Playing at an online casino is primarily about the games, and if you’ve been to a number of online casinos, then you have likely noticed that many of them offer many of the same titles. That’s because most casinos are using the same casino software to power their games, usually developed by one of the big names in the industry.
Top Casino Software Providers
While there are some smaller casino software brands out there, the top software providers you’re likely to come across (especially if you’re playing at one of our recommended casinos), are, in no particular order:
Microgaming – The force behind the first online casino in 1994, Microgaming is probably the biggest name in casino software. This industry giant excels in variety with over 850 entirely unique casino games in its catalogue. Other standout features include its huge slots offering, including the extremely popular Mega Moolah progressive jackpot game, as well as its superb mobile platform.
Playtech – Another power-house in the world of online gambling, Playtech has been in the business since 1999, providing casino, poker, bingo and most recently sports betting software to many sites. In addition to developing its own proprietary games, Playtech is particularly strong at licensed games, with a huge range of slots based on popular films, superheroes, and television programmes.
NetEnt – A publicly traded company, founded in 1996, NetEnt is slightly less prolific than Playtech or Microgaming, but just as good. Billing itself as a “premium supplier of digitally distributed gaming systems” the company is especially strong on the live casino front (completely compatible with mobile play), and the graphics used in its award-winning games.
888 – 888 is the only one of the gaming software companies that runs its own sites, including casino, poker, bingo and sports betting. This means it is able to offer games you’ll literally find nowhere else. In addition to download and web-based play, 888 also has a strong mobile offering and unique promotional calendar.
Casino business model
With the exception of 888, there is a clear division between the casino software provider and the casino itself, though they do collaborate to a certain extent.
Basically, the software provider is just that. It develops each game from start to finish. That means it’s the one that thinks of the theme for each game, programs it to work as it should, and then sells licensing to use the game to each casino across its network, on an individual basis. This system of dispersion/licensing is why you may see some differences in the number of games offered by various casinos using the same software. In addition to the games, the software company is also the one to develop the actual casino platform.
The casino itself is the marketer, service provider and support. It takes the casino software platform and integrates it according to its own design, including its own theme and user-interface. It chooses which games to put on its homepage, how to name its categories in the navigation (roulette or table games for example), and decides on its service protocol including the languages it covers, the currencies it accepts, the payment methods used, and the hours its support team operates. Local licensing also falls under the responsibility of each casino, so if a casino wants to gain licensing in a market like Canada or the UK, it must do so on its own.
Game payouts are per casino, except for progressive jackpot games which operate network-wide. So for example, each wager placed on Microgaming’s Mega Moolah slots from every casino it services is put into the progressive jackpot, which grows until someone wins it.
As for promotions, these happen on both levels. There are what are called network wide promotions, which may be offered across all of a software provider’s client’s sites. This is more common in poker, but may occur upon occasion in casino play as well.
More likely, each casino is responsible for its own promotions to attract and retain players. That’s why you’ll see significant differences in things like the welcome bonus being offered. When a new game is released, most casinos will run a campaign to push it, but how they do so will differ – one may, for example offer you free spins on a new slot machine, while another will give you a $10 match bonus.
Another shared element is the live casino, which will be the same across a software provider’s entire network of casinos. Go to any Playtech casino, and you’ll see the same live dealers. Same goes for Microgaming.
As for choosing a casino at which to play, it should be a combination of both factors. In our books, all of our preferred casinos have great software. How it’s packaged is a matter of taste, and we recommend trying a few to find the one that suits you best.