With the reports circulating of LeoVegas acquiring game studio Push Gaming, we need to ask ourselves if we are experiencing a new trend and how it will affect us players.
Why would online casinos buy game studios?
Buying any game studio isn’t necessarily a safe way to succeed, but buying an established and popular game developer is an entirely different ball game.
Obviously, it will take great financial strength to pull off a big deal like LeoVegas acquiring Push Gaming, and strong financials are not something that the LeoVegas Group struggles with after recently joining the global gaming behemoth MGM.
So why would online casinos want to own and control game studios too?
It is expensive to operate an online casino.
You are not only dealing with standard costs like staff salaries and offices but also marketing costs, player acquisition costs, handling players’ winnings, payment methods & transaction fees. There are also upfront fees to access certain game studios and then paying them percentages of your revenues.
All this while operating in a super competitive industry with many skillful and established brands.
So, one way online casinos can diversify their operations and gain more market share and profits is to own game studios and receive a percentage of that pie.
Don’t get us wrong, operating a game studio is no walk in the park, but once you become successful, the margins are better on this side of the industry.
Who is Push Gaming?
They were established in 2010 by James Marshall and Winston Lee and are based in the UK.
Today Push Gaming is one of the most popular game developers of online slots. Each new release is filled with high expectations from the industry and players due to their previous successful launches.
Push Gaming focuses more on quality than quantity, as shown in their release calendar, as they launch only about one new slot per month. This could be compared with Pragmatic Play and Play’n Go, which release one new slot per week.
What other game studios have been sold?
Another good example of a game studio that was sold is Relax Gaming.
They are basically seen as one of the best online slot creators today, but it wasn’t always like this.
Initially, they struggled to create good games and get big online casinos to promote their games on their sites. However, this all changed when Kindred Group (Unibet & more) bought a stake in Relax Gaming.
This investment enabled Relax Gaming to get more powerful resources while being able to promote their games on big brands like Unibet.com. Eventually, Kindred acquired the rest of the stakes in Relax Gaming and is now the company’s sole owner.
The biggest iGaming company in the world right now is Evolution Gaming. Their initial focus was on Live Casino, where they are number one in the world, but to gain even more market share, they have now acquired slot developers, Big Time Gaming, NetEnt, Red Tiger, and Nolimit City. So, all those brands are today under the Evolution umbrella.
Quickspin? Acquired by Playtech in 2016.
And on it goes.
The trend is clear: the giant whales buy the smaller fish, and we might see more established online casinos joining the race and acquiring game studios too.
Which game studios are there left to buy?
Although many of the best game studios have already been bought, many good ones are still left out there. Some of them are huge, in fact.
Let’s have a closer look.
Play’n Go – The creators of Book of Dead, Reactoonz, Gemix, and countless other popular titles are still privately owned. However, these guys are HUGE, and anyone interested in acquiring them must pay a lot.
Play’n GO chance of being bought: 1 out of 5
Pragmatic Play chance of being bought: 3 out of 5
Hacksaw chance of being bought: 4 out of 5
Thunderkick – A superb but still smaller game studio with slots like Pink Elephants, Flame Busters, and more. They have great potential and would be a good fit for some online casinos looking to expand their operations.
Thunderkick chance of being bought: 4 out of 5
Avatar UX – Another new game studio that has experienced tremendous success with its PopWins concept. If they keep up their current pace and quality of their slots, will they stay independent for much longer? One thing they may have going against them is the one-dimensionality of their offering, being totally centered around the Popwins mechanic.
Avatar UX chance of being bought: 3 out of 5
What does all this mean to us players?
The last thing these companies want to do is to interfere with the user experience and to piss off us players, so we shouldn’t see any bigger negative effects from these acquisitions and sales.
However, we can expect to see even more game studios adding various RTP versions to their games, which aligns with what online casinos and the overall industry want.
Playing on lower-paying versions of the same slots obviously sucks as you don’t want to get fewer spins from your deposited balance, but this is where the CasinoWizard steps in and guides you toward the Best RTP Slots.
Another thing we might see if/when more online casinos acquire more game studios is exclusive slots at certain casinos.
As we know, most online casinos offer the same games (except for the RTP versions), and it can be difficult for casinos to differentiate themselves from the competition. One way to do so would be to offer their players exclusive titles.
New upcoming game studios
While we see some of these mentioned game studios as the industry’s giants today, new ones are constantly popping up.
It is, of course, very difficult to break through as the leading slot developers are amazing at what they do, but there are some rare cases when this has happened.
The smaller upcoming game studios should use these two as examples and inspirations. They have proven that it is possible to come from nowhere and take market share by creating entertaining slots that players enjoy playing.
Ultimately, that is the route to online casino game lobbies and, thereafter, our devices.