Online Casino Software Providers
If there’s one thing that online casino newbs fail to realise, it’s that the vast majority of online casinos do not make their own casino games and video slots. Imagine that an online casino is like a bookshop – there are plenty of books to read, but it’s not the bookshop that makes the books. It’s the same with the best online casinos – you can play many of the leading online video slots and casino games, but the online casino does not make them. The question you, therefore, may be asking is … who makes them? The answer to that question is very simple. Books come from publishers and online pokies and casino games come from software developers. There are a few hundred online casino software providers, some small but some – like NetEnt, Microgaming and Playtech – are sizeable companies with offices in places all over the globe.
The Leading Online Casino Software Providers in 2023
The concept of online casinos has been around for over two decades now. In the beginning, anyone who opened a new online casino had no choice but to develop their own software. This was because there was no one else to do the development for them! Most online casinos twenty or so years ago only ever had casino games such as blackjack and roulette, mainly because slots were too difficult to create.
Computer slots had been around for a while though, but only in real-world casinos. The concept of video slots was created in the 1980s. These were cabinet-based machines with a TV monitor, computer technology and a limited player interface. The computer chips would hold the program that ran a game and the video display would display the reels, much like the computer-and-video display used in the leading arcade games of the day, such as Space Invaders and Pac-Man.
Early online video slots and casino games need to be downloaded first
Some companies decided to try and convert their video slots so that they could be played online, or at least downloaded to someone’s computer and played there as internet speeds were not yet fast or resilient enough to allow for online play. This was not a perfect process though as the best way of doing the conversion was by using a piece of software called Flash, which was initially made by Macromedia and then by Adobe. Flash was slow and insecure, but that did not stop some leading companies – like WMS, IGT and Bally – from releasing online slots.
There was one other problem with Flash. To run any game with Flash, a user had to have a version of Flash on their computer. This was another reason why Flash was considered insecure and inconvenient plus anyone not using a Windows-based computer had another problem – Flash sometimes did not work on computers running other operating systems, such as OSX (Mac) and Linux (Ubuntu).
Companies began to develop with no previous experience in creating video slots
Other companies had no real-world experience in creating online casinos and slot games, but they decided to attempt to be sound business sense. Plenty of these fledgeling companies fell by the wayside, but two – Microgaming and Playtech – became incredibly successful. By 2010 the majority of online casino and slot games were made by these two giants, and both companies remain very much in business today.
The next big adventure that online casinos embarked on commenced with the release of HTML5. This was a massive leap forward in terms of interactive video technology. Not only was it now much easier to create online slots and video games, but the games themselves were also significantly smaller in terms of byte size meaning they could be downloaded in an instant.
Another benefit was that HTML5 ran natively on all computers and all devices. This meant that as long as a computer was capable of connecting to the internet and downloading, running and displaying a web page, then it was capable of running an HTML5 game without any problems.
HTML5 changed the world of online video software, and thankfully for the better!
The change from Flash to HTML5 did not seem to alter anything when it came to casino games and slots. Indeed, online video slots in 2010 did not look all that different from video slots found in real-world casino lobbies in 1990.
But then along came NetEnt’s Gonzo’s Quest and everything changed. This game, when it was released, blew everyone’s socks off and propelled NetEnt to the undisputed number one spot in the realm of online casino software developers (although many would argue it is a spot that they no longer hold). Gonzo’s Quest had super-smooth animations, tumbling reels, crashing sound effects and of course, Gonzo himself with his slick dance moves. NetEnt had set a new upper benchmark in terms of top online video slots and casino games.
NetEnt has gone on to prove that Gonzo’s Quest was not a one-off for them and they have created many more excellent online slots. Starburst stands alongside Gonzo’s Quest in terms of gameplay and popularity, and some even say it’s a better game. Other classic NetEnt titles include Aloha! Cluster Pays, Jack & the Beanstalk and Finn’s Swirly Spin.
Are Online Casino Software Providers Fair and Square?
Uneducated critics of online casinos and developer software always make the claim that online casino games are rigged and that playing against a computer is always a stupid idea.
Online casino developer software is not rigged. For a start, many online casino software providers license and distribute their own games. For this, they need a casino licence. In order for a company to be taken seriously, it will need a top-tier licence from an authority like the Malta Gaming Authority, or the UK Gambling Commission.
Also, online casinos are required by their licence providers to have their games ratified for fairness by independent ratification organisations. Software developers help online casinos out by having each individual game ratified at source, encouraging sites to host their games.
One of the leading ratification organisations is eCOGRA, which is the eCommerce Online Gaming Regulation Assurance organisation. This is a credited company based in London in the UK. When an online casino software company presents a game to eCOGRA (prior to release) the organisation will run countless tests to make sure that the game behaves in a fair manner. If it doesn’t, then it will not be passed, and the online casino software provider will be advised not to release the game without first making amendments.
It’s not worth the risk for online casino software providers to release a rigged game.
The second reason why players can be sure that online casino developer software is not rigged is because of the loss of reputation. The online casino sphere is a very competitive realm, and if a company was found to be releasing rigged games, then online casinos would stop hosting their software. In addition, the company would then face hefty fines from its licenser, and it would have its licences suspended or even withdrawn.
As for official testing companies, there are independent watchdogs too. These organisations are designed to protect the online gambling community from rogue software. A tiny handful of companies have, over the years, been found to be operating rigged or cloned games, but such games have only ever been found at unlicensed casinos or casinos with lower-tier licences. Online casinos that do not treat their players fairly end up on blacklists issued by watchdog organisations.
The third reason why players can be sure that online casino developer software is not rigged is perhaps the simplest one – it doesn’t need to be. Online slots typically have an RTP (return to player) of around 95%. This means that on average, in terms of the financial reward for each $1 spent on an online slot, the player will get back $0.95, and the casino $0.05. This might not sound much but imagine how much money the casino will earn over the course of millions of spins. Online software companies will receive back a cut of the money returned, so it makes more sense for them to create fair and square games rather than run the risk of heavy fines and reputational loss by creating rigged ones!
The Different Types of Online Casino Software Providers
Not all online casino software developers are the same. Here we take a quick look at the many different types of casino software providers that exist, and what they do.
While some software companies specialise in one area, others try to insert their fingers into as many casino pies as they can. Not only do they develop online slots, they also develop casino games, scratch cards, video poker, casual games, virtual sports and even live casino titles.
Four of the biggest ‘all-rounders’ are NetEnt, Microgaming, Pragmatic Play and Playtech. All four of these companies are multi-faceted, and they all have their own live casino studios. This is why there are four of the biggest and most successful online casino software development companies operating in this sphere today.
The Slotting Specialist
If you head to any online casino then there is one thing that the vast majority of them have in common – there are far more slots than any other type of game. Some casinos have ten times as many slots as any other game, and some online casinos have online slots and nothing else.
The reason for this is simple – online slots are the most popular type of casino game. This has led to some companies concentrating on slots and nothing else, such as Yggdrasil Gaming, Big Time Gaming and Foxium.
No Slots Here!
Some online casino software developers do not make pokies or make very few slots in comparison to the number of casino games they develop. The leading company with this attitude is probably Wazdan.
The Company Muncher
Why dig a ditch when you can get someone to dig it for you? A few software companies began life as a developer but then decided it would be much better for them to buy up other companies and get them to do the work for them. The biggest company that survives by ‘eating up’ others is probably Scientific Games which has a casino-software arm, SG Digital. Over time, Scientific Games has bought up many leading casino software brands, including Bally, Barcrest, NextGen Gaming, WMS, IGT and NYX.
The Live Casino Specialist
Nearly every online casino will have a live casino when you visit it. Barely any of these online casinos run their own live casino but rely on other companies to provide one for them. Because of the high cost of running a studio, the technology and the software, most companies who provide live casinos do not make any other contributions to the online casino sphere (although some do – see the four companies listed under ‘The All-Rounder’.)
Some companies that specialise in live casinos only include Asia Gaming, Evolution Gaming, Ezugi and VivoGaming.
One rarity in the sphere of online casino software providers is a company that does not make any games themselves but combines (i.e. aggregates) software from several other companies. This means that an online casino can sign a deal with an aggregator so they can use software from a number of companies without having to sign an individual deal with every company, separately.
One of the leading software aggregators is EveryMatrix. If an online casino signs a deal with EveryMatrix then they can use the games provided by ELK Studios, Eyecon, NetEnt, Leander Games, PariPlay, Thunderkick and many more – 175 in total covering 11,500 games!
Not all software companies are in favour of casino software aggregators, though. For example, the leading company Playtech never seems keen to share its web space with any of its rivals.
The Nuts and Bolts
The final type of online software development company in this list is the type of company that creates both online casinos and online casino software. When a new company ‘buys’ an online casino so they can build it up as their own (this is called a ‘white label solution’), the casino comes ready-fitted with its own games.
Two of the leading companies that do this are Nektan and Jumpman Gaming. Online casinos that are created this way are free to add titles from other developers too.
Final Thoughts About Online Casino Software Providers
Online casino players have never had it so good! With so many developers releasing excellent games, the variety available at online casinos no matter your jurisdiction is simply sensational! There are now at least a dozen or so truly fantastic online casino software providers, and at least a few dozen just bubbling under capable of creating games that are truly playable.
Remember, no matter which company makes the games that you enjoy playing the most, always make sure that you gamble responsibly, and never play with money that you cannot afford to lose.
Online Casino Software Providers FAQ
Why do we need so many software providers? Aren’t all casino games the same?
I’ve found games from my favourite developer at a casino that does not have a licence. It’s okay to play them, surely?
Can I play games from my favourite casino software developer for free?
How come I can play online slots on my iPhone now, when previously I couldn’t?