Five brands that have defined the world of iGaming
The iGaming industry is one of the newest technology sectors, but also one of the fastest growing. Established at the dawn of the “dotcom boom”, online casino games have been a growing phenomenon and a source of convenience for fans of classic table games and slot titles. In fact, many of main licensed operators in the UK today are still powered by some of the well-known pioneers of iGaming technology dating back to the early days of the industry in the mid-1990s.
These pioneers include software studios such as Microgaming, NetEnt and Playtech. All of these have left indelible marks on the iGaming scene as we know it today – and they still exist today. These studios are trying to find new and innovative ways to excite and entertain online gamers without them having to travel to their nearest land station. Resorts that can often be tens or hundreds of miles away.
To that end, this article is a celebration of the creativity of the big names in iGaming. They are a source of inspiration for creative start-ups, demonstrating that any company with a vision and a passion for pushing the boundaries can progress.
Isle of Man based iGaming software giant Microgaming has set the standard for so many other providers to follow over the years. Founded in 1994, Microgaming is said to have designed and built the world’s first fully online casino software. His filibuster approach never wavered, and he’s been at the forefront of the iGaming industry since day one.
He was a founding member of the Interactive Gaming Council and even formalized the world’s first mobile casino gaming software. It also ushered in a new layer of immersion in online slot titles, with the launch of licensed branded slot games, such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
More recently, Microgaming has been at the forefront of the progressive slot phenomenon, where groups of online slot games pool bets to contribute to an overall progressive jackpot that can be won entirely at random. By 2021, Microgaming had paid out over £1.5 billion in progressive jackpot winnings.
The Swedish software pioneer iGaming came onto the scene a few years after Microgaming, but its impact on the industry to date has been no less remarkable. The company was founded by Pontus Lindwall, the son of Bill Lindwall, a casino gaming pioneer in Sweden. It was originally known as Net Entertainment, but eventually evolved into NetEnt following a series of investments from outside players.
Like Microgaming, NetEnt would pave the way for smooth and immersive iGaming technology. It was the first to specialize in fully responsive slots and table games. Historically, games from NetEnt – and indeed those from other top studios – were powered by Adobe Flash plugins. However, these plugins were resource-intensive and often tied down devices. NetEnt has taken the decision to reinvent its portfolio of slot games, re-launching them in fully responsive HTML5 technology. This ensured that NetEnt’s game library would be accessible on any desktop, laptop or mobile device, providing the best possible viewing experience on any screen size.
More recently, NetEnt has focused on perfecting its live casino offering, bringing a host of innovative live-streamed games to households in regulated markets.
Playtech is an iGaming software company founded in Tartu, Estonia by an Israeli tech entrepreneur named Teddy Sagi. Sagi, whose personal wealth stands at around $5 billion, has invested heavily in Playtech’s operations since its founding in 1999.
Within two years of its inception, Playtech launched its first iGaming product. It then became a partner with many household names in the industry, namely bet365, Ladbrokes and William Hill, providing them with white label iGaming software to power their online platforms.
Playtech made the decision to embark on a large-scale mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity, taking under its wing YoYo Games, Quickspin, Best Gaming Technology and Snaitech. It has since become a one-stop-shop for iGaming operators, powering “omnichannel” casino gaming experiences.
Playtech is now a listed company on the London Stock Exchange and a mid-cap stock within the FTSE 250 index. It has also been the subject of M&A activity in recent times, with companies like Aristocrat Leisure , TTB Partners and JKO Play. weigh ambitious takeover bids in the region of £2-3 billion.
In 2006, Evolution Gaming established itself at the dawn of mobile casino gaming. It also came at a time of rapid expansion in broadband connectivity, including improvements in download and upload speeds that made live streaming more possible. It then became Europe’s leading B2B provider of live casino technology, supported by its own live casino studios in Europe.
Its live casino studio in Riga, Latvia remains the largest on the continent to this day. It also recently launched a live casino studio in North America as it seeks to forge new B2B ties with regulated and licensed operators in several US states.
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12 months after opening its live dealer studio in Riga, Evolution also launched one in Malta, which has since become another international hub for its live dealer portfolio. Just over a decade after its launch, Evolution listed on Nasdaq Nordic in June 2017. Since then, it has embarked on a series of ambitious acquisitions, including Ezugi, Red Tiger and, most importantly, NetEnt.
The merger of two live casino giants such as NetEnt and Evolution can only be beneficial for the future of live dealer gaming.
Blueprint Gaming is one of the few iGaming industry innovators headquartered in the UK. Blueprint is based in the humble East Midlands market town of Newark, but its impact on the iGaming scene has been anything but modest. Blueprint was initially launched in 2001 with a direct mission to design and supply slot machine games for the land based gaming industry.
In 2008 they were acquired by German company Gauselmann Group, with plans to pivot Blueprint into the booming iGaming industry. Since then, Blueprint has gone from strength to strength, developing its own unique slot titles, many of which have become enduring franchises among slot fanatics.
Also noteworthy is Blueprint’s impact on industry-leading slot game mechanics. The group played a key role in the emergence of the ‘Megaways’ game engine, which does away with conventional ‘payline’ game mechanics and instead focuses on symbol combinations. This is all designed to help slot games attract a more mainstream audience.
The outlook for these five iGaming pioneers remains bright, with the iGaming industry demonstrating the global potential that so many believed in all those years ago.