The smartphone revolution has transformed nearly every industry. Disruption in some sectors has received a great deal of attention – the transformation Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb have brought to hired car services, and the hospitality business seems ubiquitous, for example – while significant change has taken place elsewhere, seemingly escaping notice. The gambling industry fits into this latter category. Online gaming has been growing at an astonishing rate, with a recent study projecting annual growth of nearly 6%, with annual global gambling revenue reaching an estimated $635 billion USD by the year 2022. Much of this growth is fueled by casinos’ and gaming sites’ adaptation to play on mobile devices. Smartphones have not only increased the popularity and profitability of online gaming – they’ve changed the way we play.
The growth of mainstream internet use has been intertwined with game design and casinos from the start. The first online casino was launched in 1994, based in Antigua and Barbuda, following the passage of the Free Trade Processing and Zone Act in that country. Microgaming, one of the titans of the contemporary online gaming industry, was founded that same year. The floodgates were open, and early adopters began to appear everywhere: Cryptologic was established in 1995, the first company to add online financial transaction tools to the mix. Other online gaming platforms came in droves: Internet Casino Inc, founded in 1995. The Gaming Club in 1996; the Intertops Casino, also in 1996, which would later take the name Intercasino and remains immensely profitable to this day; and Playtech, another powerhouse on the game design side of the industry, appeared in 1999. A 1998 report from the business consulting firm Frost and Sullivan claimed annual revenue in the online gaming sector of $834.5 million USD. The success of online gambling seemed inevitable.
The Arrival of Mobile Gaming
What form that success would take, however, would not be revealed for a few more years. All of the above platforms and game designers had been building games and platforms for use on desktop computers, and later, portable laptops. Meanwhile, in 1997, the first games appeared on mobile phones: rudimentary programs like Snake and Tic Tac Toe were suddenly available on the go. These games grew in popularity and complexity, but it would take some more time for these two trends to coalesce.
As reported in more detail on latestcasinobonuses.com, the introduction of Wireless Application Protocols in the early 2000s allowed mobile phone users to download and purchase additional games on their devices. Some of those same early adopters sensed opportunity immediately: both Playtech and Microgaming introduced their own mobile casino platforms in 2005. But it was the astronomical success of the iPhone in 2007, and of the App Store in 2008, that would create the technical and social framework for online gambling to go mobile.
Today, the notion of designing games primarily for desktop or laptop is either the realm of speciality or else entirely antiquated. Nearly all major game developers and casinos cater to mobile phone games: out of the 906 casinos reviewed at lcb, 771 now cater for some form of the mobile device. What’s more, many of the most popular online games, whether table games, slots, poker, or otherwise, are designed on HTML5 for use across many formats, including PCs, tablets, and mobile devices. Of these, slot games are by far the most popular.
The old guard of Microgaming, Playtech, as well as other established powers like NetEnt and IGT, are seeing new competition from upstart slot makers such as Booongo, Chance Interactive, and Red Tiger Gaming. This innovation is fueled by growth and is inseparable from the immensely popular, lucrative world of smartphone gaming. As the industry continues to flower, it will be exciting to see how these trends continue to develop.