It’s been a time of unprecedented turbulence for businesses in the UK and across the world. But if there was one industry that’s had a natural immunity to the pandemic from the very beginning, it’s online gambling. While bars, restaurants, shops and land-based bookies, and casinos have been forced to shut, the world of internet gambling has remained open 24/7. Online table games and, especially, online slots have kept revenue streams flowing through the worst of the pandemic.
It’s not all plain sailing, though. The big software developers behind famous slots like Starburst, Rainbow Riches and Book of Dead do have their work cut out, having to deal with something a bit more prosaic than a once-in-a-century health crisis. Namely, legislators. For one thing, there’s the review of the UK’s Gambling Act that’s currently underway, and could result in serious curbs being placed on how casinos and betting sites operate. And then there are the recent regulations laid out by the UK Gambling Commission, specifically targeting online slots.
Slots have come in for particular criticism for their fast-paced game mechanics and flamboyant visual effects which can prove incredibly compelling. It’s a concern that was summed up in a Wired article last year, which quoted a slots addict describing how the “dazzling gameplay and catchy music” can draw players back “time and time again.”
Demand of the Big Changes
The Gambling Commission has demanded big changes to slots. From October 31, the gameplay must be slower, losses have to be clearly displayed during play, autoplay must be removed, and games can’t use fun effects and jingles to make losses feel like wins. This of course means that software developers must now painstakingly ensure all their current slots are amended to abide by the regulations. They must also adapt prospective plans to fit in with the new normal.
Speaking to Casino Beats, a spokesperson for the major developer Microgaming sounded fairly breezy about the whole thing. She pointed out that the famed firm has “already implemented some of the new measures”, and that “these changes will not significantly affect the development of future Microgaming titles, because they have been planned far ahead of today’s announcement.”
That said, Microgaming and its fellow industry leaders have more on their plate than the Gambling Commission’s measures and the potential of big changes in gambling laws. The best slot developers are seeing plenty of challenge from independent game studios, meaning they can’t be complacent and must carry on adapting to market forces as well as gambling laws.
Yggdrasil – Reinventing iGaming
While big players like Microgaming, NetEnt, and Play’n Go still hog most of the limelight, there are plenty of smaller firms that are enjoying fruitful partnerships with leading casino sites. A prominent example is Yggdrasil, which has proven itself as a significant disrupter in the online slots space since its founding in 2013. Last year it was given the UGA Innovator of the Year award for the fourth consecutive time, and its stated claim is to reinvent iGaming. Another company making waves is 4ThePlayer, which was created in 2018 and is still raking in funding from excited investors. And, like its giant rival Microgaming, 4ThePlayer is taking new regulations in its stride, with its marketing director telling Casino Beats that they “thought this might be on the horizon” and that “innovation will be required to keep the player engaged as well as safe”.
Younger than decades-old giants like Microgaming and NetEnt, these firms may also be hungrier, determined to bridge the market gap and establish themselves as the big players of tomorrow. As the world slowly but surely emerges from the shadow of the pandemic, it looks like the best-known names in online slots will have to contend with a lot more than stricter regulation to maintain their market dominance.