The slots industry is changing all the time. Among the more recent developments is the pairing of big companies with little ones. The reason for these pairings we’ll discuss in a while, after announcing that the latest one on our radars is the introduction of Neon Valley Studios to the Microgaming world.
Microgaming might sound small, but they are in fact enormous. They’re among the biggest companies in the whole gaming world, in fact, and lay claim to the world’s first online casino site.
All that success has been good for the company, who are now based in an enormous shiny office block HQ on the Isle of Man, a semi-offshore jurisdiction in the UK.
The Isle of Man – because of its off-shore tax status largely, but also for regulatory reasons that have been rendered largely redundant by subsequent law changes – has become an unlikely HQ for the gaming industry.
Microgaming & Neon Valley Studios
A more traditional mecca for gamers is Las Vegas, over there in the new world. And it’s in Vegas that Microgaming have found the inspiration to tie up with Neon Valley Studios.
Neon Valley Studios say they aim to give players “entertaining, story-driven casino slots that give online players in non-US gaming markets a modern Vegas experience.”
They’ve got a good deal of industry experience, and have already launched their first game with Microgaming.
This title is Aurora Wilds, and it was released on 10th September, exclusively in Microgaming casinos (Microgaming don’t just make games they also run casinos and provide the software that makes other casinos run).
The game had a great look and feel (and a very nice soundtrack too) and was packed with features like expanding wilds, a jackpot wheel for big prizes, and resins from the base game.
Why are Microgaming doing this?
It’s because they’re big. Big companies can be remote from the marketplace in which they operate. This sort of move is something that might have been borrowed from the old record industry (when records were actually spinning pieces of plastic). Back then, a big major label might buy up an indie label in the hope of getting some cred or do a deal with an underground dance label in the hope of picking up a big hit escaping from the club scene.
And so the gaming giants are using “indie” development studios to keep their finger on the pulse of what players want.
This is not the only one of these announcements to be made recently. It’s not long since Microgaming were throwing out press releases on the addition of Gameburger Studios to the stable of independent game builders it worked with.
Gameburger were flagged up as experts in American style and taking games that work in land-based casinos into the digital space. If you’re picking up a theme to those two new friends for Microgaming then it’s that they’re very American, a market perhaps that Microgaming sees opening up more as laws are liberalised.
Gameburger were a new company when the deal was set up, but their team reportedly had 20 years working in the casino industry.
Break da Bank Again
Break da Bank Again was the first title to emerge from this tie-in, a sequel to a 2008 title with higher volatility better graphics, higher RTP, and a load of Microgaming extras.
This now makes nine members for the independent game designers’ network at Microgaming.
Along with Neon Valley and Gameburger are Pulse 8 Studios, ALL41, Switch Studios, Fortune Factory Studios, Slingshot Studios, Stormcraft, and Triple Edge Gaming.
Each of these tie-ins has been announced with a title release.
What does all this mean for players?
It’s easy to see what it does for the companies who join up with Microgaming. They get a massive distributor for their games, which will be put in front of millions of players on a massive network of the world’s biggest casino sites. They’ll probably get a load of money out of it too.
And Microgaming get new titles, cred, better design, and maybe better value than employing their own designers in large numbers.
And you? What do you get?
That’s less clear. If more good games come to market then that’s good for players. But the trends in the casino market are very much heading towards more consolidation.
This is a perfectly natural way for a capitalist market to behave, and if you think about it for more than a few minutes you’ll come up with another sector of the economy in which a few large companies dominate and hoover up smaller companies or merge with the competition.
How many cola companies are there? How many drugs companies?
So, it’s just capitalism doing its thing. But it’s something that players ought to be aware of because companies in these sort of markets need to create the impression that things are still very diverse. Competition is supposed to be the driving force of all capitalist innovation, but how can a company – in all honesty – compete with itself.
So it limits competition and it limits choice. There are ways around it for players though, who need to become the (entirely hypothetical and totally irrational and unrealistic) homo economicus who moves through markets drenched in advertising and promotion and makes ration decisions.
All we’ll say at this stage is do some research.
There’s no indication that this trend is going to go away. It’s interesting at the moment that Microgaming are picking up games from American studios that they then offer on an exclusive basis outside of the US only. They could be trying to make inroads into the US in the future, or maybe they’re trying to stop US companies from making inroads into the markets in which they have found such success.
Keep watching this space for more of the same. At least this sort of move is bringing something fresh to the market rather than just being a joining of two gigantic companies to become the one spin to rule them all.