When the first online casino appeared in the mid 1990s, few could have imagined just how much the industry would mushroom over the following years. Today Microgaming supplies online casino games to other companies, but back in 1994 they launched the very first true online casino. There are hundreds of live online casinos operating today in an industry estimated to be worth $50 billion worldwide. In 2016 online gambling was worth almost £5 billion in the UK alone, and is now the largest sector of the gambling industry. The global online gambling industry is projected to be worth $60 billion by 2020, and its growth shows no signs of slowing down. As new technologies become available, the online gaming industry will have to adapt in order to continue to thrive, and already companies are looking towards the future and what changes lie in store.
At the moment, there are a few trends which are dominating the online gaming industry. Due to the widespread availability of low cost smartphones and tablets, mobile devices are now the number one method used by players to gamble online. Online casinos and game providers are very aware of this fact, and are tailoring their output to be compatible with phones and other mobile devices. Another (relatively) recent innovation has been the growth of live dealer casinos. Although the first live dealer casino was launched back in 2003 (by Playtech) only in the last few years have improvements in wi-fi connections and technology allowed live dealer casinos to become widely used. Live casinos stream live footage of dealers from remote casinos or studios to the player's device, which means that those players with a mistrust of random number generated software are happy to play on the live dealer casino sites.
There is one buzz-word which has been flying around the online casino industry for the past couple of years, and that is 'gamification'. In this context, the word effectively refers to the introduction of more of a fun, gaming element into online casino play. Modern casinos like Casumo lead the way in this regard, and as you can see in this Casumo review, it has created an immersive, adventure game on the site where players can advance through different levels. We are now seeing more and more casinos follow this type of model, in a bid to attract younger players to sign up with them. So you can expect to see reward programmes which involve 'levelling up', as with Casumo, and sites featuring more humour and less of the traditionally styled casino elements. Gaming tournaments are growing in popularity, and player leaderboards mimic those found on many online social games.
Another new trend has been the introduction of skill based casino games. This is a further example of the gasification of the industry, and one which promises to grow exponentially over the coming years. These games still have a fixed house edge, but your chances of winning are improved by good game play. Already land based casinos in New Jersey feature some of these games, and they are making their way online as well. One example is the Fruit Blast game, which is very like the Bejewelled style online games that are so popular. The element of player control in this game means that you can influence the outcome depending on the choices you make. This is one area of the online gaming industry with limitless potential, although it will be interesting to see whether regulators introduce legislation specifically with regard to this type of real money gaming.
Right now the online gaming industry is paying particularly close attention to the field of virtual reality. This is the type of immersive tech which could revolutionise the industry, and already some casinos have started taking advantage of this technology. We have not yet gotten to the stage where VR headsets have broken into the mainstream, but they are being used for all sorts of online gaming. The price point is still a little high for them to be universally adopted, but as with all new technology, we can expect the price of headsets to fall dramatically over the next few years. VR headsets have the potential to make gaming a truly immersive experience, allowing players to truly inhabit the online space. Imagine being able to walk through a virtual casino floor, to sit down for a game of poker with other online players, and to watch sporting events as though you were present at them? The next few years promise to be extremely exciting for the online gaming industry.