IN the world of online video slots Big Time Gaming are arguably the most important game developer of recent years, swiftly rising to the top of a competitive pile thanks to a revolutionary game engine called Megaways™.
As this inventive developer continues to impress with the release of their latest title, Monopoly Megaways™, we look at what makes the Australian outfit and their extraordinary invention so popular.
Big Time Gaming (BTG) arrived on the scene in 2011, led by their CEO, Nik Robinson, who has made no secret of his ambition to create games that would change the vertical for good. Before then the market was dominated by NetEnt and Microgaming whose prolific output dwarfed that of their competitors. Each regularly produced two or more games per month, mixing tried and tested formats with clever themes and the odd blockbuster-movie partnership to spice things up.
Then along came BTG. This young studio hasn’t really needed to be prolific to make a splash. Their big hit came in 2012 – Bonanza Megaways™ – and since then they built their legacy on 4 or 5 hugely-anticipated releases each year, most of which have used the same Megaways™ format, or a variation of it.
For those who haven’t been following the story, Megaways™ is a type of game where a ‘random reel modifier’ is used to vary the number of symbols appearing on each reel after every spin. Normally in these games between 2 and 7 symbols will appear per reel across a six reel set, and because the slot pays out for identical symbols on adjacent rows, regardless of the position, that means up to 117,649 win ways per spin (7x7x7x7x7x7). Compare this to the standard 20 or 40 paylines per game offered in traditional slots.
The expanding reels system is just one part of what makes Megaways™ so popular. BTG also specialise in high risk games, where big win potential is always there, but comes at the cost of long periods without any pay off at all. Fire up a game like Bonanza and you could be waiting for many spins before things get interesting. But when they do, it’s the thrill every big gambler is chasing. These slots mix up features like free spins, win cascades and progressive multipliers to create win sequences that play out hands free as winline after winline drops into place, and with up to 117,649 available, the jackpots are huge.
The Megaways™ trend has been helped in part because it happened to coincide with the growth in the cult of the Slot Streamer – gamblers who live stream their online slots play to big audiences who get a kick out of watching the player win or lose big, whilst picking up tips on which games offer the biggest thrills and spills. Megaways™ are well-suited to this context, as the wins are dramatic and pumped-up, making them interesting to the viewer. BTG have in fact aligned themselves quite effectively with the streamers, recognising their potential as marketeers of their games. In fact, on occasion, popular streamers like Letsgiveitaspin have streamed the very first play of newly released games at sites like Leo Vegas.
There is no doubt that BTG’s impact on the slots vertical has been huge, and the phenomenal growth of Megaways™ has been helped by licensing deals made with rivals like Blueprint Gaming, Red Tiger and Storm, each of who are now regularly producing slots with the expanding reels gameplay on their own labels. At the same time, BTG continue to produce great titles of their own, including some excellent branded slots like Monopoly and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Megaways™.
It seems like Nik Robinson’s stated ambition of making Megaways™ more popular than the standard slots format may be realised in time. Indeed the list of Big Time Gaming casinos where these titles are available is growing by the month – and for anyone who enjoys slots, whether casually or on a more regular basis, they are a must-play.