Innovation predictions for online gambling.
The world’s largest, fully regulated online gambling market is the United Kingdom which according to a report issued by the UK Gambling Commission, was worth some £4 billion in 2016 alone. This makes it a hugely competitive market and one in which operators and developers are naturally keen to gain a foothold.
In the online casinos industry competition is particularly intense, and in the twenty or so years since online casinos first appeared (around 1997) the rate of technological innovation and development has been enormous, largely as a result of operators looking for ways to grab a bigger share of the action.
For instance, first generation online casino sites require players to download software onto their desktop or laptop in order to play games. While this has advantages for the casino, as it means that players tend to limit their gaming to just one site, it isn’t especially beneficial to players – as Windows .exe software is used, Mac players are largely locked out from playing in this way, while the software can also use up considerable space etc. Some also consider downloading and installing this software a security risk, as any personal or financial details shared with the casino can be more vulnerable to hacking.
However, as Apple has for a number of years been taking an increasingly large share of the home computing market, the fact that a significant number of players haven’t been able access their games via downloadable software has meant that producers have developed alternative methods of delivering their products. The corresponding developments in technology have also produced major innovations in the way games are played and the types of games that are available in online casinos.
Flash and HTML5 online casinos
The use of Flash technology and the development of HTML5 have seen significant changes in the way online casinos operate. Flash has meant that games can be played directly in the browser of almost any device without the need to download any software, and also that Mac users can access casino games where previously their way was barred.
While the visual quality and stability of casino games in the early stages of Flash development was perhaps not as good as the software client versions, this is no longer the case – the quality of Instant play games is on a par with those played via a software download, with all the major developers now releasing new slots and other casino games in both Flash and software client editions.
These technological developments have also led to a change in the way casinos offers their games with many casinos sites now only providing their games via HTML5 / Flash. This gives players greater flexibility though, not being restricted to the one device they can play on.
A desire for greater flexibility and accessibility has also led to significant innovations in the development of mobile casino games. As worldwide mobile connectivity grows apace, and more and more people around the world use smartphones and tablets as their primary means of connecting to the internet, online casino games that can played on hand-held devices have developed rapidly too.
Many online casinos have successfully developed an omni-channel approach, enabling players to use the same account to play on any type of device and to have access to the same range of games, irrespective of whether they are playing on a mobile phone or a PC. Indeed, some casino brands go further, and their ‘mobile first’ approach means that they prioritize the offerings on their mobile site over what can be found in their desktop versions.
Other online casino developments
Advances in technology and changes in playing habits have also produced a number of other innovations in the way casino games are delivered and played.
For instance, the move away from downloadable software clients to Flash and HTML5-based games has meant that online casinos are no longer confined to offering the games of just one provider. Instead, a new generation of multi-provider sites has emerged, where games from several different producers can all be played in the one casino. Apart from giving players the sort of choice that they increasingly demand, this has also led to a positive knock-on effect in game development.
There is a growing number of new, boutique games developers such as Yggdrasil, Play’n Go etc in the market, to whom the multi-provider format gives exposure which they otherwise wouldn’t receive, as their catalogue of games is not sufficiently large for them to be a casino’s sole provider. Also, as these smaller producers tend to be innovative and risk takers, the more established names in the industry such as Microgaming and Playtech have had to respond likewise, enhancing their game offerings in order to stay on top.
Technological innovation has also improved the player experience beyond the games themselves, with the emergence of the ‘immersive casino’ being one of the most significant developments.
These are sites that have moved beyond the traditional look and feel of older online casinos in order to create a more holistic gaming experience. See Casumo online casino as an example of this new breed of site, where players are required to complete a variety of different missions and challenges in order to gain rewards, and where the casino games are just a part of the overall playing experience. These sorts of sites, designed to cater for a younger generation of players who expect more from their online experience than simply playing games, give a hint as to some of the ways in which we can expect online gambling to become more immersive in the future.
The future of online gambling?
Predicting the future in any sphere is fraught with hazard, and perhaps even more so in the word of online gambling where technology has already gone to places that we couldn’t have imagined possible even ten years ago. However, there are some indications as to where we might be headed.
One area where casinos could take the next step is in the area of virtuality and virtual casinos. The virtual casino is an innovation that many in the industry suspect isn’t too far away, with virtual casinos really just representing the next step in the development of live casino games like blackjack and roulette. In a virtual reality online casino, not only would you be able to interact with the dealer and other players at the table, but you could stroll the casino floor, meet and talk with other virtual players, and play in tournaments in a way that recreates the total Vegas experience wherever you are.
Another potential innovation on the horizon is the creation of personalized slots. It’s not hard to envisage a gaming environment where your casino knows your playing preferences and custom designs a game that matches these. For instance, you may have a preference for 243 ways-to-win slots, superhero themes, stacked wilds and free spin bonus rounds. You would then be able enjoy a completely customized game that not only includes all of these features, but is also tailored to suit the size of wagers you like to play for. This sort of bespoke experience would increase player loyalty and give a real advantage to developers and sites offering these sorts of games.
In an industry as competitive as online gambling, where success is ultimately all about the quality of the technology, all bets are off and anything is possible.