Anyone who has spent time playing at an online casino will be acutely aware that the operators will offer games developed by a variety of software providers. In fact, it’s a sign of a good casino when the platform has a wide choice of developers rather than depending on a small number. Software developers are the backbone of the industry, providing the games and architecture that make it tick. But its also important to recognize that they bring broadly different traits to the table, and knowing these traits is important for players.
First, what is a software developer, AKA game provider, and what is its role? As you might gather, these are studios that create games, then license them out to casinos to house them on their platforms. A good way to think about it is that the casino itself is like a movie theater, whereas the developers are like movie studios. Your local movie theater doesn’t produce the movies, the likes of Warner Bros. and Disney do. Of course, you can have good casinos and bad casinos, so you’ll want your casino to be housing games from the best studios.
Some casino developers operate several studios
But as mentioned, many of the developers can have different traits and styles, and knowing the difference is important. Sometimes these traits are aesthetic, such as the style of the games. To give you an example, Microgaming operates several different studios, each with its own style. We could point to the classic-style Chicago Gold from Pear Tree Studios, which is markedly different from games like Fortunium from Stormcraft Studios. Both of these studios, and several others, are operated by Microgaming.
And yet, perhaps more importantly, there are mechanical differences. Most slots offer similar RTP (return to player) levels, ranging from around 92-97%, mostly around the 95% mark. Thus, it is often assumed by players that it makes little difference which games you play (RTP is like a reverse house edge). However, many gaming studios have different levels of what is known as variance or volatility.
Arguably, variance is a more important concept to understand than RTP. The latter dictates how much a game will pay back over a (very long) period of time. Variance tells us how the game ‘behaves’, i.e., how often it pays, or how reliable it is. Of course, those are loose concepts, and we will never know when exactly a slot machine will award a win, but we can look at variance as a broad indicator. Low-variance games pay small amounts back quite often, whereas high-variance games tend to be less dependable, but they can pay huge amounts quite suddenly.
Studios specialize in high-variance games
So, as you might gather, what we are getting at here is that some developers specialize in high-variance games, whereas others specialize in low-variance games. Examples of developers of high-variance game providers include Pragmatic Play, Big Time Gaming, and No Limit City. Helpfully, Pragmatic Play provides a volatility rating for each of its games, which you can see beside the reels. Other developers, including those under the Microgaming brand, tend to be more focused on medium to low-variance games. Knowing this information can help players match up their casino strategy to their goals.Now, here’s the rub: There are going to be exceptions to every rule. We can look at games from NetEnt, which usually develops low to mid-variance games, such as Starburst and Butterfly Staxx. But it also has a handful of high-variance games, including its Wild West-themed games Dead or Alive and Dead or Alive II. But in the broadest sense, if you open a Pragmatic game, you know it’s likely to be volatile, and you are likely to find low to mid-variance with a NetEnt game.Of course, you might not think any of this information is particularly useful. Your spin outcomes are dictated by an RNG, so you can’t predict the result. But as we mentioned, players have different strategy goals when playing at a casino. Some might look to make a small profit or are wagering to turn a bonus into real cash, in which case low variance games should be the choice. Others are shooting for the moon, looking for that one big hit that only a high-variance game is likely to provide. Each to their own, sure, but you can easily find the information about how each developer’s games are structured before you play, and it could help with your strategy.