The online gaming industry (including online casino gaming) is blowing up. The internet and latest gaming technologies have allowed this industry to grow year-on-year from $67.67 billion in 2018, to an expected $286.44 billion by 2027.
This is all thanks to publishers and developers who understand how important it is to develop online games, platforms, and other modes of delivery that speak to the needs and desires of modern players across the world. As technology continues to connect us and our devices, cross-platform gaming is sure to become a staple experience for many gamers.
But before we get into that, we should start at the beginning.
The rise of gaming communities
Since the first video games were created, communities of players have formed around particular games. Whether it was groups of college students breaking into labs to play Spacewar in the 60s, or Mortal Kombat players gathering at arcades in the early 90s, there have always been certain games that have naturally drawn people together. But as great as these communities were, they were just a drop in the ocean compared to what was coming.
On the 6th of August, 1991, the public gained access to a little known piece of technology called the internet. Originally developed as a way for researchers to share knowledge with each other, it didn’t take long for others to realize the potential of this new communication tool. Companies and academic organizations all jumped into developing the World Wide Web.
As the internet grew, so did the tools that allowed people to connect. From the early bulletin board systems, to forums, private chat applications, and eventually the social media giants that we have today, people from across the world began reaching out to each other in a way that had never been seen before.
Gamers also began building communities around their favorite games. Street Fighter experts from Japan could chat online with their American counterparts about the latest fighting strategies. A British player who was stuck on a boss in Zelda could ask his favorite Scottish Youtuber for tips. A Sonic fan in Argentina could share a Sonic meme with a fan in Australia. The internet took grassroots gaming communities that already existed, and made them into thriving, global networks of players.
Live online streaming services like Twitch have also played a major role in bringing fans together, with popular streamers building their own communities of players. Amazon noticed the powerful role Twitch had in the gaming industry in 2014 and purchased the company for $970 million. Since then Twitch has grown immensely, surpassing ESPN’s audience size in 2017. In 2018, Twitch had 140 million unique monthly visitors, and over 15 million daily active users.
Gamers face-off online
The internet wasn’t just critical in developing communities outside of the game. It also connected players in the actual games themselves. PC gamers were the first to experience online gaming, but due to the technological limits of the time, the first games were turn-based affairs, like battleships, cards, chess or golf. This all changed when Doom was launched in 1993, becoming the first game to ever feature real-time battles between players online.
For many years if you wanted to play online games, you had to do it on a computer. PC gamers had the pleasure of battling it out online against friend and foe alike. Whether it was strategy games like Command & Conquer or Starcraft, fast-paced action games like Quake or Doom, or massive multiplayer online roleplaying games like Everquest and World of Warcraft, PC players had something console gamers could only dream of.
But even though console gamers may have initially felt left out, stuck gaming with a few of their friends on their couches, developers spent years working hard to introduce a solution to make online gaming more accessible. One company (that’s associated with a certain blue hedgehog) was the first to lead the way with a console-based online gaming solution.
Sega, who had originally tried to bring online gaming to fans with its Meganet service in the 1990s, and later with add-ons for the Sega Saturn, decided to give online gaming another go with the Sega Dreamcast in 1998. It was the first console to include multiplayer from the ground up, and came with a 56k modem so that players could go online.
Unfortunately, the console didn’t grab gamers the way Sega had hoped, and it was considered a commercial failure, even if it was undoubtedly ahead of its time.
But Sega had laid the groundwork for another company and its first entry into the console space: Microsoft. The first generation Xbox console introduced the Xbox Live online gaming service, featured the first game in the legendary Halo franchise, and redefined console gaming forever.
Since then online gaming has become a staple part of the console gaming experience, but there was another online gaming challenge that lay on the horizon.
Breaking down online barriers
As popular as online gaming had become across all platforms, it was a struggle to get console developers to agree to cross-platform multiplayer, even though the first game that supported cross-platform play was released in 2002. This game was legendary RPG Final Fantasy XI, and it allowed PC and console gamers to play together.
There was another big push from Microsoft a few years later, when they tried to promote cross-platform play with a game called Shadowrun in 2007. There were a few more experiments with cross-platform gaming between 2007 and 2015, but it was still not the standard for online gaming.
However, things changed in 2016 when Microsoft enabled cross-play for players of Rocket League, allowing them to play with their PC gaming counterparts. They didn’t stop there and also invited Nintendo to do the same, with an announcement coming a few months later that the Nintendo Switch version of Rocket League would support cross-platform play.
Sony was resistant to the idea, and it was only in late 2019, after getting called out by gamers who enjoyed Rocket League and Fortnite cross-platform play, that the creator of the mighty Playstation finally embraced cross-platform online gaming for all games moving forward.
Since then we’ve seen mega-titles like Call of Duty and Need for Speed, as well as other games like Dauntless, Sea of Thieves, War Thunder, and many others, all jump on the cross-platform bandwagon.
It’s clear that the cat’s out the bag, and many game developers will be looking to follow suit with their future online releases.
A new challenger enters the online gaming arena, and it’s mobile
Traditionally, there were two main online gaming platforms: consoles and PCs, each with their die-hard and more casual player bases. But it’s only more recently that a third platform has seriously started to muscle in on these two titans.
That third platform? Mobile gaming devices.
Yes, handheld consoles have been around for a while, with the likes of the Nintendo Gameboy, Nintendo DS, and Playstation Vita. But mobile gaming was still a very small industry compared to PC and console gaming. That all changed in 2007 with the release of the world’s very first smartphone: the iPhone.
Mobile phones get smart
Prior to the release of the iPhone, mobile phones weren’t really considered serious gaming devices. In the early days you could play games like Snake, and sure, developers came up with mobile versions of their most popular games, but these games were poor imitations of the experiences available on console and PC. At the time, mobile phones simply didn’t have the hardware to create games that could really hook gamers.
But when the iPhone arrived in 2007, it changed the way people thought about mobile phones. It also changed the way game developers thought about mobile games. The earliest games may have been fairly simple puzzle games like Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and the infamous Flappy Bird, but there was no doubt that the touch screen opened up a whole new world of gaming possibilities.
Since then the genres of games available to play on your smartphone has exploded. Players can now enjoy role-playing games like Final Fantasy and Neverwinter Nights, first-person shooters like Call of Duty, Fortnite, and PUBG, strategy games like Clash of Clans, and even unique augmented reality games like Pokemon Go.
Single player or multiplayer, the smartphone gaming industry has evolved to offer experiences that appeal to people who would never dream of owning a console, as well as those who play on console and PC.
By the end of 2019, this relative newcomer to the world of gaming generated $49 billion in revenue, and profits of $16.9 billion. Even though its roots may be in more humble gaming experiences, there’s no doubt that mobile gaming is here to stay and will soon join its bigger brethren in the cross-play arena.
Mobile devices and online casinos – a match made in heaven
As synonymous as online casino gaming is with mobile devices, this hasn’t always been the case. Yes, mobile phones existed in the early 2000s, and some of them had online casino games, but these experiences were slow and clunky, and dare we say, prehistoric.
The first popular online casinos were limited to web or download-based platforms that were primarily accessible through a desktop or laptop PC. This was especially true for web-based casinos, since they made use of a technology called Flash which worked on computers but was not officially supported by the first iPhone, or any smartphones that came out after its release.
Even if these devices didn’t support or had limited support for Flash, online casino developers saw the potential these new devices offered and got to work adapting them to a new online programming language that could meet all their needs: HTML5.
But hold on a minute. As critical as HTML5 was, we want to discuss one more piece of hardware before we get into it. And yes, it was again Apple that gave us something that we didn’t even know we wanted.
Apple doesn’t only take the credit for being the developer of the first smartphone, they’re also the developer of the first modern tablet. Yes, people had come up with similar ideas before, but nobody brought it to life the way Apple had.
The first iPad was unveiled in January 2010 and released a few months later in April. This 10 inch device was essentially a portable touchscreen that worked using the iOS operating system. This was critical as it meant that any piece of software that worked on the iPhone, also worked on the iPad.
Much like the iPhone before it, the iPad also set the standard for tablets. Google didn’t want to be left out of this new market either, and announced that they would be making updates to Android to support tablet devices moving forward. Again, this allowed other major device manufacturers to develop their own tablets using their own hardware and Google’s software.
Speaking of software…
Goodbye Flash, hello HTML5
When HTML5 was released in 2008, it was designed for the future, and this meant a focus on mobile and traditional computing devices. This meant that if you coded something in HTML5, it was far easier to get it to work on a wide range of devices. This was great for developers who could save on costs for making different websites, and also meant that a single site could work on any device that had a browser that supported HTML5.
For online casinos, this meant that people playing on their phones, could switch over to their computers and play there seamlessly, and vice versa.
But what if you played through a casino app? Did this mean you couldn’t play with people who used a browser-based version of your app?
Not at all. In fact, one could argue that the online casino industry was the first gaming industry to understand the importance of cross-platform gaming, and committed millions of dollars to making sure it worked.
What cross-platform gaming meant for online casinos
Long before Rocket League and Fortnite allowed gamers to play together on PCs, Playstations, Switches, or Xboxes, the casino industry made sure that online casino players could play with or against other online casino players on their PCs, smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Even console players could join in the fun, as long as their browser supported HTML5.
This meant that no matter where you are, or what device you have, you can hop onto your favorite online casino and do what we all love to do:
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