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The Evolution of Online Slot Technology: 1994 - 2022
Shane Addinall posted a post in BlogTechnology is a force of nature, and when embraced, it can lead to spectacular things. The same can be said for the online casino industry and all it releases. From the launch of the first online casino, well before its time, to the online casino games we have today, evolution and innovation are always the key terms. Let's take a walk down memory lane and relive the exciting moments through the history of online slot technology. ✓ 1994 – Online Slots Are Born Thanks to Microgaming In 1994, the world of casinos and gambling changed forever. Games of chance and gambling games have been around for millennia, but online casinos were born thanks to Microgaming. In a time when the average household didn't have quick and easy to the internet, Microgaming took a chance and released online casinos along with the first online slot. ✓ 1998 – First Progressive Jackpot Slot Always looking to lead the way, Microgaming took the crown for another industry first with the release of the first progressive jackpot slot – Cash Splash. This single innovative game feature secured Microgaming as one of the most-wanted software providers in the world. Today, progressive jackpot slots are highly popular, and Microgaming remains one of the best providers in the business. Did you know? Online casinos started out as single provider sites where all of the games were provided by one game creator. This later changed when multi-platform casinos were launched. ✓ 2008 – Casino Apps Arrive on the Market Jumping forward a few years, the world is very different from when online casinos first launched. Mobile devices are becoming more popular, and people look for new ways to play. Several prominent online casinos released casino apps. Clunky and slow, these apps used Flash to run online slots, which could easily crash or lose your game when the signal was low. They also required a download which took up valuable space on older model mobile devices. ✓ 2014 – Spin on the Smartwatch When online casinos realised that players wanted more ways to play, they stopped at nothing to create something new and something that would grab the attention of the masses. When smartwatches started making their way onto the scene, software providers jumped at the opportunity to create tiny versions of their most popular games. Because who wouldn't want to hit SPIN on their watch, right? Thankfully, this trend didn't really take off, and it quickly became a fun gimmick, along with being able to play casino games on your smart TV and smart fridge. ✓ 2014 – Welcome the First Bitcoin Casino In 2014, Bitcoin was just starting to become known to those outside of the world of blockchains and cryptocurrencies. In order to cash in on this rising star, Bitcasino.io was born and took its place as the first Bitcoin casino. Today, many online casinos welcome the use of cryptocurrency, while others are still wary of the volatile virtual currency. Along with the first Bitcoin casino came the ability to gamble on the blockchain, play provably fair games, and use crypto to bet and win while playing online slots. ✓ 2014 - Interactive Online Slots More than just another theme for online slots to incorporate, interactive online slots have become very popular, with almost every well-known provider releasing a video game-style creation. These games began with releases such as Castle Builder by Microgaming, where the aim is to win while doing more than just spinning reels. Instead, interactive games slam together online slots and video games for very exciting ways to land a winning combination. Fun Fact: Many players may not know this, but the first online casinos didn't offer deposits and withdrawals online. Players had to phone casino call centres and make manual deposits using a credit card machine. ✓ 2016 – Megaways Slots Take Centre Stage Invented by Australian-based software provider Big Time Gaming, the Megaways game mechanic took the online casino world by storm. This feature, which is now incorporated into more than 200 online slots, gives casino games the ability to run more than 100,000 paylines at a time. This lets players win big regularly, with multipliers on Megaways slots climbing up to 50,000x your bet. ✓ 2017 – Virtual Reality by NetEnt For many years, gamblers looked to technology as a way to increase their chances of winning. While technology can't do this, it can make playing online casinos far more exciting. In 2017, NetEnt took matters into its own hands by releasing the first VR online slot. The popular software provider took the beloved Gonzo's Quest online slot and transformed it into a VR fairytale. While VR may not be everyone's cup of tea, it still remains a fun way to play, even if only for a short time. ✓ 2017 – The Bonus Buy Feature Always aiming to stay ahead of their competition, Big Time Gaming once again released a phenomenal online slot feature. This time, the addition of the Bonus Buy feature left many punters with their jaws on the ground. You no longer have to wait for a bonus to trigger on its own. Instead, the Bonus Buy feature allows you to purchase a bonus round for instant gratification. The first Bonus Buy online slot was White Rabbit, an innovative creation that is still exciting to play. Did you know? Free spins may be the most popular form of casino bonus today, but it wasn't always an option. When online casinos first launched, rewards were almost always in the form of cash or deposit bonuses. ✓ 2020 - HTML5 Mobile Casinos After threatening for years to shut down Flash, Adobe finally bit the bullet in 2020, welcoming the era of HTML5. While HTML5 had existed for many years before 2020, the final closing of Flash games meant that online casinos were forced to fully embrace HTML5. This allows for a seamless and instant way to gamble on the go. Mobile apps are no longer required to enjoy your favourite online slot. Instead, you can load up via your mobile browser and play. ✓ 2022 - Big and Better As time goes on, the world of online slots continues to expand. Software providers are always looking for new ways to entertain users, and the fun simply continues to grow. Themes are more exciting, progressive jackpots are getting bigger by the day, technology continues to evolve, and online slots are still a favourite. With the growth of mobile technology and access to online casino games, we can only begin to imagine what the future holds. Will we finally see the release of an AR online slot? Will Bitcoin casino games grow or fall flat? One thing we know for sure is that the online gambling market will be ready to embrace, innovate and explore without missing a beat.
Pokémon GO: The $5 Billion Augmented Reality Mobile Game
Shane Addinall posted a post in BlogThe world is yet to come up with a widely applicable use for augmented reality. While virtual reality gaming has gained a certain level of momentum due to companies like Sony actively encouraging indie game developers to create VR titles for use with the PS4 and PS5 the same is not true for AR. Yet despite AR not being a mainstream gaming application, there is one mobile-only game that has managed to generate an astounding $5 billion in revenue over its first five years since its launch, Pokémon Go! ✓What Is Pokémon? For newcomers to the world of Pokémon, it is a Japanese franchise owned and operated by gaming legend Nintendo. The world was first introduced to the adorable “pocket monsters” that are collected by Trainers and then used to duel one another in non-lethal Pokémon Battles in 1995. Players would take on the role of a Pokémon Trainer who would wander the world finding, befriending, and training various Pokémon in order to become the “regional Champion” by winning the Pokémon League. Since then, Pokémon has grown to be an international powerhouse comprising dozens of video games, a popular collectable trading card game, an anime series with over 1000 episodes to its credit, a live-action/animation crossover film starring Ryan Reynolds, clothing and toys lines, a multi-billion dollar AR mobile game and even a travelling theme park. ✓Niantic Not Nintendo While Nintendo owns the Pokémon IP and is the main beneficiary of the massive success that the mobile-only AR game has achieved the actual game and its mechanics were conceptualised and developed by Niantic. Here is how they describe what they achieved with Pokémon GO: “We’ve built the world’s only planet-scale augmented reality platform for current and future generations of augmented reality hardware. We think of this platform as a global operating system for applications that unite the digital world with the physical world. We pioneered real-world gaming — adventures on foot with others — which has helped transform the Earth into the new game board.” In 2016 when Niantic unveiled Pokémon GO to the world it was an instant success. The combination of the spellbinding world of Pokémon mixed with this fresh use of AR where you walked around your neighbourhood tracking creatures to catch was intoxicating. While the game is incredibly high-tech and innovative, the gameplay was surprisingly simple. Find a Pokémon, get it on your screen and use your finger to flick, aka throw, a poke ball at it till you manage to catch it. Rinse and repeat. Best of all it is free to play, and you do not need to buy an expensive Nintendo console or VIVE VR headset to play it. All you need to do is download the free app onto your cell phone and you will be collecting Pokémon in minutes. ✓International Appeal Pokémon GO was also released in the sweet spot when mobile technology and internet speeds were peaking. Everyone had access to a tablet or cell phone, and mobile data was commonplace which allowed you to load up the game and play whenever you had a gap. By making it free to play and giving players a reason to stay engaged with the game throughout the day Niantic created a loyal global fan base that has installed the game more than 1 billion times. Unlike other games where installs and active users do not line up a report by Finances Online shows that Pokémon GO fans are dedicated daily players: USA = 827,000 daily users UK = 272,000 daily users Japan = 270,000 daily users Sweden =117,000 daily users Canada = 105,000 daily users When looking at the global player base there is also no real skew towards any sex with 56% of the players being male and 44% being female. With ongoing review, it is highly likely this number will flatten out even closer to 50/50. ✓Player Friendly Monetisation With an average annual income of $1 billion, there is an instinctual inclination to assume that the game must make use of predatory money makers like loot boxes or gacha-themed incentives but that simply is not true. The reality is that Pokémon GO is one of the few games where you can truly get experience everything the augmented reality game has to offer for free. Rather than create loot boxes and using video slot themed monetisation tools Niantic and Nintendo offer a few items for sale in the games store such: Additional Pokéballs Additional Pokémon storage Additional item storage Clothing items for your Trainer However, all these items are fairly cheap in terms of the in-game currency, Gold. For example, additional storage space may cost 200 Gold, but rather than spending real money to buy it you can drop one of your Pokémon at a gym you will earn 50 Gold for “holding” the gym for one day. One of their primary income generators is special events. During events such as the ‘Pokémon GO Fest’ players stand the chance to catch special shiny variants of the events Pokémon and get cosmetic items showing they participated in the event. Tickets to these events usually cost less than $5 and not attending does not negatively impact your gameplay experience. Yet despite this soft sell, no pressure, approach to monetisation fans of the game still spend more than $1 billion a year, proving that creating an engaging experience for your customers is the key to generating revenue. ✓Health Conscious Developer While Pokémon GO always encouraged its players to get out from behind their desks and take their creature hunting on the road Niantic and Nintendo went the extra mile when it came to ensuring that their players could still play during the pandemic. The developer made some helpful quality of life changes to some of the games core mechanics to keep players entertained: They increased the spawn rate of Pokémon in less populated areas so players could make new virtual friends at home. They had enemies fly around in hot air balloons to allow players to battle bosses and win better items and complete quests. They extended the Trainers radius making it easier to trigger Pokéstops from further away to ensure social distancing. They began adding daily free boxes with items and Pokéballs to give players the tools they need to play for free. While they could easily have added a bunch of microtransactions to the shop which their fans would have made use of they chose to not add additional financial stress to players lives and offered all these useful new mechanics for free. ✓Leading the Charge for Mobile Gaming It is interesting to see how mobile casino game developers have responded to the success of mobile games like Pokémon GO and others. When Candy Crush first began to dominate the mobile space, we saw the launch of cluster pays driven mobile slots featuring big square game screens. These games are still popular today with Pragmatic Play having recently launched Gemix 2 using this model. The mobile gaming megalith Clash of Clans spawned its own series of mobile slots built using its premise of base building and pitting competing armies against one another. One of the best examples of this type of mobile slot machine is the SG Digital game Reel Clash. While we have seen the development of several RPG and adventure-themed slot titles what we are yet to see hit the market is a video slot that uses the augmented reality premise of Pokémon GO to allow players the chance to interact with reels and find bonuses by using their phone as a virtual gateway into the world of the casino game. ✓Gotta Catch Em All This is blend of conversation-starting tech wrapped in a model so simple even your grandparents can use it is one of the fundamental development challenges faced by casino companies looking to do new and exciting things in the mobile and AR space. However, with Niantic proving it is possible to create a mobile AR game that generates $1 billion a year from transactions that range from $1 to $5 it is only a matter of time before award-winning developers like Netent, Evolution Gaming or Pragmatic Play wow us with an innovative AR casino experience.