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  1. Slots may be one of the newest forms of gambling, but it is by far the most popular. Although other casino games predate slot machines, a precursor to the reel games arrived on the scene in the 1890s and since then evolved from card machines to online animated wonders. Since the first Microgaming title hit the internet, a century after Sittman and Pitt’s card machine, a lot has changed and so have the players who enjoy reel action. We’ve seen amazing improvements, brilliantly unique titles, and exciting mechanics reach slots screens, but we’ve also lost some along the way. Some of the biggest hits disappeared instantly and behind the scenes, we’ve seen slot developers rise and fall, while top studios release a massive hit only to bomb out with their next release. Why is it so challenging and what does it take to be successful in the fiercely competitive slots industry? Also, where did our favourite slots disappear to? Now You See Them, Now You Don’t Few things are as disappointing as having a favourite product, and suddenly it is nowhere to be found. Strangely enough, many punters have experienced this with their favourite online slot and the titles that come to mind include superheroes. Truth be told, it’s mainly branded slots that vanish without sight or any warning from the creators, so there must be a reason for this. The Branded Slots Disappearing Act Whether you were a fan of Microgaming’s Lord of the Rings, Playtech’s Marvel collection or NetEnt’s South Park and Aliens hit slots, you would have experienced this disappointment in the last decade. How do slot developers decide on a theme? Why would they pull a slot game off the market if it is popular? To answer the first question, we must understand player behaviour better because this drives slot releases. Trends inspire demand for most products in the consumer market and the igaming industry is no exception to this. Punters want to see popular topics on their slot screen, and Hollywood content is usually a hot topic. It makes sense for slot developers to create titles inspired by blockbuster movies. This attracts players, creates fans of their brand, and brings in the dough. It is good business. As for the second question, the answer lies with distribution rights, known by many as royalties. Branded slots with genuine Marvel, DC, and Lord of the Rings imagery come at a high price and licensing agreements with the owners of the brand. This means providers must shave a bit off their profits to pay royalties for use and hope they renew the licensing deal once it expires. As you can probably tell, either of these reasons leads to branded titles being shelved. Therefore, software developers weigh the risks involved against the exposure and potential revenue injection they can gain from branded slots. License agreements are always subject to renewal and any successful business will remove a product if it is no longer viable to offer it. This is probably why there are fewer branded slots than universal themes and thankfully the most popular ones fall into the last-mentioned category. The Multiplayer Mini-Act As technology advanced and social media took the world by storm, the igaming world became social, although from a distance. It was only a matter of time before social gaming spilt over into the online gambling space and before we knew it, multiplayer slots appeared on the scene. The need was obvious and software developers, gambling operators, and players were thrilled. These community slot games disappeared as quickly as they appeared. Unbeknown to the creators of multiplayer slots, international regulators saw the games as high-risk areas for fraud and money laundering, which led to the cancellation. Some industry experts still believe multiplayer slots are the next thing on the list of innovations and with the metaverse on the rise, they may be right. But until operators, developers, and regulators can agree on how to find the golden midway and eliminate money laundering concerns, the idea remains idle. Hitting the Slot Content Jackpot Finding that sweet spot in the igaming market is not as straightforward as some may think. The sheer amount of Game developers present in the current market proves that some oversimplify the art of successful slot-making. Those that withstand the treacherous waters of changing consumer behaviour, technology innovating at the speed of light, and regulators constantly raising the bar, enjoy the fruits of their labour. Although it isn’t an easy feat, some have conquered the highly competitive market and stayed on top of their game. So, what is their secret and how do they push forward through the sea of developers and create fan-favourite slot games? Brand Identity The trick with slots is that most players do not see the name of the software developer behind the game, because titles rarely display it. Players rarely know which studio developed their favourite game; they only know where to find it in the casino lobby. This is because creating compelling slot content is as much an art as it is designing luxury cars. Any genuine Ferrari fan could spot one from a distance in the dark by recognising its taillights, just like Pragmatic Play fans spot one of their games through a unique spin button. Developers must be very creative and position their brand in players’ subconscious through intentional design work. When they get this right, slot magic happens. Some of the software developers who differentiated themselves from the crowd are NetEnt, Nolimit City, Evoplay, Relax Gaming, and Peter& sons. Players know their games by the look and experience. Something specific sets them apart. Creative Talent: The Wow Factor Some believe lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same spot, and maybe this is why most established studios have specific games that catapulted them to success while the rest of their library attain average popularity ratings. Examples of releases that changed the igaming industry include titles like Starburst and Gonzo’s Quest, mechanics like Megaways, and jackpots like Mega Moolah. While some studios behind these iconic releases make a habit of creating excellent gambling content, others continue with a hit-and-miss trend seen all over the market. Experts from the developer industry ascribe these successes to the individuals who dreamed up the ideas. Although their teams helped to realise the dream, their creative spark started the fire and led to the explosive release. Balancing Reliability with Excitement Earlier slots used to provide punters with a rather predictable gameplay experience of low to medium variance in payouts, which kept gamblers playing for longer. There is a sense of satisfaction with consistent wins, regardless of the size. For a few reasons, this gradually changed and today, most Online Slots have medium to high volatility. The thrill of possibly hitting it big in the base game excites players and developers seem to feed into this need for adrenaline-pumping igaming. Whether this is sustainable is debatable and some argue that high volatility has concerning effects. The effect of high payout variance shows in gaming sessions and wager amounts. Experts advise studios must find a balance on the volatility scale. Collaborate The gambling industry is rife with merger and acquisition news where larger developers buy small studios and land-based operators take over igaming businesses. It is an age-old business strategy, and some might find it bizarre, but when approached with the right mindset, two heads are better than one. The best example that comes to mind is Evolution, the leading live casino games developer. It is the holding company for top brands in igaming, including legendary studios like NetEnt, Red Tiger, Big Time Gaming, and recently NoLimit City. Their partnership and the continuous excellent content from the subsidiaries pay testament to the power of collaboration. The smaller studios have the freedom to create authentic games, while the holding company provides the advantage of global exposure and resources. Collaboration also allows fresh talent to meet with experienced market veterans, presenting more sustainable business outcomes. Smart Technology and Personalisation Once developers have a clear brand goal and marry this with creative talent, it paves their way into the slot world. Many of the bigger providers are also one-stop shops for operators and provide full business suites to power gambling platforms and drive player satisfaction. B2B suppliers and slot aggregators help streamline the data processes for operators and, through technological advances, enable online casinos to stay ahead of their competitors. With proper backend support and processes that allow essential data analytics, providers can offer highly personalised experiences. The Big R Gambling regulators are focusing more on B2B providers, and developers must create content with regulatory compliance as part of the goal. Although most have a role to play in getting a casino platform recognised as a fan favourite, regulatory compliance has not always been a focal point. This is one reason smaller studios benefit from partnerships with bigger companies. Soon, every part of the igaming process will play a vital role in licensing regimes and maintaining healthy levels of player safety protocols. Those agile enough to adapt to changing demands will stay at the top, and those who can’t will disappear along with those missing branded slots.
  2. Gonzo’s Quest might seem like a standard video slot from a distance, but this NetEnt game is far from ordinary and the impact it made in the iGaming industry is undeniable. Since the online slot’s release in 2011, many have followed in the footsteps of NetEnt’s brilliant game mechanics. Many features slot players now take for granted, found their origin from the NetEnt classic. The classic 5x3 slot design is merely there to bring comfort to traditional slot players as Gonzo’s Quest included a mind-blowing new feature, the Avalanche reels. Before the Spanish explorer graced our screens, avalanche pays, or cascading wins, was unheard of and to top it off, this game incorporated a progressive multiplier into the mix. Something else NetEnt captured in this innovative slot game was to make it look and feel like a video game, instead of the well-known slot machine experience. The crisp graphics that include the interactive main character ensure that, a decade later, it still competes with the best slot entertainment available. It is mind-blowing and industry-altering stuff, making Gonzo’s Quest a legend in its own right. Gonzo’s Great Inspiration The excitement created by these features was tangible and the effects linger years later, as the title is still one of the most loved in the industry. Fast-forward to 10 years later and Gonzo is our favourite adventurer who now holds a few titles in the online gambling industry. Its award-winning creators commemorated the Spaniard’s 10th birthday by releasing the Gonzo’s Gold online slot for players to continue the adventure. Evolution Gaming released a live casino game based on Gonzo’s Quest, where players can enjoy a Live Casino Treasure Hunt with the company of a game host. Gonzo’s Treasure Hunt includes a Virtual Reality version of the conquistador and plays out in an Incan Temple. Last year, the slot quest expanded with Red Tiger who released Gonzo’s Quest Megaways in collaboration with NetEnt. As you can see, this adventure slot game caused unthinkable ripple effects in iGaming and inspired software developers from far and wide. Now that we know what Gonzo brought to the world of spinning reels, let us explore what brought Gonzo to us. The Historic Interpretation of Gonzo’s Quest The year was 2010 and spinners enjoyed slot games of the time. Classic 5x3 setups were the order of the day. Click spin and watch the reels roll and stop while you wait for that jackpot sound to trigger. That’s the slot life, right? For developers at NetEnt, there had to be more. The hum-drum features of classic slots simply weren’t enough and, much like the ancient explorers, they set out to discover what technology and imagination can produce under the right circumstances. With the spirit of exploring new worlds, only a Spanish conquistador will be worthy of the main character, and so Gonzo came into being. Very few explorers are as famous as the conquistadors of the 16th century. The Pizarro brothers completed several conquests and conquered the Inca tribes of Southern Peru. Gonzalo Pizarro was one of the adventurers that ventured into the Andes. He had one major objective: Find El Dorado, the legendary city of gold. The kingdom and its rumoured riches motivated Gonzalo to search for it, in vain. We can say with all certainty that Gonzo’s Quest is a lot more fruitful than that of his namesake. Gonzo is a charming little animated character who keeps you company while you spin, hanging out next to the reels. The online slot features an Incan City scene as the backdrop, complete with gold temples from the alluring El Dorado. Ornate stone carvings and masks create an original Incan experience that is rounded off with ambient and immersive sounds. Since its release in 2011, we have come to know Gonzo as the virtual face of NetEnt. Gonzo’s Groupies and Big Winners The fan base for Gonzo’s Quest is impressive, to say the least. The game has its own Wikipedia page and dedicated fan sites. NetEnt considers it to be one of their biggest releases ever with all the best online casinos including it in their portfolio of games. In 2014, one lucky winner bagged a €40,000 jackpot on the original Gonzo’s Quest slot, and when you play it, you will appreciate the payout occurrences. Technically, punters can win much more on Gonzo’s Quest and even more in the new Gonzo’s Gold slot. NetEnt created the Avalanche feature that was way ahead of its time and it gave rise to many popular mechanics we know today. The golden stars align as it meets up with Megaways software and one Finnish player experienced the power of this combination. The Red Tiger collaboration that produced Gonzo’s Quest Megaways married the brilliant Avalanche mechanics with a Megaways pay system. With a €20 bet, the player from Finland walked away with her second Gonzo jackpot worth €230,610. Previously, she won a €70,000 prize on the slot. Now we are looking at the actual games we’ve been discussing and if you haven’t yet, it is time to put on your explorer’s hat and pick where you will spin alongside Gonzo. ✓ Gonzo’s Quest Gonzo, the Spanish conquistador, embarks on the quest of a lifetime to find the golden city hidden in the Amazon. With El Dorado marked with an X on his map, all he needs is for you to place your wager and click spin. Discover Inca temples and forgotten treasures in this beautifully designed slot with 5 reels and 3 rows, where you can win 2,500 times your bet. Watch how the unique stone carvings drop onto the reels and disappear into a crushing avalanche when you win. Set in the lush forest, unique Inca stone carvings fill the slot grid, as the low paying symbols. These create winning combinations that explode to make way for new symbols, creating a cascading effect. This allows for multiple wins in one spin, and with each Avalance the win multiplier increases to a maximum of 5x. The mid to high variance allows for wins often enough to keep players engaged, although Gonzo does a great job of that on his own. Free Fall with Gonzo when three Scatters are in sight on reels 1 to 3, where you will get 10 free spins and the multipliers increase up to 15x. ✓ Gonzo’s Quest Megaways Red Tiger did a stellar job with the sequel to one of the most played slots ever released. Gonzo’s Quest Megaways is all that fans love about the original, with the bonus of the Megaways mechanics. The developers held on to everything that makes this slot so popular. This slot comes with a grid that has 6 reels and can yield 2 – 7 rows in each of these, thanks to Megaways. Win an astonishing potential of 20,000x your stake, with up to 117,649 ways to create winning combinations. The graphics are slightly different, and opinions vary on whether it’s better or not. They introduced some new symbols with the old familiar faces and thanks to the Megaways grid setup, the Avalanche feature is brilliant and more dramatic. Similar to the original, question mark wilds are present, but this time, it’s unbreakable. These stay put during avalanche wins. Free Falls are even more exciting because of the larger grid and in certain areas, players get to gamble for more spins. ✓ Gonzo’s Treasure Hunt Join the Spanish conquistador in this unique live game show, inspired by the slot game. Gonzo is relentless in his search for El Dorado and in this game, players get to hunt for treasure with the bearded adventurer. Gonzo’s Treasure Hunt is a ground-breaking live-streamed game that combines slot-style gameplay with a game show. This Gonzo title is the first live game that players can enjoy in Virtual Reality mode with the use of a VR headset and remote. The live host and Gonzo will accompany the player as they search for riches hidden behind 70 stones positioned in an Incan cave. The giant wall of stones is where the slot mechanism comes in, as six different symbol stones will drop into the wall, almost like a slot spin. Each of the stones pays out different values and you decide on which you will wager. Players get to pick up to 20 positions on the wall, and the amount of picks multiplies their bet. Random multipliers can drop onto the wall in any of the 70 positions once you’ve picked your stones. The computer can make automated picks on behalf of the player. Should your stone selections drop onto the picks you made, you win! It is a straightforward and fun live gaming experience with breathtaking prizes of up to 20,000x per stone. ✓ Gonzo’s Gold The fun quest continues and no one will convince Gonzo that not everything that glitters is gold. This 5x5 slot is the newest release in the Gonzo series of games and NetEnt included fan favourite features like cluster pays to up the ante. The maximum jackpot in Gonzo’s Gold is 6,500x your stake, making it a very attractive game to play. Land clusters of three or more premium symbols and four or more low paying symbols for exciting wins. Plan your bankroll according to high variance and 25.84% hit rate if you want to hit the big wins. Three or more Scatters will trigger the Free Spins that make Gonzo dance and 10 Spins will kick off with a bonus round afterwards. Depending on how many Scatters dropped onto the reel, the bonus prize can be at least x2 and a maximum of x200. Players also get to choose a Golden symbol for the free spins and the chosen symbol will become an expanding one for the duration of the Free Spins Feature.
  3. While the news cycle is filled with talk of cryptocurrencies such a Bitcoin, Ethereum, Cardano and even meme-tokens like Dogecoin and Shiba Inu, truly little of the media hype focuses on the real star of the show, blockchain technology. In many people's minds cryptocurrency and the blockchain are the same thing, which is not the case. The innovative way in which the blockchain stores, transmits and ultimately secures data is the foundational element upon which crypto-technology is built. In practical terms, while the mainstream media has been focusing on the cryptocurrencies and their incredible immediate financial value, development firms have been quietly working on using this amazing new technology to create new industries and improve existing ones. 7 Ways Blockchain Technology Will Improve Your Life There are hundreds if not thousands of ways in which blockchain tech can be used to refine and redefine the world around us. We have chosen to focus on seven industries that will benefit from blockchain integration based on recent developments or news stories. ✓Value-Driven Arts and Entertainment Piracy has never been easier thanks to the ability to scan, print and share just about any type of media online easily. This has led to ‘one of a kind’ artworks ending up as cheap prints on everything from mousepads to children’s toys. Artists are unable to protect their intellectual property rights and it has a measurable impact on their bottom line. Whether you are self-publishing a novel, realising a new album or creating your perfect painting once you release it into the world someone will make an illegal copy and try to profit from your skill and hard work. Thanks to the incredible security, peer-to-peer sharing and provable nature of blockchain interactions artists are now able to securely display, share and sell their creations safely, and when dealing with a third-party agent, transparently to ensure they receive full value. This new level of trust and transparency has been the catalyst behind the boom in NFT (non-fungible token) art sales. Where, for the first time in history, it is possible to provably own an original digital creation. This ensures that the artist receives fair value, agents must deal fairly with buyers and sellers and collectors are ensured that their purchase will retain value given the ability to legally prove theirs is the original artwork and not a fake. ✓Beating Scalpers with Digital Ticketing and Sales One of the most recent uproars online has been the rise of the digital scalper. Using blockchain technology to ensure patrons received tickets to highly sought after events, rather than scalpers, has proven to be highly effective for the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Florida. Assistant Vice President, Business Intelligence, Nicole Keating said: “While our work with True Tickets began as an initiative to keep tickets in the hands of our community and out of the hands of brokers, their mobile ticketing solution is, now more than ever, a critical component of our safety protocols.” An unexpected but positive spin-off has been their ability to offer contactless ticketing in a world recovering from the pandemic. Sadly, the reach of the scalping community has not been limited to ticket sales for events, as new age scalpers apply sophisticated algorithms to tracking the online releases of everything from the latest Nike trainers to NVidia’s 3000 series graphics cards. Using automated bots, these scalpers buy up all the available stock within seconds which then creates an artificial shortage. As has been the case with the release of Nvidia’s highly anticipated 3000 series GPU’s this has resulted in ‘resellers’ asking as much as $3000 for a graphics card that retails for $699. With a simple tweak of the blockchain code used by event hubs such as the Arsht Center, online retailers would be able to trigger individual smart contracts that ensured that each individual unit of a product sold online was going to an actual customer and not a platform looking to defraud the public. ✓Advancing the Potential of Ridesharing Despite being raised to never get in cars with stranger the cost-effectiveness of ridesharing combined with the ease of hailing a ride on short notice has seen the industry boom with start-ups like Uber and Lyft becoming multi-billion dollar companies while consisting of little more than some fairly basic technology, an app, and a control office. Yet the industry could be far more than what it is, and Arcade City is out to prove it. The innovative new rideshare hub is turning the industry on its head and using blockchain technology to do so. Inspired by the decentralised nature of the blockchain Arcade City CEO Christopher David began working on a model that better served the drivers and the people ordering their services. Rather than pre-setting rates and doling out contracts Arcade City allows the drivers to set their own rates, build recurring smart contract agreements with customers and even offer non-traditional rideshare services like deliveries, roadside assistance and more. This means that everyone from a student looking to work between classes and a small delivery business owner who needs additional income to pay his staff can all benefit from this decentralised blockchain-enabled opportunity. ✓Streamlined Banking Systems To decentralised currency evangelists the mainstream banking may be anathema, however, the reality is that the entire world runs on fiat currency systems and is underpinned by these traditional institutions. Three immediate areas that the blockchain could address are: Online identity verification systems – With the institution of protocols like Zero Knowledge Proof, an online user would only need to prove their identity at a single point. From there on that proof of identity is accepted by all other service providers on the blockchain. This reduces how far one’s personal data is shared enhancing your privacy, while still offering service providers and sellers the security of doing business with a trusted party. Financial clearing and payment settlements – With provable accounts, smart contracts, and the speed of transacting across the blockchain banks could begin to clear transactions and facilitate near instant global transfers while reducing costs by eliminating the multi-step processes that currently exist. Providing accounts for the unbanked – In poorer countries around the world there are estimated to be more than 2 billion people without access to any form of banking. Decentralised blockchain banking would allow secure, low cost, access for these people and allow them to receive international income to support their families and fight poverty. At its core banking is the simply the control, measurement, and facilitation of asset transfers between various private and public entities it can benefit greatly from the inherently secure and provable nature of blockchain transactions. The three items listed above are considered standard in any blockchain transaction, yet they would be revolutionary if applied to the traditional banking world. ✓New Era of Blockchain-Driven Advertising The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) postulates that by 2025 click fraud and other underhand tactics will have cost the digital advertising industry as much as $50 billion in lost revenues. Like every other industry the online advertising world is rife with fraudsters. The reality is that as soon as you hand over funds to a third party for access to a framework that obfuscates its mechanics you open yourself up to being taken advantage of. This becomes more likely the more you spend as it becomes less tenable to track each individual advertiser and their click data the more providers you must engage to meet your ad spend requirements. However, this is all null and void when the programmatic advertising platform is built on the blockchain. As all agreements are facilitated by smart contracts and each transaction is visible in its entirety to the person paying for the traffic it is simple to determine where your money is being allocated and to review the clicks that you have purchased. This will make click fraud incredibly difficult to facilitate, and should some genius work out how to do it, you have the visibility and the tools to shut it down immediately. ✓Voting in The People’s Choice The right to vote is the backbone of every democratic society around the globe. Yet, as the allegations of Russian tampering that clouded Donald Trump’s presidential term proved there is a level of distrust around traditional voting mechanics, their controls, and their final outcomes. As we discussed earlier with banking and online advertising the blockchain’s very construction ensures the secure transmission of data, offers the ability to prove the identity of each individual participating in the transaction, and finally offers provably fair data based on the information it has gathered. In practical terms this would allow for voters to be registered in an uncrackable blockchain database, using smart contracts allow them to vote privately and securely for their chosen politician, and finally allow the electoral body to report on who received what number of votes. The blockchain is the ideal platform for facilitating free, fair and unhackable democratically sound elections. ✓Safe and Secure Online Gambling As passionate fans of the online gambling community we cannot overlook to the benefits and advantages of blockchain gaming. Beyond the ability to stake wagers via Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies the blockchain is the ideal platform for hosting online casinos, online poker rooms, online bingo halls and sports books. Any blockchain-based gambling providers ensures: Your privacy – With the ability to store your data in an uncrackable decentralised environment your personal details and gambling history are guaranteed to be safe and secure. Provably fair gambling – The transparent nature of blockchain coding means that you can pull the server side results of each spin of the reels or deal of the cards. All blockchain-based casinos offer provably fair reports, so you have an obstructed view of your wagers and their outcomes. Secure money in and money out – Using blockchain based digital wallets to transact ensure that not only are your deposits processed instantly but they are untraceable. The same is true of your withdrawals as there is no delay in receiving your winnings once you cash out, and with the funds returning to the same secure wallet you deposited from they are also private. We can only hope that larger developers like Microgaming, Playtech and NetEnt begin to invest in transitioning their casino games from traditional gambling environments to blockchain based servers. While there is obviously a financial implication to this type of new technology shift there is no disputing that as blockchain adoption increases traditional server and hosting platforms will begin to diminish in favour of one that offers security, privacy, lower costs, and much higher speeds.
  4. The world can be divided into two categories: The known and the unknown. In the unknown category, you’ll find a range of impossible and strange occurrences and experiences. One of these is the existence of Aliens and their strange relations with humankind. The term UFO was coined in 1953 by the United States Air Force, and this term has become one that runs hand in hand with the existence of aliens and extraterrestrial beings. The presence of aliens and the conspiracy theories surrounding them are all linked to UFOs and in a sense, the United States. A significant source of theory and speculation is the infamous Area 51 located in the Nevada desert. This location is “top-secret” and used by the military for unknown operations. Over the years, rumours have arisen, leading many to believe that aliens can be found within this secret space. To this day, it is still unclear what really happens in Area 51 as it was only formally acknowledged in 2013. In essence, the CIA was looking for a secure location to test the Lockheed U-2 spy plane in 1955. The location afterwards became known as Area 51. About a decade earlier, there were 2,000 UFO sightings reported worldwide. However, these reports were mainly made by the Swedish Military. Welcome to Roswell You may have heard mention of the infamous Roswell in New Mexico. Made famous by an incident where a rancher, Max Brazzle, went out to check his pasture and came across debris that had crashed there. He allegedly discovered unusual materials and bodies that were not human on the ground. According to some, the technology available to us today is made possible due to reverse engineering from that strange occurrence. Sure, technology is out of this world but could it really be linked to Roswell? Strangely, a week before Brazzle found the debris in his field, the first UFO sighting took place in the US on June 24, 1947. Three years later, Area 51 was created, and in the ’90s the Air Force published records acknowledging the events connected to Roswell, New Mexico. According to reports, it was nuclear test surveillance balloons and not UFOs. For years, Area 51 remained known as a training base for the Air Force, but this didn’t stop the reporting of strange sightings. No More Denial Year after year, UFO sighting after UFO sighting, there was always another story or excuse to deny the existence of aliens and UFOs. To this day, Pentagon’s once covert program to investigate unidentified flying objects remains underway. The program has been renamed and buried in the Office of Naval Intelligence where any strange encounters with unidentified aerial vehicles continue to be studied. While the program is not up for discussion, the existence thereof has sparked excitement within many. With government resources going to this program, many have strengthened their belief in the presence of beings that live in a world outside of our own. Despite the excitement, Pentagon Officials have stated that the main reason for the program is to collect and report on sightings of unidentified aerial vehicles. Some of these findings must be shared with the public every six months by the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force. According to Former US Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, the focus of the program is to seek out any potential threats via breakout aviation technology. While there is hope to find evidence of vehicles from other worlds, the program was mainly created for protection. The program is no longer classified, but the information and activity still are. Aliens, UFOs and Abductions Aliens and UFOs are all the rage, and over the years there have even been stories of abductions. In 1957, Antonio Vilas Boas claimed he was abducted from his farm in Minas Gerais, Brazil. According to Boas, he was examined by humanoid aliens and had relations with an alien woman aboard an egg-shaped UFO. In the same year, several people in Levelland, Texas reported sightings of a large, bright, egg-shaped object. During the sighting, about 10 cars experienced issues with their lights and engines. Another reported abduction was that of Betty and Barney Hill in 1961. The two were abducted South of Lancaster on Route 3 in New Hampshire. According to the Hills, they were abducted and medically examined by small aliens after they saw their spacecraft. In 1965, two police officers from Pretoria, South Africa noticed a shiny, copper-coloured craft landing on the street. At the same time, their patrol car up and flew away while witnesses state they saw a red ball and a bright light in the sky. One of the most significant sightings was in 1965 in Pennsylvania when thousands saw a large fireball in six states and Canada. It caused sonic booms near Pittsburgh, and the US military recovered the object with much secrecy from the town of Kecksberg. In 1966, cameraman Leman Hanson managed to get 10 seconds of colour footage of a UFO on the Catalina Island of the coast of California. In 2006, a saucer-shaped, unit craft was seen hovering over a Chicago O’Hare Airport Terminal. It’s said to have shot up at a speed that left a clear blue hole in the clouds. Betting on UFOs Over the years, there have been many strange sightings and, in most cases, logical or bizarre explanations. For most, the existence of aliens is an idea, a belief, or a fantasy that needs to be a reality. It’s something that we want to believe in, even if we haven’t seen it with our own eyes. Any strange occurrence or object is immediately linked to aliens or extraterrestrial life. Maybe the biggest reason is that we don’t want to be alone, or we want to know that there are more life forces out there. The unfortunate reality is that we might never get an answer, living only with the possibility or belief of UFOs and alien existence for the days to come. This seems to be enough for most as many take advantages of this and even place bets at top sportsbooks! Some, such as Paddy Power, enable you to place bets on the likelihood of discovering alien life. Not only do you get to embrace the theories and conspiracies surrounding extraterrestrial life, but you could also beat the odds and grab a significant cash out too. Out of this World Entertainment While there are many films, video games, and TV series that revolve around aliens and the unknown, there’s no need to miss out on the fun at your favourite casino. Several great space-themed online slots will capture the imagination and give you the chance to win big with every spin. ✓ Cosmic Fortune by NetEnt - Blast off with this 2014 slot release that features an adorable space adventurer. Designed with 5 reels and 15 paylines, you’ll have access to free spins and impressive bonus rounds thanks to NetEnt. ✓ Max Damage by Microgaming – If aliens get a little too close for comfort, you can count on Max Damage to protect planet Earth! Action-packed and filled with fun ways to win, this slot has 243 ways to win as well as free spins. ✓ Galacnica by Spinmatic – Reels filled with colourful aliens on a planet far, far away is the playground found on this online slot. Create combinations filled with crazy aliens and win both ways while you spin the reels. Visit any of our top online casinos and play extraterrestrial casino games for out-of-this-world fun!
  5. Every year, on the fourth Saturday in July, the National Day of the Cowboy is celebrated in the United States. It seems somehow fitting that the same month the USA observes its Independence, it recognises this stoic, hardworking symbol of the American West – a true icon of Americana! Who are the Cowboys? While cowboys were effectively ‘ranch hands’ in the real Old West, their journeys on the prairies while running cattle drives came with much-associated adventure, which has been romanticised for nearly two centuries in books, films, and games. Thanks to these works of fiction, just about any horse-riding stranger with a gun in the Wild West is affectionately referred to as a cowboy. The idea of ‘cowboys’ seemed to evolve massively from their farming status to that of gun-wielding, Stetson-wearing, posse forming, outlaw fighting heroes. So, despite the entire sub-culture of post-civil war society being identified as cowboys, the purest definition of the word actually refers to someone who herds cattle on horseback. History of the Cowboy The era of cattle drives that we have all read about or seen on TV, found commonplace in states like Texas just prior to and after the American Civil War in the mid-19th Century. The cattle business began to boom, and cowboys would traditionally run the herds to where the money was. The Wild West was just that – Wild. Cattle ranches were not often fenced in like they are today, and it was commonly accepted by ranchers that other farmers would move their cattle through their territories. The rugged terrain and potential threats from wildlife, such as bears, wolves, and cougars, meant that traditional cowboys were hardened outdoorsmen and notable survivors. The iconic cowboy, however, traces back a little further than the Civil War, finding his origin in Spain. In fact, the term ‘cowboy’ comes from the Spanish word ‘vaquero’, which is derived from the root word ‘vaca’ meaning ‘cow’. The iconic figure on horseback with hat, spurs, and a lasso were traditionally borrowed from Mexico, who had strong Spanish influence embedded in their culture. The first time the term ‘cowboy’ was used in written form, was by author Jonathan Swift in 1725, but the intended use of the word was to describe the work of a young boy who tended cows. Later, Western literature caused the cowboy to evolve into a rugged, masculine, horseback adventurer. The Wild West has re-defined these figures for us a lot, as most of the stories we have heard about cowboys in books and films have truly little to do with animal husbandry. True cowboys still exist in cattle herding states and regions in America and Canada. Every year, these true heroes, both male and female, get to strut their stuff in horse and cattle-based sports events, called rodeos. These events still find big followings in the cattle states, like Texas, Montana, and Alberta (Canada), and help keep the rugged image of the Wild West alive. Cowboy Books and Literature As mentioned before, much of what we have come to know about cowboys has been defined by the books we have read and the movies we have watched. Some of the earliest Western literature came about in the earlier parts of the 19th Century, during the very age being written about. People, like James Fenima Cooper, told stories of the American frontier, in settings like the Appalachian Mountains and the areas West thereof. The Leatherstocking Tales are a great example of this early fictional work. Between 1850 and 1900 the ‘Western’ truly established itself as a specialised genre. Many of these sorts of tales were published as “Pennydreadfuls” or later as “Dime Novels”, a book-style named after the cheap nature in which they were made. These hugely successful books were one of the main reasons that cowboys are now so readily associated with the image of mountain-men, outlaws, and lawmen of the Western Frontier. These novels would fictionalise stories around the lives of real men living at the time, such as Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holiday. Many of these characters are household names as a result of the tales told about them. By 1900, the Western genre of books had picked up a great following and was even adopted by foreign writers. At this time, some of the stories began to spread eastwards across the globe thanks to a new medium of literature, called Pulp Magazines. The popular ‘Hopalong Cassidy’ series of stories by Clarence Mulford appeared in 1904 in this form, as well as in dime novel format. Progression into the 20th Century saw many evolutions in writing style, including the genre’s move to the comic scene. Both Marvel and DC climbed on the bandwagon from around 1948 and 1951 respectively, releasing stories such as Kid Colt Outlaw (Marvel) and All-Star Western (DC). Other Western-styled comics were published by Charlton Comics, Prize Comics, Fawcett Comics, and others. It was around the 1950s that some of the top novels made it to the silver screen. Jack Shaeffer’s 1949 novel, “Shane” was one such story that made it to film in 1953. Between the ‘70s and 2000s, Western Fiction dropped in popularity – mostly because film superseded written media. The only sub-genre that managed to stay its course were Adult-Rated Westerns, which are known for their explicit sexual content. Cowboys of the Movie World Westerns were recognised as one of the most popular film genres in the mid-20th Century. In fact, such movies were already well attended throughout the 1930s. John Ford’s “Stagecoach” thrust now renowned actor, John Wayne, onto the Hollywood scene, making him a mainstream movie star. He became the quintessential face behind the Western Genre at that time and will live long in the hearts of your grandmothers. A string of popular and iconic Western films ran through the ‘50s era, earmarking that period of movie history as the Golden Age of the Western. Some of the renowned titles included Broken (1950), High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), and Wichita (1955) to name a few. The cowboy craze spread to the 1960s with titles such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The ‘60s saw the introduction of a new cult hero for the cowboy/western genre – Clint Eastwood. Known as ‘The Man with No Name’, this seldom speaking, tough stranger, and nightmare to outlaws, would headline a string of Spaghetti Westerns called the Dollars Trilogy. The recognisable character in the brown poncho and hat, sucking on cigarillos and having little to nothing to say catapulted Eastwood to fame with A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Over the years, many cowboy Westerns have stolen the hearts of moviegoers. More recently, the 1990s made us fall in love with Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves, and Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, and Keffer Sutherland in Young Guns I & II. Even the comedy genius of the 1999 Steampunk Western - Wild, Wild West with Will Smith and Kevin Kline will leave a long-lasting stamp on our memory. Almost all the above-mentioned stories had the same root of genetics running through their veins – Masculine Gunslinging types on horses whipping the butts of the baddies and riding off into the sunset to live another day. These stories sold tickets and did a tremendous amount of work for romanticising the American Frontier. It placed the cowboy firmly as a patriotic symbol of American pride. Western Slots and Pokies Just about every worthwhile genre or theme will find its way onto the gaming scene at some point or another and may even trickle through to the online casino world. Let’s face it, the type of adventure that Cowboys and Westerns exude makes for some great game features and bonus rounds. It’s for that very reason that many of the top gaming studios in the online casino market have ventured to re-tell some of the best Western Stories over the reels in good ol’ slot fashion. While a myriad of games can be found online with an American Frontier theme attached to them, whether it be the Wildlife theme, Gold Digging tales, or plain old Cowboy high jinks only a few stand out. Recent recollection would highlight games like Sticky Bandits by Quickspin or Dead or Alive and Dead or Alive 2 by NetEnt. ✓ Sticky Bandits Quickspin’s 2017 Sticky Bandits tells the tale of Railway Bandits over 5 reels and 30 paylines. The simple visuals yet apt soundtrack provide a real sense of the Old West on the screen. Massive Sticky Wilds are the stand-out feature n the game, but a standard free spin round provides you with suitable action to your bankroll. ✓ Dead or Alive NetEnt are the true masters of the slot world. They are known for their ability to make a theme come alive through top graphics, sounds, and engaging features. Dead or Alive was released in 2013 and became the most popular Western-themed game by far. Its high variance and massive max win drew crowds. The typical dusty ranch visuals are complimented by some apt western-classic sounds. There is no meaningless meandering tumbleweed in this game though, each feature is well-placed for the ultimate entertainment experience. It may only be played over 9 paylines, but Dead or Alive provides several winning ways, dominated mainly by the Sticky Wild wanted poster Wilds and a host of free spins. ✓ Dead or Alive 2 Just when you think NetEnt has outdone themselves with the original Dead or Alive game, they provide an even more volatile option in 2019. Not only was the math model changed, but the maximum win peaks at over 100,000x your stake. Instead of one free spin feature, there are three up for grabs in the game. It could literally turn you into a millionaire if the way of the West is with you. A dusty Western Main Street forms the scene for the action. Here, the game maker even allows you to shoot selected items on the screen between spins – just for the heck of it! The game headlines some of the worst cowboy outlaws the genre has ever seen, such as Apache the Kid, Billie the Kid, Belle Star, Jesse James, and Della Rose. Wrangling Roundup The Wild West will live on for a long time still and it is on days like this when we must tip our hats to the impact that the era has had on our entertainment. It has followed mankind for over two hundred years and shows no sign of dying yet. Still today, the cowboys attend the cattle and compete in Rodeos throughout the ranch lands of North America. Even if the Cowboy genre has petered out on paper and the big screen for a while, it will most certainly still be around on the reels for a long time, so make sure you play your favourite Western at a Gambler’s Pick partner casino, today!
  6. The humble video game is a fond friend for most adults in the world. It was how we went on adventures to splendid new worlds, learned about our preferences in life – battle lines were drawn over whether to play Halo, FIFA, Final Fantasy or Need for Speed – and more recently determined your career choices in life. In recent years gaming has evolved from something children are allowed to do in order to give their parents a break to a multi-billion Euro industry that creates opportunities for coders, designers, musical score producers and marketing executives. However it is not only corporate entities who are benefiting from gaming as streamers on platforms like Twitch, Facebook and YouTube and eSports professionals, who compete for massive cash prizes, have created a whole new career niche around gaming. The Nerdy History of the First Video Game Any discussions of video games will have older generations wistfully remembering their Atari video game system, which comprised almost solely of Pong, or perhaps the more beloved Nintendo system. The reality, however, is that the first commercially available video game was produced by a physicist named William Higinbotham back in October 1958. As the head of Brookhaven National Laboratory’s instrumentation group, he felt it was his job to ensure their annual open day was exciting for the visitors. He came up with the idea for a tennis game which would allow the event’s guests to have an interactive experience. Using his experience with radar systems Higinbotham conceptualised and built the first tennis video game, Tennis for Two, in less than two weeks. The game was a smash hit with long lines of players, later he would say of the launch title: “It never occurred to me that I was doing anything very exciting. The long line of people I thought was not because this was so great but because all the rest of the things were so dull” Despite being an early adopter of what would one day become one of the world’s largest and most profitable industries Higinbotham never made any money from his game, nor could he since he was a Federal employee and any patents he submitted would have become government property. Early Consoles & Vintage Game Collecting The early 1970s would see standing arcade games become a fixture of shops and arcades where youth would congregate and spend the money they had begged from their parents or earned doing chores but nothing lit a fire under gamers like the chance to own your gaming console. These early consoles presented some challenges of their own: The Magnavox, Nintendo and Atari consoles of the 70s ranged in price from $75 up to $199, in present terms this is from $400 up to $750. By the late 70s, only 15 million households owned a television set in the US, which was a requirement for playing video game consoles. Even then it was only one set which meant gaming had to wait till the family wasn’t using it. If you were lucky enough to get a console and had a television to play it on the average game would cost around $40 which equates to about $140 today. It is worth keeping in mind that the minimum wage in the 1970s was less than $2 per hour, making putting these kinds of entertainment expenses out of reach for the many middle to lower class families. Rather than bury these classic games in the annals of history these fond memories, often of renting the games or playing at a friend’s house, has led to a rabid vintage game collecting market where boxed, or near mint condition, Nintendo, Magnavox, Atari, Coleco Vision and Mattel’s Intellivision systems are bought for a premium. The games themselves are where the real value lies with some really bad games, also knowns as lemons, which sold poorly during their heyday now being worth small fortunes due to scarcity. Here are just some of the crazy price ranges these retro games can ask: Stadium Events (1987) by Bandai – up to $40,000 Air Raid (1984) by Atari – up to $34,000 Gold Nintendo World Championships (1990) – up to $30,000 There are also stories of games which plummeted in value as their scarcity evaporated. One such game is Atari’s E.T. which was a terrible game and sold so poorly that thousands of copies were destroyed. This resulted in the copies which remained reaching prices of up to $37,000 on eBay. However, a 2014 dig discovered nearly 800,000 copies of E.T. in a landfill. The sudden flood of copies onto the market saw the value of the game drop to as low as $5! The eSports Evolution From the 1980s to the present day many original consoles fell away leaving us with the PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch as the only names in console gaming. These systems are far more complex delivering gorgeous 3D graphics and finger-twisting gameplay with some systems offering the option to live out your favourite new adventure in 4K! It is not only the systems that have evolved but also why people play games. Far from a childish pursuit, the advent of competitive gaming events has given rise to a multi-billion Euro competitive eSports industry comprised of both team and individual competitions. The prize money available to this burgeoning competitive sector is astounding: Dota 2 – prize pool of more than $200 million CS:GO – prize pool of more than $87 million Fortnite – prize pool of more than $84 million League of Legends – prize pool of more than $70 million Starcraft 2 – prize pool of more than $30 million While the competitive scene draws a lot of attention when it comes to making money a lesser-known component of the industry is live streaming. A former MLG National Champion and now Warzone streamer, Nick Mercs, recently crossed the 50,000 subscriber mark on his Twitch channel. Twitch charges a minimum of $4.99 per month per subscription, at the minimum split of 50% this means Nick is earning at least $125,000 per month, this figure excludes in-app advertising by big brands, sponsorships, tips (which are called Bits in the Twitch ecosystem) and the sales of his own MFAM branded merchandise. If gaming isn’t your forte but betting is there is a growing eSports betting market where bookmakers like Betway offer odds on the outcomes of various international gaming events. Whichever way you look at it, eSports is on the rise and the money will follow. Growth of Mobile Gaming When the first mobile phone launched it revolutionised how we communicated around the world, what no one foresaw was that these “phones” would evolve into powerful handheld gaming devices. With improved processing power, massive SSD hard drives and picture-perfect 4K displays the mobile phone has become a global mobile gaming playground worth more than $60 billion! Initially, mobile gaming was limited to popular free to play gaming titles like Candy Crush Saga, which generated revenue, not through game sales but microtransactions which allowed the player to bypass delays and timers to keep them in the game. At its peak, the game was reported to make $1 million a day from these small in-game purchases. The Nintendo owned Pokémon GO augmented reality game rocked the mobile gaming market to its core when it skyrocketed up the charts in 2016. By late 2019 the game had already generated more than $3 billion in revenue from in-app microtransactions boasting more than 147 million active monthly players. Since then all major studios have been working tirelessly on their market capitalisation strategy with eSports titles all offering if not their core game on mobile, then at least a standalone game featuring the characters and lore from their main game, as a way to attract this spend happy market sector. Gaming’s Impact on Casino Game Development Gaming has had an impact on the casino games we enjoy today in terms of technology, design and branded crossovers: ✓Mobile Technology: The online casino game development experts have always been at the cutting edge of any new technology and customer experience requirement. In 2004, long before other markets considered the mobile device a valid gaming platform Microgaming launched the first mobile casino. They would also go on to release the first slot for use with a smartwatch, while the technology never really grabbed mainstream appeal like mobile gaming it showed their commitment to offering players gaming whenever and wherever they wanted it. ✓Design and Gameplay: More recently we saw mobile gaming impact the way in which online slot-type games played out on screen. Puzzle games like Candy Crush and Montezuma which featured exploding symbols and non-standard reels heavily influenced games like Gonzo’s Quest and Finn and the Swirly Spin. Visually there was a move away from a more realistic art style to oversized brightly coloured icons with the inclusion of pops and explosions to emulate the onscreen “excitement” found in so many casual game titles on mobile. ✓Nostalgia Hooks: There are a number of online slots which lean into our nostalgia for retro gaming. Games like Hellcatraz do this purely through their visual design and layout, the faux 16-bit graphics and vertical scale being reminiscent of the 1986 arcade classic Rampage. However, 2020 saw NetEnt release an official Street Fighter II: The World Warrior video slot featuring the full suite of fighters, a reel set emulating the game screen including fighter specific locations, the original soundtrack and in-game sound effects. They even went so far as to include mini-games from the arcade game like vehicle destruction! Celebrating Video Game Day Whether you're an avid gamer or haven't really picked up a controller in years why not join us in celebrating Video Game Day by loading up your favourite game and taking a moment to remember how many great adventures you've had over the years.
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