-op games. It includes market targeting, specification, prototyping, testing, and production, with unique considerations such as special math and stringent regulatory requirements.

These regulations affect various aspects of game development, adding complexity. The gaming market mainly targets older demographics with discretionary income. This leads to more conservative designs with punny titles that sound like “dad jokes” and user-friendly interfaces due to lower computer literacy. Market segments in the gambling industry are defined by game nature (reel slots, video slots, video poker), denomination, or player type (tourist or local).

Traditionally, gaming devices use ROM-based architectures with game code, graphics, and sound stored in read-only memory modules (EPROMs). While rugged and secure, this approach has limitations in speed, memory, and graphics. Developing a new platform was necessary to maintain security while enhancing graphics, sound, and interaction beyond the constraints of classic arcade games.

In 1997, Nevada approved a PC-style hardware platform for gaming devices, offering improved graphics and sound. Despite modernizing the playing experience, security concerns slowed approvals. An alternative approach by Casino Data Systems (CDS) kept core functions in EPROM while using a PC-based system for multimedia, enabling titles to leverage enhanced capabilities.

The online era

After the internet hit, technological advancements and improved design have led to more universally appealing titles, also resulting in shorter replacement cycles due to rapid technological advancement. Online casinos compete to retain their players with new titles and bonuses.

Game development can follow a conventional process, with cycles typically lasting 12 to 18 months. Distribution in the gaming industry can be demanding, involving trial periods and negotiations for purchases and conversions. Manufacturers often distribute games directly, sometimes using third-party distributors for international markets.

Despite the need for speed, the industry demands careful threading with its strict regulations. To balance between compliance and profit, math is crucial for success.

The game’s math determines jackpot size and frequency, with player appeal and entertainment value as key factors. Payback percentages are vital, often exceeding 90%. Certain games involve player skill, impacting payback. A robust random number generator (RNG) ensures randomness, while odds calculations determine outcomes and payouts. Modern games integrate I/O functions for monitoring and integrity checks.

Networking capabilities enable slot clubs and progressive jackpots, extending to statewide or multi-state networks. This technologically advancing field offers opportunities for game programmers and artists, with skills overlapping other game development sectors. All these consolidation and technology advances are shaping the field with fierce competition, emphasizing quality, interactive content, and a rewarding player experience.

The current best

Selecting the right game provider for an online casino is crucial for player attraction and retention. While a diverse game selection is important, the choice should not solely rely on the number of vendors. To succeed, operators must carefully consider factors like integration, reputation, regulation, and player interests when choosing game providers for their casino portfolio.

Evolution

The iGaming industry offers various types of casino games, from traditional to live dealer and virtual sports, with factors like gameplay, graphics, and themes influencing player appeal. Founded in 2006, Evolution draws inspiration from the iconic Monte Carlo casino, known to be the birthplace of high-stakes gambling.

Renowned for live dealer games, Evolution boasts 15+ years of iGaming expertise. It’s licensed by various jurisdictions and offers both classic online and live dealer games, making it a versatile casino provider. Notable Evolution games include Lightning Roulette, Monopoly, Deal or No Deal, and more.

Push Gaming

Push Gaming, established in 2010, prioritizes players. Their London-based iGaming experts have been breaking slots conventions for over a decade with a focus on quality and innovation. Regulated by the Malta Gambling Authority and the UK Gambling Commission, Push Gaming boasts 20+ years of experience with popular titles like Razor Shark, Jammin’ Jars 2, and Power Force Heroes.

Take Power Force Heroes, for instance. The game’s characters and a large 3×3 Wild symbol can form winning combinations, except for scatters and progressive jackpot triggers. The ‘Heroes Take Over’ feature offers free or super spins with 3×3 bonus icons that remove lower-value symbols. The game boasts two Progressive Jackpots – the Power Jackpot for golden ‘H’ symbols during Super Spins, and the Force Jackpot for silver ‘H’ symbols during the base game.

NetEnt

Net Entertainment, or NetEnt, is a premier iGaming software developer founded in 1996 as part of Cherryföretagen. It is now part of the Evolution Gaming Group. The company’s success is mainly driven by stunning graphics, vibrant designs, and memorable characters in its games.

With its vast portfolio, the company boasts 200+ global vendors using its renowned games. Its iconic slots, like Starburst and Gonzo’s Quest, are widely recognized. Another popular example is Spiñata Grande. The game lives up to the company’s reputation with lively graphics. Set in a vibrant Mexican village, this game features colorful piñatas and exciting features, like the unique Colossal Symbols, Mini-Slot Feature, and Free Spins.

Microgaming

Microgaming, an Isle of Man-based gambling software company, pioneered online casino software in 1994. They introduced progressive jackpots in 1998 and developed HTML5 technology for mobile gaming in 2004. With a portfolio of 1200+ casino games, Microgaming remains one of the leading technology providers.

It is known for popular movie-themed slots like Game of Thrones and Jurassic Park, along with progressive jackpot slots like Mega Moolah. The company also offers unique slots like Secret Romance, which features simplistic graphics with a deep purple backdrop and offers a base game jackpot of 1,200x your stake. The game symbols include playing cards, but also a mask and perfume, which can be particularly attractive for female gamblers.

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