Software Providers Pt I
There at the birth of online casinos, in 1994, it would be the battle between Microgaming and Cryptologic that would shape much of the ground in the online world. Cryptologic has fallen away a little, but Microgaming continues to vault away at the top of the market. It has a much wider selection of online slots available than any of its competitors, and has grasped innovation time and time again. It produced the first wide-area progressive jackpot, Cash Splash, in 1998, and then set new jackpot records with Major Millions, in 2002. It would produce the first branded slot, Tomb Raider, in 2005, and has since tied up deals with a number of high profile content providers - most notably Marvel. It also created the All Pays (or Ways To Win) feature, abandoning traditional paylines in favour of large multiples of combinations. The company remains at the very bleeding edge of technology.
Formed in Sweden in 1996, Net Entertainment (or NetEnt for short) has always placed fairness and honour at the forefront. While most of its competitors are also involved in running casinos, NetEnt concentrates solely on creating the strongest games it can. The company strives to give customers the best value, and many of its games return around 95% of the players' money to them. This payback percentage - virtually unheard of with other software providers - may not find favour with all casinos, but NetEnt argues that those sites will get many more customers as a result of the high payback, and the extra custom will compensate for lost profits. It doesn't have the range of Microgaming, but it still have a lot of titles under their wing. Slots like Gonzo's Quest and Mega Fortune (with its progressive jackpot) have been hugely successful. More innovative slots, like EggOMatic, continue to find new twists on old themes.
Si Redd built IGT from nothing, first buying the Bally Franchise in the 1960s, and then turning that into a dominant force in land-based casinos. He would sell the Bally name, but not before he had bought the rights to the electronic games for $1.5 million. He then switched these rights to his new company, IGT (International Game Technology), and IGT became a huge innovator in electronic slots. The Nevada Megabucks slot was the first multi-casino progressive slot, and IGT would hit paydirt with the Wheel of Fortune - this remains by far the most popular progressive slot in Vegas. Online versions of its best land-based slots (Cleopatra, Da Vinci Diamonds, Wheel of Fortune) have become massively successful. IGT isn't maybe the chief innovator in today's online market, but it remains a company with considerable clout.
Playtech would't hit the market until 1999 - by which time Microgaming and Cryptologic were strongly established names in online slots. However, the company worked hard to protect its customers, often taking their side against betting sites. Its software was slick and polished, and offered plenty of statistics so that it could be tailored to suit the needs of both customers and betting sites. Playtech was fast to tie up deals with big online names like Bet365, Genting, and Betfred. Like Microgaming, Playtech has set in place a lucrative deal with Marvel, and its Iron Man series has been particularly successful. It remains a fairly strong contender today, even if it doesn't yet quite match the likes of Microgaming in the slots industry.
BetSoft is relatively new, having only arrived in the slots industry in 2005. However, it's wasted no time creating a reputation for producing the very best in visuals and sound. Many of its newer slots are three dimensional, so the characters move and dance, and peer around and behind the main playing area. No other company offers such captivating and cinematic graphics as the spectacular visuals of BetSoft's best. Sound is excellent too, and the company always hires professional actors to supply the voices. The games themselves aren't quite as innovative, but the good selections of Wilds in many of these titles can create plenty of action. With a little tweaking of the gameplay, BetSoft's titles could be without parallel.