It’s easy to find reviews of various online gambling software platforms. Type a designer’s name and the word “review” into Google and you’ll be flooded with results. The trouble isn’t finding reviews, its finding unbiased and honest reviews.
I think the quality of an online casino’s software is an underrated feature. Even the better-quality casino reviews I read online spend maybe a paragraph talking about the specifics of a casino’s software. This is ridiculous to me, since the software is how I plan on interacting with the site. I’d go so far as to say that the software a site runs is the number-one way I’ll be interacting with that site.
Since I had such a hard time finding a comprehensive review of the major software platforms available at Web-based casinos, I decided to put together one of my own. Below are details on the five most-popular online gaming software designers, specifically focused on their games rather than the history of the company or any of the other features that reviewers spend way too much time on.
My Casino Software Review Categories
Online gambling software is a pretty broad topic. Any number of factors are available to consider, and don’t forget that the word “best” is totally subjective. In order to come up with something close to an objective perspective, I came up with three categories to use to compare different designers:
Biggest Game Library ?Pretty self-explanatory; I compare the software platforms based on the number of games they offer. When possible, I’ll also include notes on the designer’s mobile platform. Note: these numbers are accurate as of the time of this review.
Best Game Variety ?Because the sheer number of games isn’t always a good judge of a platform’s quality, this category is where I’ll compare the different game categories available overall. For example, if a site’s 500-game library is 95% slots, I’ll be sure to point that out.
Best Overall Design ?This is a catch-all category; anything that doesn’t belong in the other two will be mentioned here. “Design” covers the look of the games as well as any special features that bettors should know about.
The five designers on this list are the biggest names in online gambling design at the time of this review. As far as I can tell, just about two dozen companies currently offer some form of online or mobile casino game, but many of those are boutique houses that work with just one or two sites.
I wanted software that lots of players use. I also wanted to offer a counter-perspective to the platforms that are so heavily (and poorly) reviewed elsewhere online. With that in mind, and wanting only to review above-board businesses, I came up with a shortlist of nominees. The designers on my list are all legitimate operators with a big representation at Web-based and mobile gambling venues.
Competing for the title of Best Casino Software are:
- Realtime Gaming (RTG)
Biggest Casino Game Library
Which of the platforms on our list offers the largest total number of games? That honor goes to Microgaming. Their library includes just over 600 different games. The next-largest library among this list belongs to Playtech, with 273 games. Rounding out the list: Realtime Gaming (174), BetSoft (150), and NetEnt (146).
How much should the size of a platform’s library matter? There’s two answers.
If you’re the type of gambler that likes to move around a lot in land-based casinos, flitting from one machine or one table to another, then library size is probably important. You may be happier with Microgaming’s software than at a NetEnt-powered site.
On the other hand, library size might not be that important. I hate to use a cliché, but in terms of online gambling design, bigger isn’t always better. For example, a common complaint in user reviews and gaming forum posts about Microgaming is that their huge library is made up of games that all pretty much look and act the same way. You won’t hear that complaint about NetEnt’s smaller (but better-looking and more varied) library.
That’s why it’s not fair to just hand the “best casino software” award over to Microgaming – there’s at least one other important factor, and that’s the variety of the titles in that library.
Best Casino Game Variety
Which of the platforms on our list has the most varied game library? Before I give this number out, I want to be clear on my really simple method for determining overall variety.
In my experience, “variety” at online casinos is all about the ratio of different game categories to one another. Generally, slots make up the biggest chunk of total games, so all I did was compare the number of slots to the total number of games on each platform and come up with a percentage. The number listed is the percentage of games that are slot machines.
By this count, the best casino software comes from BetSoft, with a variety score of 66%. Coming in close on BetSoft’s heels is NetEnt at 68%, which is as close to a tie as you can get in this category. Both of these platforms offer excellent variety, relative to the industry.
How do the other platforms perform? Microgaming is in third place, with a score of 70%. The last two platforms, RTG and Playtech, have noticeably low variety scores. RTG has a 73% score, while a full 80% of Playtech’s titles are slots.
How much does this category matter? Again, two answers are possible. Imagine a player who is only interested in slots. They may take an opposite perspective, and think that the site with the largest percentage of slots to total library size is by far the best.
I concede that I could be looking at game variety in the wrong light. But for my money, I prefer to play at land-based and online casinos where I have a lot of choice, a lot of different styles of play available at a lot of different price points.
I think it’s important to consider our first category (library size) along with this second category to get an overall picture of the game offerings from different platforms. Microgaming has the largest library, by far, but not the best variety. BetSoft has the best variety (by a nose), but one of the smallest total library sizes. So how do we compare platforms without a clear winner at this point?
Best Overall Design
Which of the platforms on our list has the best overall design? Things start to get more subjective at this point. Because I’m about to give you my personal opinions about things like color, special effects, and design, I want to qualify myself a bit. I’ve been gambling in casinos for twenty years, playing online for a decade, and I work in the design industry as a typesetter and printmaker. I’m not saying everyone will agree with my perspective here, but I do think I have the qualifications to give it.
The award for best design is a tie between NetEnt and BetSoft. When I think of high-quality online casino game design, I think of these two companies, first and foremost. This has something to do with the fact that these are relatively-small companies, compared to giants like Playtech and Microgaming, and that means their games have a more artisanal feel, to borrow a phrase.
My trouble with the industry giants (and their games) is that these companies tend to prize quantity over quality. It sounds impressive to list a library of hundreds of games, but if the titles aren’t all that different (I’m looking at you, Real Series slots) then what’s the purpose of all that variety?
My Final Opinion on Whose Casino Software Reigns Supreme?
Based on the information described in those three categories, I’d have to say that today’s best online casino games are being produced by NetEntertainment.
How did I come to that conclusion? Realtime Gaming earned bottom-three ratings in all three categories, so it’s clearly not the best available. The only category that Playtech did well in was library size, and they didn’t even take top honors there. Of course, earning one first-place showing in the above categories isn’t necessarily enough to win the whole shebang – Microgaming took first-place in library size, but showed poorly in both of the other categories.
That meant my final judgment came down to either BetSoft or NetEnt. At this point, I got really objective. Rather than nitpick the platforms based on personal preferences, I looked at facts:
- NetEntertainment’s games earn better reviews, Internet-wide, than BetSoft’s games.
- NetEntertainment makes more information about their games (and their corporate inner-workings) available online than just about any other company I’ve ever seen, which is a good thing.
- The “mini-games” section of NetEnt’s library gave them the final (slight) edge against BetSoft, since there is no similar gaming opportunity available in BetSoft’s collection.
You may have a different opinion about some of the finer points of comparison, but by the rubric I used to judge them, the clear winner is NetEntertainment, with BetSoft coming in a close second. The other three platforms (while significantly larger than our two winners) offer an inferior product.