From a simple fruit slot developed in Brooklyn in 1891 to a modern game loaded with bonuses, stories, and impressive wins – say what you may, but nothing in the gambling industry has transformed and evolved as dramatically as the slot machine. And that’s just the land-based gambling.
Things get even more interesting when we move to the virtual sector.
When Microgaming started testing the waters of the online segment back in 1994, rolling out its first virtual reeled releases, neither of us could predict that by 2020 the industry of online slots would become as competitive. And as popular.
Looking at the stats offered by H2GC, it becomes obvious just how quickly players leaped from testing online slots to playing regularly and waiting for the latest online slot releases. Back in 2003, the gross win on casino games in Europe was less than 300 mln USD. By 2025, the reports predict, it will grow to the jaw-dropping 13,321 mln. That’s just Europe alone. And that’s just the slots, with all of the other betting activities (Sportsbook, Racebook, poker, bingo) excluded from the summary.
With the global online gambling market size reaching USD 59.6 billion in 2020, more and more content creators are wanting in on at least a piece of this pie.
Today, it is a red ocean of competition, with tens of new content creators appearing on the European software developing horizon yearly. 4ThePlayer, AGames, All41 Studios, Mancala Gaming, Mighty Fighter, Neon Valley, NetGame, Swintt – those are just a few out of numerous slot developing studios launched in 2019 that we added to our database. How many of them will make it past the startup threshold and be able to beat the insane competition and grab the attention of the players? Time will show.
And while these startups are struggling to find ways to stand out in the crowded arena, bigger companies are coming up with new business models, launching partnership programs in an attempt to hold their leadership positions, while at the same time catering to more niches.
Microgaming is probably the best example of the successfully restructured business. A few years ago, the company took a course on expanding its portfolio of slots by scouting the new and ambitious but small studios or launching new brands and divisions to create games solely for Microgaming. By the time we were ready to roll out this article, there were well over ten brands in Microgaming’s network.
With this network, Microgaming not only niched down from games in general to slots. It even niched down on slot sub-niches. For instance, the team of Triple Edge Studios is revising and recycling some of Microgaming’s older slots, such as the Playboy Gold and Lara Croft: Temples and Tombs.
Parallel to Triple Edge Studios, the team of Pulse8 focuses on Asian slots, with such games as Treasures of the Lion City gaining more and more followers among fans of the oriental content. At the same time, studios like Just For The Win and Crazy Tooth are killing it by delivering original content. When commenting on arriving at the European market, the USA-based Crazy Tooth team said: “Right now our mission is to keep releasing exciting content. We continually try to develop our studio and get better at what we do and as we enter a new sector of gaming, a big part of that is learning from Microgaming – and the online gaming market as a whole - and do our best to deliver content our new audience will really enjoy playing”
Microgaming even took care of the table games niche, delegating innovations to Switch Studios, a whole other big topic in the evolving online industry.
When sharing their thoughts about the growing gaming segment with us, the team of Switch said the following: “Our reasons for moving into table games development was borne from our prior experience and continued interest in the vertical during our time in the free-to-play gaming sector. Whilst the technology from the device and platform side had moved on greatly, we noticed there had been no real advancements in terms of innovation from a gameplay perspective and we wanted to get ahead of this and shake up the vertical. The audience has grown exponentially! It’s only been in the last couple of years that innovation in this field has started to kick in, where we can see examples of developers trying new things and creating games that appeal to a new generation of players. This certainly ties in with our own plans to revolutionize table games for both new and established audiences.”
While Microgaming is all about scouting new slots and game talent, other major brands are seeking partnerships among existing studios that need a little nudge. Yggdrasil Gaming is successfully growing its YGS Masters by attracting AvatarUX, Rabcat, Northern Lights Gaming, and Fantasma. Net Entertainment made the industry talking when it acquired Red Tiger at the end of 2019.
There are many factors that contribute to the growing popularity of slots. Unlike table games, this genre is very flexible and allows for lots of alterations that make games different from one another. At the same time, each of the studios relies on a good-old toolbox of popular features, such as free spins, paid Wilds, and bonus rounds to let the players know that while some things change from release to release, there is still that familiar foundation that allows getting involved in the game quickly, without investing time in learning the rules.
The fight for making a slot and its features stand out is real. Some studios even patent their findings. Others dream of coming up with a winning mechanism that can be turned into a franchise. This is the case with Big Time Gaming that made a breakthrough with its Megaways™ layout.
Following in on BGT’s footsteps, Hacksaw Gaming is taking a chance with its innovative approach to constructing the grids. Did you already check out theCubes slot? If not, and you are after some fresh ideas in games, then you should definitely give this title a go.
When weighing in on the competition in the slot industry and on the necessity to constantly innovate, the CEO of Hacksaw Gaming Marcus Cordes said: “The market is becoming quite saturated with a lot of healthy competition around, so it’s in our interest to create games that will stand out. So far, we feel that we’re on the right track with regards to delivering high quality and entertaining products that players enjoy. We are also very aware that the majority of gameplay stems from mobile so we always design each game for the smallest screen and then adapt for larger screens/devices making it easier for players to access and engage with our games. In addition to this, we ensure that our games are very light to give the players the shortest load time possible so they can start playing as soon as possible.”
During our recent Online Gambling Trends Study we already covered the upcoming turns in the evolution of the industry. But if we are narrowing the focus to slots, the future for this segment is very exciting, with some of the following trends clearly taking over:
- Virtual Reality becoming the next big step in the development of the market.
- Role-playing taking over the reels. While VR is still in the making, Evoplay Entertainment already rolled out its first-in-the-industry slot mixed with role-playing. Dungeon Immortal Evil made everyone talk about the studio during the gaming conference of 2020.
- Experiments in grids will continue. Many companies are already in the race of rethinking the traditional grids, and even segments of the grids.
- Skill-based games are clearly making their way to the top of the players’ preferences.
- There will be more crypto-slots in the upcoming years.
While the market is getting more and more saturated with innovative and exciting games, the approach of countries to regulating the industry evolves, too. Regulators are working on raising awareness, informing the players, and introducing new rules and levels of protection for the gambling community.
There has hardly been a time in the online gambling industry when so many important factors finally met at the crossroads, creating a new and safer environment for the players to make informed decisions when wagering on games. Add potentially big payouts coming from certain jackpot slots, and you’ll get a full picture of how the reel-spinning industry is becoming more and more appealing.
Our colleagues at LCB put together a great list of stories about the biggest jackpot wins in 2019, with payouts starting at $ 3.65 million and reaching $15.2 million on Mega Moolah, the top millionaires-maker slot, and with several other popular jackpot games contributing, as well.
While the gross win of the European online slot segment will exceed 13 mln USD by 2025, the key question is – what are the countries that will contribute the most to the growth of the market? Based on the stats from H2GC, here are the top-10 European countries where slot machines will be extremely popular in the nearest future:
- The United Kingdom will lead the industry, with the gross wins on online slots reaching USD 3,9 bn per year by 2025.
- Following the UK is Italy, where the gross wins may reach up to USD 1.5 bn.
- Germany is closing the top-3 with gross wins estimated at USD 562 million.
- Sweden is not far behind, with the prognosis indicating USD 519 million.
- France jumps into the top with an estimate of USD 5066 million.
- Spain’s estimate is USD 499 million.
- The Netherlands place seventh with an estimate of USD 461 million.
- Surprisingly, Bulgaria makes it to the top-10 with the prognosis being USD 458 million.
- Denmark lands the ninth place with the possible gross wins per year reaching USD 346 million.
Portugal is the last one to make it to the top-10 with its estimates reaching USD 336 million.