One of the names that truly stands out when it comes to online slots and casinos is, without a doubt Microgaming. A private company that has remained just that in more than one way as very little is known about its ownership and management in spite of it sheer size and influence on the online gaming industry. Based in the Isle of Man, Microgaming has its roots in South Africa from where it launched its first and, as has been claimed, the very first ever casino game that could be played on the internet for real money. Since then it has claimed many other firsts as well as boasting the biggest ever payouts and has always been a major powerhouse in the online gambling industry.
The humble beginnings
At a time when the internet was very little more than a handful of chat rooms and sites which very few people had access to at all, Microrogaming launched their first game. This was way back in 1994, and even then the people behind this company had the foresight to know that this was where the next generation was headed for. Whoever the team consisted of in those early days is not clear, as the only name that can be connected to the company as one of the founders of Microgaming is that of Martin Moshal who on seeing the huge potential in the industry continued to improve and further develop games at a steady rate competing with other similar providers who wanted in on the market. Pretty soon the industry with its then limitations became rather saturated. However, Microgaming claimed another first when they launched the first real money online casino in 1998 and although this, to my knowledge, has not been officially verified, no one has yet come forward to claim otherwise.
Innovation and mechanics that changed the online casino industry
Perhaps one of the great leaps in the online casino industry, apart from the introduction of a hundred paylines, came with a game Microgaming launched called Cash Splash. This game was to draw the attention of many a good client as it was the first to have a pooled jackpot. This meant that a percentage of each and every spin goes into a fund that can be accessed only by landing a particular combination on the reels. This is what today is commonly known as a progressive jackpot and is the source and mechanics that can and has landed punters seven or more figure pay outs . This innovation is today a main feature in many slot games which boast huge jackpots and can be localized to spins of a particular casino or generalized to a number of casinos that host the slot game. Since this introduction Microgaming has grown exponentially and now have over 1200 casino titles under its umbrella boasting progressive jackpot wins of over $10,000,000 such as Mega Moolah that has landed Microgaming in the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest on line payout ever.
Keeping it clean
As the industry grew more and more, so did the risks. At a time when online monetary transactions were relatively new, the industry drew more interest and not always those of good intentions, so a monitoring body set up among a number of providers, including Micogaming, to keep cowboy-outfits at bay. The IGC- Interactive Gaming Council, was put there to regulate and ensure casinos were operating legally and fairly. However, this created a conflict of interest as Microgaming gained access to other providers’ client databases which gave rise to numerous accusations and even lawsuits. All was eventually settled and licensees were not longer obliged to use Microgaming;s own server. The next ‘would be’ blow came in 2006 with the introduction of the Unlawful Enforcement Gaming Act, with so many Casinos using their software in the United States, Microgaming decided to opt out of that market and concentrate more on other and newer markets elsewhere. This was a very risky decision indeed as it also meant they would have to release many of their top licensees from their contracts. Many would have thought this would set the company back considerably, but it proved to be another calculated risk that has paid off, as Microgaming has not only retained its position within the industry, but commands a major market share thanks to its foresight and shrewd decision making. Its dynamic expansion into poker platforms and bingo software helped evolve not only themselves, but also their licensees into full service gaming sites from mere casinos.
Today, after being the first to co-brand Tomb Raider in 2008, Microgaming has set the pace and began a new trend where almost every major entertainment, comic, movie and luxury brand is co-opted for online slot games which has since boosted popularity not only for online gambling industry, but has also given a new lease of life to many brands and franchise names that needed rebooting. Partnerships, provider contracts and commissions with well established and starter companies the likes of Alchemy, All41, Neon Valley, Gameburger, Pluse8 and many others have been formed and new innovations are continually changing the face of online gambling, the latest of which enables the players to upload their own graphics into the software and personalize the game further to their own whims. Whatever they come up with next is anybody’s guess and is up to the extent of one’s imagination, but the reality is that to this day Microgaming has been crucial to where online online slot gaming is today and the industry eagerly awaits what they will come up with next.