Online gambling may be a controversial industry, but it is the area of work for some of the best game developers in the world right now. The opportunity for huge profits means businesses are prepared to invest heavily in talent and ideas. This has led to the evolution of the humble slot from a basic 3-reel gambling machine into a sophisticated virtual online product. Incredible themes, spectacular movie segments, responsive design, and wild maths models are driven by complex algorithms are what is pushing the soaring popularity of online slots right now.
Here we profile three of the best game studios currently working on this patch and illustrate our point with a classic game from each.
Big Time Gaming
No discussion of the quality of video slot products could be completed in 2021 without the mention of this ground-breaking studio from Sydney, Australia. Since their birth a decade ago, Big Time Gaming, or BTG as they are often known, has done more to move the sector forward than any other developer out there. Their success has been built on clever innovations like their Megaways™ expanding reels engine with free spins and prize multipliers, the unique themes of their games, often including cult rock n roll tracks like Danger! High Voltage and The Final Countdown, and the crazy risk levels inherent in their gameplay that allow them to set astronomical top prizes.
BTG’s best slot to date is Bonanza Megaways™ as it showcases the best of what they do. It also remains their most popular of all time. It has a gold mine theme and players must collect gold bars to spell the word G-O-L-D to unlock special free spins round where bigger prizes are available. What makes it so popular is that on each spin the number of rows per reel can alter from 2 right up to 7. With more rows and symbols in view, the number of pay lines and the win potential goes up.
This ‘expanding reels’ setup has become so big that BTG now licenses it out to rivals to use in their own games. Bonanza has been copied numerous times, but never matched! And like all BTG games, it’s been designed in HTML 5 to make it responsive to all-size mobile screens.
You can read more about Bonanza slot and BTG’s other games on their website.
No Limit City
No Limit City from Sweden has also drawn praise for its innovative design and gameplay in slots. If you want to play a gambling game online and your taste is for drama, intrigue, and downright weirdness, then the games in NLC’s catalog will appeal for sure.
We feature them here to draw attention to the incredible narratives they have built for their games. Video slots may have started out as simple reel-based products where players had to match fruit symbols across horizontal lines, but now they are so much more. Modern gamblers look to be engaged by the design and the interweaving of story and game features, whilst having their senses tickled by a suitable soundtrack. No Limit City know all this and have built their reputation on producing slots with, particularly dark themes. Examples include Mental, set in a mental asylum – see image above, San Quentin xWays, set in a notoriously rough US jail, and Das xBoot, inspired by a U-Boat sailor’s autobiography covering his time onboard German submarines during World War 2.
Each of these games has been crafted with super-cool graphics and animations, and intro movies to set the scene, themselves worthy of an Xbox or Playstation game. And then there are the features themselves – events in the game that trigger prizes. These include virtual bombs that drop onto the reels to replace one symbol with another and torpedo reels that fill with symbols before firing off to reveal another prize. Each one is carefully designed to fit with the narrative of the game and add a compelling layer of events to the basic reel spins.
If you want to learn more about No Limit City then you could start by testing your luck on one of their early games at any new slot site in the UK, as the brilliant rock-themed Punk Rocker. It’s a little less complicated than some of their more recent releases but no less fun, and it features Jumping Wilds – symbols that help form wins and move from one reel to the next during the free spins round.
I saved these guys until last because whilst they are not as well-known as the other two, Thunderkick has a sizable cult following thanks to the series of whacky and out-there slots that they have produced over the last decade. You’ll find their games at most online casinos, even though they are not as high profile as others.
If you are looking for entertainment as much as the simple thrill of gambling then picking a Thunderkick slot is a good way to go. Themes in their games range from Mexican Day of the Dead (Esqueleto Explosivo) to Science Fiction (The Rift) via a deconstruction of the basic fruit machine (Fruit Warp) and 8-bit Atari games (Flame Busters).
What makes them special? Well, each Thunderkick game is characterized by distinctive artwork and fun gameplay, often dropping the standard reel format for an alternative execution. For example, rather than standard reels and rows in Birds on a Wire, the symbols (the birds) sit on horizontal telephone wires drawn across the screen. When matching birds appear next to each other to form a winning line, those birds are electrocuted and new ones fly in to replace them for the next spin. That quirky alternative to standard slot play is typical of Thunderkick which is why they lead the way in slot game development in my opinion.
If you want to try for yourself, there are lots of games worth testing your luck on. Perhaps the best is Pink Elephants – available on their own site – a riotous slot featuring psychedelic elephants and a group of meerkats who can help you score bigger wins in the bonus game! It’s weird but totally fun.
Our point in this article was to show you that in the online gambling world some really exciting game development is happening right now. The use of animations, HTML5 technology, and story-telling has taken these simple fruit machines to new levels and for anyone with more than a passing interest in product design and tech, they are worth a look.
Of course, we must highlight the importance of gambling responsibly to anyone who chooses to play for real money too. If you do, never play beyond your means, and never chase your losses.