The online gambling industry is very competitive. There are currently dozens of operators with hundreds of outlets providing players with online gambling services of all kinds all over the world. And it’s not just the casinos and betting outlets themselves that are competing: so are the providers of B2B services running platforms and building games.
The iGaming business is quick to embrace innovation. Whenever a new platform emerges, casino software providers immediately start contemplating how to expand onto it. This sometimes leads to spectacular products that don’t live up to the players’ expectations and never really take off.
Smartwatch Slot Machines
Gambling on the go was always a goal for players, something software developers happily provided. Today, more people play mobile casino South Africa than ever, turning phones into the leading platform for mobile gambling. But at one point, gambling has almost become not just portable but also wearable – except it wasn’t good enough for the majority of players.
Pebble made the smartwatch cool but Apple turned it into what it is today – a fully-fledged wrist-worn computer packed with features. In between, there was Android Wear, later renamed Wear OS, which – much like Android – was the silent majority. With Apple’s mostly closed ecosystem, and Pebble’s limited capabilities, Wear OS was the perfect platform to release a smartwatch-first slot machine.
Back in 2015, industry veteran Microgaming decided to venture into the world of smartwatch gambling. Together with its premium partner Royal Vegas, it launched its most popular slot machine, Thunderstruck, on Android Wear. The game was HTML5-based, and had all the features of the desktop version – only it was smaller.
Perhaps too small because, although the idea was worthy, it never actually took off. Perhaps it was too early in the evolution of the smartwatch market, or the fact that smartwatch screens were far too small (smaller than a feature phone’s screen at the time) but smartphone slots never took off. Needless to say, Thunderstruck was the only smartwatch slot machine ever released.
Multiplayer Slot Machines
Online casinos are a pretty lonely way of gambling. They do not offer much social interaction – basically, players sit in front of the screen and play from the comfort – or the confines – of their home. But many players seek social interaction when they gamble, so adding a social layer to casino games seemed like a good idea. After all, it has worked great in social casinos and other social media-based games.
For some reason, in turn, casino software developers have chosen slot machines to give them the multiplayer treatment. Players could join a party, and play their game while watching others play theirs in a multi-screen setup.
But slot machines are a genre where you’re either focused on the game or you let it go on Autoplay. Neither of these are compatible with multiplayer. So, multiplayer slot machines slowly disappeared, never to be heard of until the release of live dealer slot machines.
Live Dealer Slot Machines
Well, sort of. These live dealer games were little more than wheels of fortune – multiple wheels, mind you, instead of several reels – with a few lines thrown in occasionally by the person spinning them.
As you might expect, this format didn’t really sit well with players. It brought pretty much nothing new to the table – it was far slower than RNG slot machines but lacked their flexibility when it comes to stakes. Actually, it was far more expensive than slot machines, so it wasn’t really worth their while.
In the early 2010s, online poker was all the rage. PokerStars was at the height of its popularity, with millions of players from all corners of the globe. While others did try to compete, nobody could dent its dominance in the market. Not that they didn’t try.
Playtech’s iPoker was used by a host of independent online gambling operators trying to compete with the almighty ‘Stars. And some operators tried their hand at innovative variants. Thus, webcam poker was born.
In online poker rooms, players hide behind aliases and avatars. Webcam poker would’ve added a face to the avatar, and added an extra layer of skill to the game – after all, reading fellow players is as much part of poker success as good bluffing.
You might expect players to have flocked to PokerCam tables. Actually, in turn, people shied away from them. Apparently, most players weren’t willing to reveal their faces, thus being at a disadvantage. When only one or two players turn on their webcams for a PokerCam game, it kind of defeats the purpose.
As you might expect, PokerCam didn’t become the big thing it was meant to be – it slowly disappeared from the poker room in question, and the entire poker scene.
Finally, let’s not forget one of the most promising technologies of our times, one that everyone thought would bring a revolution to the world of entertainment, education, and social media: virtual reality. Started by the Oculus Rift, the second VR revolution has proven to be slow in spite of the media craze surrounding it.
The first virtual reality casino product was called “VR Roulette”, and was presented by industry veteran Microgaming in 2015, at the Global Gaming Awards. It used an Oculus devkit and Motion Leap’s revolutionary controller, putting players into a perfectly simulated casino hall with a roulette table “manned” by an android.
The entire industry was amazed by the game – needless to say, Microgaming stole the show, winning every possible award for innovation that year. And then… nothing.
Microgaming’s VR Roulette never hit the market. And it may not do so for quite some time either, because Microgaming has in the meantime given up on game development, focusing on B2B platform services instead.
iGaming Innovation Never Sleeps
iGaming is an industry always ready to innovate. Sometimes, in turn, the innovative ideas meant to improve the players’ experience fail to live up to their expectations. Whether it’s a live dealer slot machine or a webcam-powered poker table, there are many great ideas that failed due to lack of interest – or disappeared before even hitting the market.