The Rise of Casino Software Developers
To a time traveller from the 1980s, the modern online casino gaming world would be unrecognisable. Fans of casino gaming these days can access a bewildering array of gaming options, from the latest Hollywood-themed five-reel slots with HD graphics and immersive sounds, to Live Dealer roulette in which they can interact with dealers and other players from the comfort of their own homes.
But none of this would have been possible without the innovation and creativity of casino gaming software developers, whose efforts have transformed the traditional casino industry and made casino gambling fit for the twenty-first century and beyond.
The Beginnings of Online Casinos
The internet revolution was already underway by the mid-90s when three events that would launch the casino game development industry coincided. The first was the passing of legislation by the Caribbean nation Antigua and Barbuda in 1994, which enabled the authorities there to give a license to any operator in the world that wanted to launch an online casino. At the same time, a new software development company called Microgaming was established, and a year later, CryptoLogic, a company that pioneered online money transactions, was founded.
Microgaming: Developer Pioneers
While there is still some dispute over which was the first online casino, it is generally accepted that this honour went to Microgaming, who set up Gaming Club, licensed in Antigua, in 1994. But before they could launch the site, the company had to develop their own casino gaming programs, as there were no templates for them to work from. In that sense, Microgaming truly are the pioneers of the online casino industry and laid the groundwork for the casino revolution that was to come.
Among many of their innovations, Microgaming were the first casino software developers to create a progressive jackpot game. Launched in 1998, Cash Splash was developed to allow a percentage of the wagers made on individual slots games to be combined, offering ever bigger prizes.
But perhaps Microgaming’s most important development was the concept of the standalone casino software maker. Having set up their own casino, they soon found that the real potential lay in focusing on the development of new casino games to serve a rapidly growing industry. By concentrating their efforts in this way, Microgaming were able to push back the boundaries of casino software, creating the first online three and five-reel slots. They also created a template that others could follow.
The Giants of Casino Software
Where Microgaming led, others have followed, and many of the early entrants to the casino software development sector have gone on to become giants of the industry.
Cryptologic saw the potential in developing casino software, and created a separate company called Wagerlogic, which was later taken over by Amaya Gaming. Their insight into encrypted communications protocols and the problems of securing online financial transactions enabled them to produce some of the most secure and efficient early online casino games software.
Founded in 1996, Net Entertainment, which later became NetEnt, is a Swedish based company that quickly came to rival Microgaming for innovation and went on to produce some of the first themed and animated 3D slots, as well as pioneering several mobile casino gaming products. And just before the turn of the millennium, another famous casino gaming name, Playtech launched. They were one of the first software developers to bring together experts in a range of fields including multimedia and game engineering and later pioneered Live Dealer gaming technology.
Mobile Casino Innovators
If there is one development that really boosted the casino games software market, it is the rise of mobile technology. Mobile phones were already popular by 2000, but it wasn’t until the release of Java Platform Micro Edition, that developers could make the most of mobile technology. The first Java mobile game was launched in 2005, and casino games such as Pub Fruity and Downtown Texas Hold’em were early mobile gaming favourites. But as mobile phone technology continued to develop, Java’s limitations when it came to compatibility began to hold back games developers who were having to produce different versions of their games for various phone models.
Live Dealer Casino
Another innovation that has provided inspiration for software developers is the creation of Live Dealer games. Playtech were the first to produce a Live Dealer title, back in 2003, and as streaming technology has improved, software companies have been able to provide ever more realistic Live Dealer gaming experiences. In most cases, Live Dealer games are streamed from real world studios run by the software companies and have proven to be extremely popular with casino gamers who want to combine the unique real-world casino atmosphere with the convenience of online play.
Playtech are still big operators in the Live Dealer casino sector and have two studios based in the Philippines and Europe, but other developers have picked up the baton and have pushed back the boundaries of what we thought possible. New generation software producers such as Evolution Gaming and Ezugi have produced their own take on Live Dealer games, and it is now possible to play any table casino game with a Live Dealer from the comfort of your home.
Innovation and Competition
The story of the online casino industry in the 2010s has been off ever-increasing competition, which in turn has driven demand for ever more imaginative online casino games. In addition, advances in technology have made it practical for independent games developers to enter the industry. Multiplayer gaming, themed slots, social and Free to Play games, and enormously lucrative international progressive jackpots are just some of the developments to occur in recent years.
And as independent developers around the world continue to push back the frontiers of casino gaming, the next generation of casino players are already looking forward to playing their favourite games using Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality software that will get them even closer to the action than Live Dealer gaming. Thanks to the genius of online gaming software creatives and engineers, the future for online casino gaming promises to be an exciting one.