Mark Dawson, site editor from new casino directory, AllSlotSites.com, explains why we are now in a golden age of creativity in the video slots industry
For anyone who knows their Lil Devil from their Book of Dead, browsing through the rows of slots at any online casino today it is clear that a new generation of game developers has made its mark in recent years. Where once the scene was dominated by big names from the offline world, like IGT and Novomatic, or giants like NetEnt and Mirogaming who made their names in the early years of online, now there are younger contenders whose creative edge has allowed them to compete with the big boys.
At AllSlotSites.com we profile the best game producers and it is clear that young studios like Nolimit City and Fantasma are leading the pack in terms of innovation. Every month we are seeing new games stealing the headlines typically designed with massive win potential, high variance and mind-boggling features to blow the competition out of the water. This is a golden age for video slots and the future looks like a real thrill ride for those who like their games fast and fun. But how did we get here?
The Influence of Big Time Gaming
There is no question that the release of Bonanza Megaways™ in 2016 was a game changer. It was the slot that put Big Time Gaming on the map, utilising their new expanding reels game engine, and spicing it up further with a fearsome mix of features like progressive multipliers and free spins. The result is electrifying and it set the tone for a series of games that appeal to fans of high risk gambling, always done with a touch of humour and the occasional 80s rock anthem like Europe’s The Final Countdown or the lesser-known Lil Devil by The Cult.
Big Time Gaming have injected new life into slots and their influence can be seen all over the place. This is in part because they have licensed their game engine out to rivals like Blueprint and Red Tiger. But it’s also because the unique creative style they bring in games like White Rabbit and Danger! High Voltage has both sparked the interest of a new audience who appreciate the mix of pop culture, gamification and gambling, and also inspired BTG’s rivals to bring a similarly slick creativity to the reels.
The Phenomenon of Slot Streamers
Slot streamers might not be part of the mainstream but they have helped drive the scene forward. This younger generation of gamblers who stream their gameplay live via Twitch and You Tube love the type of games that Big Time Gaming, Push Gaming and other high volatility developers produce. This new breed of slot studios create exactly the kind of winning sequences that their audiences want to share, and the concoction of crazy animations, bonus spins and mutlipliers make for riveting viewing.
Steamers have acted like social influencers, hence their success as affiliates, and their importance is illustrated in launch events where streamers like Letsgiveitaspin are given first play on new slots from Big Time Gaming at pre-announced times at top tier casinos.
The New Breed – Nolimit City, Relax Gaming and Fantasma
So, what of the new breed? How do their games compare to Megaways™ and how are they capturing their audience’s attention? In video slots it’s often a small feature design that can make a game popular. They can’t all produce the next Megaways™ mechanic, but developers are now pushing the boundaries and building exciting gameplay in a similar way to that of the Megaways™ bonus rounds.
Nolimit City have made waves with their xNudge Wild that uses auto-nudges to build wild symbol stacks with multipliers. They have also shown themselves to be adept at drawing inspiration from new and original places. For example, when the classic old reworks of Ancient Egyptian themes become tiresome then Nolimit City build a game called Punk Rocker with Banksy-style illustrations of English icons, including Churchill with a mohawk.
Elsewhere Fantasma Gaming and Relax Gaming in partnership have even managed to add new levels of innovation to the Megaways™ format in their latest creation, Heroes Hunt. Gamification as a feature has worked its way into video slots as developers realise that competition for their audience comes from social gaming as much as rivals in their own industry. In the Heroes game players can activate heroes with special powers to enhance the reels. The more heroes you activate, the better the paytable. It’s a game that stands out a mile from the Bonanza clones being churned out by other licensees of the expanding reels engine.
Of course, it’s not just game features that drive popularity. Themes, artwork and narrative are important too. And in this respect the new wave of slots studios has taken the vertical in new directions every year. Just look at the fun Scandanavia’s Thunderkick have had with their psychedelic game, Pink Elephants, or ELK Studio’s heist-themed Lake’s Five, and the bizarre antics Yggdrasil have produced in their Vikings series.
This is a special time of creativity in the slots vertical and its great news for both punters and those working in the industry. Long may it continue!
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