Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

New Power Spins Feature and Poker Combos at Microgaming

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Given the recent news about eleven Vegas Technology powered online casinos closing their doors, there are only a handful of software providers left in the US facing online casino industry: Real Time Gaming and Rival Gaming, namely. Real Time Gaming will have the stronghold in the US, but the most well-known provider of online slots games overseas is Microgaming; and this month they have launched a couple of new things in regard to their online slots games. And I am not just talking about new games.

The first up of these new things is a new feature that Microgaming is calling Power Spins. So far only one Microgaming online slots game carries the feature: Sonic 7s. Sonic 7s is set to be launched on June 9th at Microgaming’s partner online casinos.

Power Spins is a wagering feature and can be best explained by using the new Sonic 7s as an example. Sonic 7s offers nine paylines to play on. So let’s say you are wagering $1 on each payline; your total cost of a spin is $9. Choosing to active the Power Spins feature will add a third of the cost of a spin to the total cost. Going back to our example, a third of $9 is $3. Add $9 and $3 and your new total cost of a spin is $12. At this point in time we do not know the purpose of the Power Spin feature other than as a quick and easy way to increase the cost a spin. If there is a special bonus or special payout that only Power Spins are eligible for is not known at this time. Given my hesitation to give an online casino the opportunity to take more of my money, I would be wary of the Power Spins unless there is some special benefit to using the feature. But then that is just me and my cautious nature.

The other new thing to come out of Microgaming this June is the Jack or Better Video Poker slots game. Yes, despite the ‘video poker’ part of the name this is indeed an online slots game. It is just a hybrid of two casino games. Not sure if it is fuel efficient though…okay, that was a bad joke.

After placing a wager and clicking Spin, the reels will spin up five cards. Players can choose to keep the cards or discard them. After deciding the reels are reactivated to finish the round. There are five reels with three cards showing per reel; so fifteen cards on the final screen. On the final screen if any poker combinations are formed, either left to right or right to left, the slots player receives the appropriate payout. So it is like using a slots game format with cards for symbols; and instead of paying out for matching symbols, payouts are made for poker hands. Kind of a neat idea for a mash-up.

So that is what is new from Microgaming. Shame that US players cannot play in a Microgaming powered online casino, but with all the hoopla that the Department of Justice is raising I can kind of understand them not wanting to mess with the US market at this time. Real Time Gaming has been quiet this month and last; we are assuming they are trying to lie low and keep their ducks in a row to keep operating in the US.

Playtech Wants to Keep Things Loose

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Playtech is one of the most widely known software developers of online casino games. While not the biggest fish in the pond, they are no pushover that is for sure. And that is exactly what William Hill learned after the latest bout in which Playtech tried to loosen itself up business-wise.

Both Playtech and William Hill PLC have been in and out of the news the last several months. The whole thing started when Playtech opened up talks with Ladbrokes about working with them in regards to supplying software to Ladbrokes online casino operations. On the surface this might sound like no big deal, that it is just business, but the discussions really set off William Hill PLC. And for good reason: Ladbrokes is the chief competitor of William Hill Online. Can you say ‘uh oh?’

As soon as it became clear that Playtech looked to be beginning to make business noises with Ladbrokes, William Hill PLC ran off to grab up a court order. That court order was an injunction that would protect William Hill Online’s interests from being damaged by a direct competitor offering identical games and services. Ladbrokes already receives software support from other online software developers; taking on some of the services offered by Playtech would have given them a leg up over William Hill Online that they would not have been able to directly compete with. The injunction also put a hold on Playtech from making any arrangements that could be seen a unilateral action; such unilateral action would violate the joint venture terms between Playtech and William Hill.

But thankfully all of that is behind Playtech and William Hill PLC. The two companies reached an agreement, an accord you could say.

Both companies have more flexibility in how they do and who they do business with. Playtech can offer some of its services to other online casino operators. And at the same time, William Hill Online, despite still being a joint venture, can receive software from other software developers. Both parties are now happy with their new business arrangements that will allow them to remain loose.

The new arrangements have allowed Playtech to enter into an arrangement with Gala Coral. Due to some restructuring going on with Gala Coral there is some speculation as to whether or not this arrangement will be beneficial to both companies. But it does show that Playtech is already testing the waters of its newfound freedom.

Microgaming Extends QuickFire Offerings

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Microgaming is probably the most well-known software developer of online casino games. Unfortunately they will not partner with online casinos that accept US players, so US players do not have the pleasure of playing casino games with the high quality graphics that Microgaming is known for. Not that other software developers lack high quality graphics; it is only that Microgaming is known for them.

Within the last year Microgaming has become known for something else as well: its QuickFire platform. QuickFire was a software created to ease the launch and maintenance of new and existing online casino games. Typically (this month is the exception) Microgaming will release a new online slots game or two or three. And usually the new slots games will be uploaded to the QuickFire platform, at which point it is a seamless upload from QuickFire for the partner online casinos to launch the new games.

Up until this week the only online casino games on the QuickFire platform were Microgaming creations. But now Microgaming’s QuickFire division has partnered with NextGen from Las Vegas and Genesis Gaming from Australia. The partnerships will enable Microgaming to offer more games to their partner online casinos. One of the games that QuickFire is getting from Genesis Gaming is their Drone Wars online slots game. From NextGen Gaming, QuickFire will receive twenty online slots games, including the new 300 Shields.

Apparently the QuickFire platform is highly in demand overseas, mostly for the ease of running the software and how easy it is to integrate into the existing software an online casino is using. QuickFire has become so popular in the industry that other developers want to offer their games through it in an effort to expand the reach of their own games to Microgaming partner casinos. It is all really clever actually.

Cryptologic Stock Bought by Amaya

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Back in March of this year, Cryptologic announced its annual figures. Cryptologic is a software developer who provides online casino games to any online casino it is partnered with. Shortly thereafter, they also announced that they had brought in a management expertise firm to review its business; naturally this resulted in speculation that the online casino game provider would be put up for sale.

While that possibility still remains such it is not the only potential outcome of the review. However is was shortly after the announcement of a management firm being called in that an unconfirmed rumor started circulating that an online gambling operator had bought a decent chunk of Cryptologic stock.

Now the rumor has been confirmed. The online gambling operator is Amaya who is based in Canada and who was approved to begin an online casino venture in Kenya—the first legal one in that country.

Amaya bought 652,170 of Cryptologic shares between March 25th and April 7th according to a notification given to the stock exchange written by Amaya’s president and CEO, David Baazov. On the notification it was stated that Amaya is now the owner of 5% or more of the online casino game provider’s stock. While that does not sound like a large portion of Cryptologic’s stock, it was large enough to require a notification to be sent to the stock exchange to inform them that 5% or more of the online casino game provider’s ownership was in Amaya’s hands.

But what is more interesting is the reason that Baazov provided as to why Amaya bought that much of Cryptologic’s stock. The reason for the significant purchase of the online casino gaming software company’s stock is to possibly move towards a “strategic transaction” with Cryptologic. This was not a direct “We are buying Cryptologic” from Amaya as Baazov has also said that Amaya is keeping its options open.

The stock buying seems to have been a way for them to evaluate the casino game software developer’s performance closely. At this point Amaya might buy more of Cryptologic’s shares or it could sell the ones it purchased in the last month. But will be watching this to see which way Amaya goes and if Cryptologic sells.

New Online Slots Tracking App for Apple Platform

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Do you play online slots and own an Apple device such as an iPhone or iPod? If so then there just might be an online slots app for you. Unlike other online slots apps for the Apple platform, the WinLoss Slot Player’s Diary is not an actual online slots game or slots portal. As its title suggests, it is in fact an actual diary of sorts to track an online slots player’s wins and losses.

On the surface this app does not sound like it holds much value. Why pay $8, which is on the higher end in terms of prices for apps, for an app that merely tracks your wins and losses for online slots play?

Whether a player thinks it is worth the $8, the WinLoss app can track a player’s wins and losses across multiple online slots games at multiple online casinos. Not only that but it also shows players which online slots games have paid them back the most, thus indicating which online slots games have been the kindest and might be worth another visit. Then there is the app’s ability to create the necessary documentation to turn over to the Internal Revenue Service to verify the losses that are being claimed as deductions; such documentation can even be exported to a pdf file to make printing easier come tax time.

The app comes from creator David Walstead and his company known as Sandcroft Inc. Walstead so the chance to create a product that is easily accessible to online slots players that would also organize their playing data, rather than requiring slots players to keep track of scraps of paper or make hand written notes in a notebook. Walstead designed the app to simply tracking of online slots players, allowing players to focus on spinning the reels.

The only hang up I see with this app is its cost. Most apps range from being free to download to maybe three or four dollars. By comparison $8 is a decent chunk of change to drop on a single app. But then online slots players have to weigh whether the cost is worth. It is possible to earn the $8 back and then some from tracking and turning in losses as deductions during income tax time. Reviews on the app range from it being easy to use to hanging up and lagging when trying to access it.

The Problem with Mobile Gambling

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Today, a lot of people spend more time surfing the Web on their cell phone than on their computer. iPhones and other smartphones are used to pay bills, laugh at YouTube videos, watch television, read gambling blogs at Online Casino Suite and more. Mobile gambling is increasing in popularity and many in the industry believe that in the near future, more people will play casino games on their cell phones than at home.

I even wrote a blog about it last week. Of course, there is a problem with mobile gambling that for some reason didn’t hit me until just now. With all new technology there is bound to be hiccups, which is why I never buy first-generation electronics. With mobile casinos, though, the problems seem unavoidable on the casino’s end.

The problem is a loss of service – that dreaded dropped call. When you’re talking on the phone, a momentary loss of service is annoying, because it makes you have to call the person back. And they probably called you back at the same time, which means you both got the other person’s voicemail. With online gambling, though, a momentary loss of service – even for a second – can lose you money.

Let’s say you are playing online poker and are in the middle of a hand. You have raised and are about to call when you suddenly enter a dead zone where you get no reception. Your phone then loses its connection to the online casino. Each online casino has a different policy regarding what would happen then, but in many cases, it results in you automatically forfeiting your hand. That means losing all of the money you had riding on the game, regardless of what hand you have. The same problem can happen in any game. If you lose the connection in the middle of a roulette spin, you will probably lose your money. The same goes for slots, baccarat and anything else.

The recent Verizon outage in North Carolina and Virginia made lots of mobile gamblers have to stop what they were doing, but what about those that were in the middle of a wager? They likely lost their money. The same risk goes along with using it on the road and passing through a tunnel. Usually, if the signal loss is brief and you are still connected to the casino and no time limit has expired while the service was out, you are fine. If you completely lose your connection to the online casino, though, you’re out of luck.

So what’s the answer? I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t do mobile gambling on your phone. However, it is a good idea to make sure you have a reliable network and try to be aware of situations when you could lose your signal. Mobile gambling during a hurricane? Bad idea. Once the phone lines go out the cell phone towers will get overloaded and go down. Mobile gambling on a subway? I wouldn’t. Driving through the mountains? That’s risky. Mountainous areas are normally pretty iffy when it comes to cell reception.

Cellular providers need to do more to make sure calls don’t get dropped (that’s kind of Verizon’s sales pitch anyway). Mobile casinos need to develop technology – if they haven’t already – that allows you to gamble on a time lag, where a momentary loss in signal doesn’t shut you down (my satellite radio has that feature). In the meantime, if you gamble at online casinos using your mobile phone, be safe and look out for potential signal problems. It’s your money at stake and you don’t want to lose it.

Online Casinos Transitioning to Mobile Gambling

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Juniper-Research-Mobile-Gambling-To-Surpass-48-Billion-by-2015In this brave new world, technology advances exponentially faster than ever before. Small steps that used to take decades now take years or months. Models of brand new TVs, computers and cell phones are out of date as soon as you take it home from the store. Though at a somewhat slower pace, the online gambling industry is leaping forward in their technology as well.

It was not long ago that the concept of playing casino games over the Internet was revolutionary. Casino games like slots and blackjack were confined to brick and mortar casinos in places like Las Vegas and Macau. No one would visit some website and give their account information to play casino games. Now, however, most people see online gambling at reputable companies as just as safe as online shopping and online banking. There are risks, but with the proper precautions the risks are negligible.

I still remember being skeptical of using the Internet at all. Today, people take for granted that they will have Internet access wherever they go, whether it’s to a hotel, at work, on a road trip and even on a plane. In fact, today it almost seems odd when someone uses the Internet on an actual computer. Today’s generation does their Web browsing using their mobile phones, thanks to popular smartphones like the iPhone and Droid. Online casinos have caught onto the trend and are quickly releasing mobile versions of their casinos as well as mobile apps.

iphone-pokerIn the beginning, the only gambling apps that Apple and the Android system would allow were free gambling games, where you cannot wager real money. Then slowly the real-money mobile casinos started to roll out. Online casinos started launching streamlined versions of their software that maximized the on-the-go nature or smartphones. Recently, both iPhone and Android phones began accepting gambling apps with real-money betting. Aside from poker, slots and other casino games, sportsbooks like William Hill have gone mobile.

Currently most online gamblers still log onto the website using their home computer or laptop, but most in the industry feel that it is only a matter of time before that changes. As attention spans become shorter and the majority of Web browsing is done over the phone, online gambling will become an increasingly mobile industry. What that means is that casinos will likely dedicate themselves to developing more streamlined games that have fewer bells and whistles, but play smoothly while you’re waiting for the server to bring your bill. Once the casinos catch on and all have good mobile software, though, I’m sure there will be another computer trend that surpasses mobile browsing.

Playtech Makes Move Towards Land Casinos

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

One has to somewhat question Playtech’s recent purchase of Intelligent Gaming Solutions (IGS). On the one hand, bravo to Playtech for having such a successful year as to have the means with which to purchase a casino management systems software company. Such a thing could not have been cheap.

But what I want to know is why Playtech, one of the well-known and respected software developers of online casino games, is buying up a casino management systems software company while Playtech’s contemporaries are buying up and partnering up with mobile app software developers. Other online casino software developers are aligning themselves with mobile app developers because it looks as though that is the direction that casino gaming is going—to mobile devices, such as iPhones, iPads and other cell phones and portable devices. There are already apps out there for mobile blackjack, poker and other casino games individually. And at the end of last year 32Red was successful in launching the first ever play for real money casino app tied to their online casino; only 32Red players can play on the app though.

So with all the fuss over mobile casino gaming and mobile casino game apps, why on earth would Playtech scoop up a management systems software company for land based casinos?

For one thing the deal is expected to bring in £5.5 million to Playtech over the course of the next three years. For those of us in the States, £5.5 million is the same as $8,680,364 in US dollars. And $8 million plus is a lot of money.

Mor Weizer, Playtech’s Chief Executive Officer, said, “We continue to position Playtech as the independent software provider of choice with market leading integrated technology. We see this deal as increasing Playtech’s unique competitive advantage and cross-platform capabilities. The IGS management team has a long track record in the development of such systems and we are delighted to welcome them into the Playtech family. They will enhance our capabilities in a product area which will further our attractiveness to land based operators.”

What Weizer is saying is that, while many other online casinos are heading in one direction, Playtech is heading in another direction that they still feel will provide them with plenty of opportunity for growth. And since the mobile casino market is looking a tad on the crowded side, Weizer may just be right. For Playtech to be heading in the direction of working with land based casinos, it opens a door to a less traveled casino route. With all the other online casinos going mobile, Playtech’s purchase of IGS puts them into a market that is much less crowded

Microgaming Hits the Android

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I like the Android mascot, as I like to think of him. But now I can have the image of the little green guy pulling the handle on a one armed bandit. This is because Microgaming will be available to Android users through an app for the phone.

While Microgaming designs casino games ranging from online blackjack to online poker to specialty games such as roulette and craps, they are best known for their online slots games. This is mainly due to the quality of the games themselves and to the superb graphics. That and they have released some highly anticipated online slots games in 2010: the sequel to Thunderstruck, aptly called Thunderstruck II; and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Like the movie, that last one is the first of a trilogy of online slots games; and also like the first movie, the first slots game will probably always just be called The Fellowship of the Ring. But I digress.

Microgaming is the first online casino game software company to offer a casino games package app on the device. While some might see this as an online gambling invasion or a push on Microgaming’s part to spread its reach and money making potential, their Head of Microgaming Casinos, Mike Hebden, claims that their interest in Android is just their desire to bring the best in online gaming options to their fans and with the Android becoming as popular and as comparable to the iPhone and its apps it is only natural o explore the Android option: “Android has more momentum than any other platform and is largely driving the increased sales of smartphones. A number of pad style devices will also soon be running Android v2.2.”

Hmm… does that mean there is an Android answer to Apple’s iPad? Maybe we should be placing wagers on whether or not Froyo, Android’s maker, will give Apple a run for its money. It is already being speculated that Android will overtake Apple as the mobile device to own—ergo buy—by 2014.

But 2014 is still three years away. Plenty of time for prospective wagering on take overs. The big thing here is that Microgaming has chosen to run with the Android crowd. And as New Jersey is thumbing its nose at UIGEA, so too is Microgaming thumbing its nose at Apple.

Cryptologic Cutting Costs, Improving Company

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

cryptologicCryptologic was one of the first online casino software companies to make a name for themselves. Established in 1996, they are one of the veterans of the business and are one of the most respected brands in the industry. Their software is trusted and they have an impressive suite of games. None of that could protect the company from financial ruin, though.

In 2009, Cryptologic lost $10.7 million and then through September of 2010, they lost another $19.8 million. While the online gambling industry is thriving and many companies are expanding, Cryptologic has been in a downward spiral, caught in so much red ink that they look like an Economics exam from a future Democratic politician.

Losing that much money and showing no signs of being able to recover, they did what any company would do: They asked for a multi-million dollar government bailout, hoping that the taxpayer money could stop the bleeding long enough for them to get around to asking for more bailout money. After all, we all know that every problem can be solved by throwing money at it, right?

I’m kidding, of course. Cryptologic, based in Dublin, did not receive bailout funds from the Irish government or even the American government, who loves spending money so much that they often do it for foreign companies. Instead, Cryptologic actually used a common sense approach and decided to look at their company and see how they can improve and right the ship.

jimgaffiganIn August, the company announced that big changes were underway and the company would dig themselves out of the financial hole. CEO Brian Hadfield resigned and was replaced by David Gavagan, who I already like because he makes me think of the comedian with the great Hot Pockets jokes. The new CEO started a restructuring plan aimed to cut the company’s workforce in half.

Something radical like that can’t work, right? I mean, restructuring and getting rid of dead weight can’t help, can it? Well, so far Cryptologic has cut their expenses by more than $9 million. More changes and more cuts are still to come.

Cryptologic hopes to have a big 2011, thanks to slashed costs, the release of a number of new games, and new licenses they plan to sign with online gambling websites. If all goes well, Cryptologic will be a profitable company once again soon.