Who are the top gaming software providers in New Zealand?
Since their legalisation in 1988, Kiwis have had a burgeoning relationship with slots, also commonly known as the humble pokie. The population spends on average a total of $600 million per year at casinos and a further $900 million at gaming machines outside casinos.
The outlay on pokies in 2020 was the equivalent to each adult spending over $200 and most of that occurred in the last quarter due to lockdown measures in place earlier in the year. Restricted access to pubs and clubs prompted online sales of Lotto tickets to increase throughout the year.
A more general trend over the past decade has seen a movement toward online gambling habits. The digital revolution and proliferation of the smartphone has encouraged people to take their gaming activities online.
Combined with the success of the online casino, video slot machines have managed to transfer their popularity from the real world into the digital realm. Pokies in particular have proven successful online because of their ease of use and convenience to customers as well as the variety of themes. There are now many different pokie websites for players to choose from, with each one offering different pokie games as well as a variety of promotions.
However, the real innovation of online pokies happens behind the scenes. Casino websites provide the user with access to a range of machines, but it is the software developers that produce the ideas and deliver the end product. Each game is licensed to a number of providers which is why you might see the same game on different websites.
Many users will have their own favourite developers based on one of several criteria: gameplay, graphics, user experience, return to player (RTP) and progressive jackpots. Some of the smaller companies have characteristics in their games that will make them recognisable as their own whereas the larger ones tend to cover a wider variety of styles. Here is a rundown of some of the most prominent names in the New Zealand online fruit machine landscape:
NetEnt is a Swedish company employing 700 people. In December 2020, Evolution Gaming, the market leaders of live casino took full control of NetEnt after a successful bid of SEK 19.6 billion ($3 billion NZD) in order to add slots to their portfolio. NetEnt is known for their larger-than-life graphics and animations and intuitive game layouts.
The company has hundreds of titles to its name, some of the most popular include:
- Gonzo’s Quest
- Arabian Nights
- Dead or Alive
- Dazzle Me
Starburst is basically the pokies answer to the record-breaking mobile game, Candy Crush Saga and has been hugely popular for years, topping New Zealand’s most played slots charts regularly. Recently Playtech’s Goblin’s Cave has begun toppling Starburst off the top spot.
Based in the Isle of Man, UK, Microgaming are originators in the field. They claim to have developed the first online casino way back in 1994. Their slot Mega Moolah is responsible for the record breaking online payout of €19,430,723.60 GBP ($32,969,588 NZD) in 2021 breaking its own record again from 6 years previous.
Popular pokies games from Microgaming include:
- Immortal Romance
- Mega Moolah
- Break Da Bank
Microgaming has always been on the cutting edge, recently developing virtual reality roulette products for their customers. Their game style, however, is more akin to a traditional Las Vegas casino with ancient Egyptian, Lucky 7s and Pot of Gold themes.
The company also has a reputation of bringing branded pokies to market with existing collaborations with Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Game of Thrones and Bridesmaids which combined with their progressive jackpots and multiple win lines are always popular.
Founded in Estonia but now based in the Isle of Man, UK, Playtech have been around for over twenty years. Their products are pared back and simple compared to other brands but their contracts with athletes and film franchises attract players from New Zealand.
Some notable Playtech offerings include:
- Goblins Cave
- Age of the Gods
- Batman Begins
- Dark Knight
Some of their most popular games were the Marvel comics themed iterations but when Disney acquired the Marvel intellectual property and wanted to distance themselves from the gambling industry on account of being a family friendly company, these titles were withdrawn from the market. The gap has been somewhat filled by a new deal with Warner Bros. and DC Comics.
Why players might prefer the games of one software developer over another is largely a matter of subjectivity but some companies, like NetEnt, are renowned for their consistently high-quality output. There are also some games that have more widespread appeal, especially when based on popular movie franchises or TV shows. Gaming1’s Deal or No Deal is a good example.
It’s difficult for newcomers to compete with such established names in the industry but if online casinos continue to turn record profits, it will only attract more competition to the area. There is no limit on space for original ideas, so true innovators inevitably rise to the top.
Gaming1, a Belgian company has a more notable presence in Europe but is yet to truly break the global market. However, with their current track record they could be one to watch for the future.
Companies like Novomatic have a history in creating games for physical slot machine cabinets and their mobile adaptations reflect that. Newer kids on the block, Realistic Games and ELK have development for smart devices as their primary focus and with this being the direction the industry is headed, these names are sure to grow in popularity.
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