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Casino Software

The technology that powers an online casino has a huge impact on the experience you receive. This guide explains how online casino software works, the companies that supply it, and what to look out for.

    Software and development frameworks have come on in leaps and bounds since the early days, leading to a significant increase in the number of suppliers both designing and developing platforms and games.

    This is a major boon for players; they have more choice than ever before, while production quality and fun factor continue to rise.

    Below is an in-depth look at online casino software, the key movers and shakers, how it works, and what difference good and bad software makes to that all-important player experience. 


    The Power Players

    Big Time Gaming

    Headquarters:

    Australia

    Founded:

    2011

    Total Games:

    20+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    The Sydney-based developer has built a formidable reputation for designing and developing highly innovative games that boast intelligent maths and complex mechanics. Its MegaWays™ mechanic is a random reel-modifier system allowing any given spin to produce a different number of symbols across the reels, so players experience a totally different game with every spin.

    Read our Big Time Gaming Guide >

    Evolution Gaming

    Headquarters:

    Malta/Latvia

    Founded:

    2006

    Total Games:

    30+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    The undisputed leader in live table games with a portfolio that covers roulette, blackjack, baccarat, poker, and their latest innovation, Dream Catcher. The latter is its first live money wheel game, and is based in a studio that resembles the set of a glitzy TV gameshow.

    Read our Evolution Gaming Guide >

    Greentube

    Headquarters:

    Austria

    Founded:

    1998

    Total Games:

    340+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    Novomatic is the largest conglomerate of gaming companies on the planet, employing some 19,000 people. In 2011, it bolstered its interactive division with the acquisition of Greentube Internet Entertainment Solutions. Since then, it has launched a raft of titles, including player-favourite Book of Ra.

    Read our Greentube Guide >

    IGT

    Headquarters:

    Italy

    Founded:

    1975

    Total Games:

    200+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    IGT Interactive offers a wide range of games across several verticals including casino, poker, instant win and bingo. The developer started out creating land-based slots machines, so its digital library is packed full of games from the casino floor, including Wheel of Fortune and Cleopatra.

    Read our IGT Guide >

    iSoftBet

    Headquarters:

    London

    Founded:

    2010

    Total Games:

    150+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    Develops original and branded games, as well as offering third-party content via its Game Aggregation Platform. Its branded slots have been a big hit with players, particularly Paranormal Activity and Platoon Wild. Its slots and table games are renowned for their sharp graphics and crisp sound.

    Read our iSoftBet Guide >

    Microgaming

    Headquarters:

    Isle of Man

    Founded:

    1994

    Total Games:

    850+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    Launched the first proper online casino platform in 1994. It now works with some of the market’s leading sites, including 32Red, PokerStars Casino and Unibet Casino, and offers more than 850 games. Its progressive jackpot network is the largest in the world, paying out €534m to date.

    Read our Microgaming Guide >

    NetEnt

    Headquarters:

    Sweden

    Founded:

    1996

    Total Games:

    200+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    The Scandinavian software provider delivers 200+ games to more than 170 operators around the world. Blockbuster hits include Gonzo’s Quest, The Invisible Man and Starburst. It also offers pooled jackpots and an innovative live casino platform, and is a pioneer in virtual reality.

    Read our NetEnt Guide >

    NYX

    Headquarters:

    Las Vegas

    Founded:

    1999

    Total Games:

    150+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    What started out as a single development studio – NextGen Gaming – has become a software behemoth via the acquisition of Side City Studios, Betdigital, CryptoLogic and Chartwell Technology; the last two of which were both formerly of Amaya. This combination has been a big hit; NYX supplies 200 of the world’s top online casino sites.

    Read our NYX Guide >

    Playtech

    Headquarters:

    Isle of Man

    Founded:

    1999

    Total Games:

    500+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    Founded by Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi, Playtech holds more than 140 licences globally and powers sites such as Paddy Power, Betfair and bet365. It holds licensing deals with some of the world’s largest entertainment brands, including DC Comics, Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment.

    Read our Playtech Guide >

    Play’n GO

    Headquarters:

    Sweden

    Founded:

    1997

    Total Games:

    100+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    Leading table games and slots developer Play’n GO offers more than 100 games in 30 different languages. Among its most popular titles are fantasy-themed Tower Quest, manga-inspired Ninja Fruits, and Scandi spectacular Wild North. It also offers retro and remake tables games for blackjack, poker, roulette and more.

    Read our Play’n GO Guide >

    Quickspin

    Headquarters:

    Sweden

    Founded:

    2011

    Total Games:

    30+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    The Stockholm-based developer has built a reputation for launching top-notch games that deliver on graphics, sound and engaging gameplay. Some of its most recent releases include gamification tools such as progress bars and tokens that add even more value to the player experience.

    Read our Quickspin Guide >

    Red Tiger Gaming

    Headquarters:

    Isle of Man

    Founded:

    2014

    Total Games:

    50+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    Just two years old, the software developer has already completed major integrations with the likes of PokerStars, GVC, Rank and Vera& John. Its biggest hits to date are Arcade Bomb and Lucky Wizard, which come with innovative daily and ceiling jackpots.

    Read our Red Tiger Gaming Guide >

    Scientific Games

    Headquarters:

    Las Vegas

    Founded:

    1973

    Total Games:

    210+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    The gambling giant’s online division is the result of mega mergers with Bally Technologies and Williams Interactive. And with its rich history in land-based casino gaming, players will be familiar with many of the slots in its portfolio, which have been retro-fitted for online play.

    Read our Scientific Games Guide >

    Yggdrasil

    Headquarters:

    Gibraltar

    Founded:

    2013

    Total Games:

    35+

    Game Quality:
    info
    Info

    Yggdrasil has emerged as one of the industry’s top suppliers of superior slots games. It provides content to the likes of bet365, Betsson Group, bwin.party, Cherry, LeoVegas, Mr Green and Unibet, including smash hit titles Vikings Go Wild and Holmes and the Stolen Stones.

    Read our Yggdrasil Guide >

    A Brief History

    Today, online casino sites are powered by some of the most advanced software and technology platforms in the world.

    These frameworks have been relentlessly developed, tested and enhanced to ensure they offer players the most engaging and entertaining experience possible when spinning the reels on their favourite online casino sites.

    But there is a marked difference between the bold and vibrant games currently being packed into operators’ content portfolios compared to what was available to players accessing the first online casino sites that went live in the early 1990s. 

    Microgaming is a titan of the casino software industry, and has been a driving force behind the industry’s success from the very start.

    The pioneering supplier launched the first online casino site back in 1994, but quickly turned its attention to developing software platforms and games to be used by other online operators. It has been moving the needle ever since. 

    In the past 25 years, a technological revolution has swept across the casino software industry, leading to incredible breakthroughs and innovations that have taken player experience to the next level.

    From CD to download via Flash and HTML5, casino software is now sophisticated yet flexible, allowing game designers to push the limits and bring new and exciting designs, mathematics, features and bonuses to market.

    HTML5 is now very much the platform of choice among game developers. This is because it is compatible with almost every screen and device, from desktop to smartphone and tablet, and across all operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows).

    As such, developers only need to build one version of the game, instead of individual games for each device and platform.

    HTML5 has also allowed developers to drastically improve the quality of their games, from graphics and animation to sound and functionality. It is open source, too, which means it’s free to use unlike Flash, which comes with a hefty fee.

    The rise of HTML5 has led to a significant increase in the number of developers getting in on the action, with more than 100 now producing platforms, games and tools for online casino sites.

    So, alongside established providers such as Microgaming and Playtech, players can access blockbuster hits from the likes of Yggdrasil Gaming, Red Tiger Gaming, NYX, iSoftBet, Quickspin and many, many more.

    The growth in game choice, and availability on mobile, has seen a huge rise in the number of people from all over the world playing online casino games, including slots, poker, blackjack, roulette, baccarat, live dealer and bingo.


    Game Development

    The process - and cost - of designing, developing and launching a modern-day online slot or table game is akin to that of a Hollywood movie.

    Around 20 individuals work on a single slots game, including artists, mathematicians, coders, psychologists, testers, and marketers. Each has a vital role to play in the success of the game.

    There are two main types of slots game: original and branded. When it comes to table games, most online casino sites offer staples such as blackjack, roulette, video poker and baccarat, including many different formats and variations.

    The cost of bringing a new slot or table game to market varies drastically; simpler games cost tens of thousands of pounds, while branded blockbusters can cost upwards of a million pounds. But how much a developer spends is not always linked to the success of the game.

    This comes from tapping into a player’s psyche through the theme, design, volatility and the overall flow and feel of the game. There is no magic formula to achieving this, but the game development team at iSoftBet outlines their formula below:

    1. Concept
      
      Our dedicated games team meets regularly to discuss their latest ideas and future projects. They are constantly researching and tracking industry trends in order to create exciting new slots. Once an idea is agreed, the initial specifications for the game will be drafted and distributed ready for development.
    2. Math
      The initial specs will include an early maths profile to fit the style and theme of the game. This will give the approximate RTP, general hit rate, feature frequencies and RTP split. The maths team will work on the initial model and then liaise with the game producers throughout the development process to provide updates and improvements. It is vital that the final maths model fits perfectly with the finished game.
    3. Mock-up
      A lead artist is assigned to each game and they will produce initial designs and a mock-up before working with the developers and producers during production. Symbols and backgrounds will be the first phase, while special features and animations will be added as the game progresses.
    4. Testing
      Early testing of a basic model provides a feel for how the game will play, and allow for any changes to be made before full development begins. Testing continues on a regular basis throughout development, for both the game features and maths model, with any updates integrated within the process.
    5. Development
      
      This takes place throughout the whole process; we constantly iterate the graphics, client, sounds, texts, the look and feel of the game and the math to ensure we produce a top-performing slot.
    6. Coding
      This is what brings the concept to life; with our skilled developers working hard to build out the game. They make the game as visually appealing and graphically rich as possible, along with the help of the product managers. Product management plays an important role here as the game is built to the specifications provided by them.
    7. Integration
      Once the game is ready, we integrate it into our system and ensure it is fully responsive.
    8. Final testing
      This comprises a series of integration and system compatibility sanity tests. Real life scenarios will be applied to our products in order to provide end-users with the best gaming experience.
    9. Launch
      Once the game is built and tested, it's time to go live on different casinos. First, we will release the game on stage environment for each casino, so our customers can be sure that all their requirements are satisfied. And when the game passes all the tests on stage, it will be ready to be released on production in all the markets where it is certified.

    Five key ingredients to a blockbuster slots game

    Red Tiger Gaming has rolled out several chart-topping slots in the past few years, including Arcade Bomb and Lucky Wizard. The developer’s managing director, Gavin Hamilton, says there are five key factors they always consider: 

    1) Work your concepts through: Most games start off with just a very simple idea about a specific user experience that you'd like to implement into a game. It's very easy to get lost on the way, and it's important to ensure that the "soul" of the concept really shines through in the end.

    2) Implementing game depth: By this, I mean that games become boring quite quickly if you can't feel the potential. I'd argue that most customers would leave a slot 50 spins in if they still feel like there's no potential for the slot to deliver some big winnings.

    The thing you'd like the customer to feel is: "Ah, what if this would've happened?", or "What if I'd just got one more symbol on that pay-line? That would've been huge."

    What you don't want is customers thinking: "Okay, I won 50x, that's nice, but I won 50x from the screen being entirely full of the same symbol and now I don't feel like it can get bigger than that".

    There are many other factors to consider above game depth, but generally, I feel that players need to see that potential to stay in the game.

    3) Uniqueness: If a provider manages to create something really unique and it blows the charts, then customers will have nowhere else to look for the same experience. Most importantly, it becomes so much more fun to develop games if you strive to create unique games that you believe will work for the market.

    4) Anticipation: Ensure that the player feels the right thing at the right moment by utilising sound and graphics in smart ways.

    5) Graphics: Simply put, if you can't graphically communicate a great concept to a customer in an understandable and attractive way, then it is unlikely to be a success even if you get everything else right.


    Branded Games

    The steep rise in the number of people playing online casino has seen game developers join forces with a wide range of global brands, international celebrities, film franchises, rock stars and musicians, TV shows, and even Emojis, to launch games.

    As the online casino industry has become more established, and playing slots and table games on your laptop, phone or tablet more accepted, big brands have been happy to join forces with game developers.

    For players, it is an additional touch point through which they can engage with their favourite film characters, singers, comic book heroes, and athletes. They add an additional level of excitement, and are among the most popular titles in an operator’s portfolio.

    They often appeal to players spinning the reels online for the first time, as they are seen to be more trustworthy than original games from some of the smaller, lesser-known, developers.

    This, of course, is not the case – most developers are fully licensed and build games to the highest possible standards. But, for new players, they are certainly drawn to the familiarity of wagering on games from recognisable brands.

    Here are some of the most popular branded games, and the developers who have created them.

    Paranormal Activity (iSoftBet)

    Guns N’ Roses (NetEnt)

    guns-n-roses-slot

    Batman (NYX Gaming)

    Batman Slot

    The Incredible Hulk (Playtech)

    Incredible Hulk Slot

    Game of Thrones (Microgaming)

    Gamer of Thrones Slot

    Monopoly (Scientific Games)

    Monopoly slot

    The Inner Workings

    The rise of mobile gaming means that players can access their favourite slots and table games wherever they are, at whatever time of day. So, whether riding the bus to work, relaxing at home in front of the television or sitting on the lavatory, an entire casino is a little more than a few taps and swipes away.

    But how do games get on to your desktop, laptop, mobile and tablet devices in the first place?

    Online casino sites are accessed through a client, either download or web. Within the client, the games sit on a platform, which is instructed by a central game server. The server is usually physically located in the jurisdiction where the site is licensed. 

    So, for example, if the site holds a licence from the Malta Gaming Authority, the game server will most likely by located in Malta. If it is operating via a permit from the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, the server will be located in Alderney.

    Within the game, when a player clicks or taps to “spin” or “bet”, a message is sent from the client to the game server, which in turn sends a message to the random number generator (RNG).

    The RNG then determines the outcome of the spin or the bet, sends this back to the game server, which then relays this to the game client. All three aspects – client, server and random number generator – are required for the game to work.


    Fair and Square

    Players rightfully want reassurance that the slots and table games they are accessing online are honest, transparent and fair. In the past, that has not always been the case, with some sites rigging games to their benefit.

    But, in recent years, stringent regulatory and licensing frameworks have flushed out most of these bad actors, meaning players can wager online safe in the knowledge that everything is above board.

    As mentioned above, the outcome of slots, and most table games, is determined by a random number generator.

    For slots, the RNG selects random numbers every millisecond, generating a value between 0 and 4 billion, which is then translated into a specific set of numbers to correspond to the symbols on the reels.

    The outcome of the spin is determined by the number selected by the RNG, which is chosen when the player hits the “spin” or “bet” button. To reach this number, the RNG uses an algorithm – a formula for generating the numbers.

    The outcome is then sent to the game server, which is then delivered to the client where the player learns whether they have won or lost.

    Software providers each have their own random number generator, so to ensure the programs are working as they should be, suppliers are required to submit their RNGs to third-party testing laboratories. 

    This forms part of the licensing process operators and suppliers must go through. For players, wagering via games that have been licensed means they meet strict criteria in terms of design, maths, volatility, fairness and player protections.

    Imagine a string of Christmas lights, but where only one bulb can be lit at a time. The electrical current is zapping from bulb to bulb all the way down the string (this is the RNG selecting numbers every millisecond).

    When you push a button (when the player hits “spin” or “bet”), the current stops moving and the bulb in that position is illuminated.

    The light represents the winning number selected by the RNG. If you pushed the button two seconds later, the result would be different. The same if you pushed it one second earlier.

    It is also important to point out that online casino games cannot be hacked when being played on desktop, laptop or mobile devices. That said, online casino sites can be subject to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which effectively shut the site down. Hackers then demand a ransom to stop the attack.

    These attacks are rare, and operators go to great lengths to ensure financial transactions and personal data remain safe and secure. The majority use a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which means transactions and data are protected behind encryption and are out of the reach of hackers.

    Operators tend to display the security certificates they hold on the bottom of their websites, so keep an eye out for online casinos who use security products from the likes of Thawte, Norton, and McAfee, as they are operating to the highest possible security standards.


    Back to the Future

    Virtual and augmented reality

    Current casino software is undoubtedly cutting edge and pioneering. But developers are not ones to rest on their laurels, with many hard at work on the next generation of platforms and games to come to market.

    Virtual and augmented reality are certainly of interest; Alea has developed the world’s first 3D virtual reality online casino – SlotsMillion - while NetEnt recently showcased its first real-money VR slot, Gonzo’s Quest VR.

    With headsets such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear and PlayStation VR now readily available to consumers, the uptake in usage is expected to increase rapidly over the coming months and years.

    Although we are undoubtedly still a little way off VR entering the mainstream, it won’t be long before we see developers rolling out a conveyor belt of augmented and virtual reality products that will bring slots and table games to life.

    “Virtual reality breathes life into the online casino experience, adding significant value and ramping up the fun factor for players,” says Alexandre Tomic, co-founder of Alea. 

    “We have only just scratched the surface with what can be achieved through VR when it comes to online casino, which makes the platform very exciting indeed.

    “VR casts a spell on players; they play inside a bubble free of external interference and disruption. It makes for a truly immersive experience, and one that is ultimately more satisfying than playing in a standard online casino.”  

    Bitcoin

    Bitcoin’s relationship with online gambling is sometimes seen as a little nefarious; in countries where playing online slots and casino games is illegal, or at least making monetary deposits and withdrawals money through such sites is against the law, players have found a way around this by using cryptocurrencies.

    But there is increasing noise among casino software developers that, in fact, Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies and blockchains, could hold the key to more secure, transparent and fair online casino sites in the not-too-distant future.

    An early pioneer in this regard is online gambling veteran and PKR-founder Jez San, whose latest project, FunFair, seeks to bring the worlds of digital currency and online casino together properly for the first time.

    San believes the future lies in Ethereum, a decentralized blockchain platform with its own cryptocurrency, Ether. Since its inception in 2014, Ethereum has become the main rival to Bitcoin in the area of secure, distributed, transparent trading.

    But Ethereum also offers Smart Contracts – software that runs exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third-party interference.

    The use of these Smart Contracts to run FunFair’s slots and table games delivers an astonishing level of security and transparency. FunFair have then combined Smart Contracts with their own proprietary Fate Channels technology to further reduce the costs and speed of network transactions.

    What’s more, FunFair’s eventual network of casino operators will be hosted on the blockchain, rather than on physical servers in one location, and key aspects of the casino game code will be transparent and publically auditable. 

    Indeed, the Malta Gaming Authority recently announced it was looking to move ahead with plans to regulate and legalise the use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies at online casino sites.