There are many who try to claim the title of “first company to launch an online casino” and Microgaming are one of the entities who feel like they should be considered for the crown. Their argument may or may not be legitimate, but it doesn’t seem like things will be proven one way or the other any time soon, if ever at all.
Regardless of whether or not they were the first to plant the flag, things apparently did not go as expected and they quickly had to pivot and formulate a better path to success in this brave new world of online gambling. They decided the easier way to generate revenues was to develop casino games and license them to other casinos, rather than bring them to the end consumer themselves.
To their credit, Microgaming was a founding member of the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) that works to promote fair and responsible gaming on the Internet and they have been an advocate of corporate transparency from the beginning. This was quite a rarity back in the early 2000s so they will always be able to hang their hat on this footnote of their history.
They currently have their head offices located in the Isle of Man and hold a license from the U.K. Gambling Commission.
Two decades after first opening, Microgaming is still cranking out titles with ease, and with a catalog of more than 800 variations of casino games they could definitely be viewed as the “McDonalds of the online gambling industry”. Furthermore, the company is particularly prolific in the development of virtual slot machines, releasing over 1,200 unique titles over the years.
However, just like a fast-food giant, Microgaming does not usually garner praise for the most dynamic menu, but rather for delivering a consistent online gambling experience without deviations in quality. The software juggernaut, like the Big Mac, is without rival in this category. Their releases will always satisfy a certain hunger and they have so many titles that a licensee will typically include only a fraction of them in their games list.
There have not been many trends in iGaming that Microgaming has missed, or in fact, not pioneered themselves. One niche they are a leader in is branded slots, due to the fact that they locked up such iconic movie franchises as Batman, Battlestar Galactica, and Terminator. Also, as most male patrons of Microgaming casinos are aware, this is one of the few places where you can find Playboy-themed games.
In 2004, they launched the first-ever mobile casino software, finally enabling them to legitimately claim some trailblazing street cred. Not that they needed to do anything extra to impress the industry at that point, of course. They truly are at the forefront of every trend.
Microgaming releases play fast, look good, sound good, and always leave you wanting more. That said, are you going to want to take screenshots and frame them for your living room walls? Probably not – their design team will never win awards. However, it should be noted that these days their newer games are every bit as good as the titles that their competition is releasing. This presumably is because their software developers know that in order to maintain their share of the market they must produce high-quality product that entertains the masses.
These guys are continually releasing new slots games each month as they attempts to remain on pace with the rest of the industry. They were the first to introduce 100 win line machines and innovated the “243-ways-to-win” games that feature hexagonal grids and payline wins for side-by-side symbols.
With the release of Cash Splash in 1998 they pioneered the networked progressive jackpot in online slots and Microgaming continues to pay out record prize amounts from their bingo software, slot machines, and mobile platform to this day. With hundreds of online casinos using their software, their jackpot prize pools obviously increases very quickly.
The proof is in the pudding, as their licensees have made millionaires out of dozens of average people thanks to their huge cash jackpots. Furthermore, they also claim that their progressive network is the largest in the world and it has reportedly paid out more than €848 million since its inception. In 2015, Microgaming earned the Guinness World Record for “the largest online slot machine jackpot”, beating out NetEnt’s 2013 record, with a €17,879,645.12 prize.
Microgaming have obviously not concentrated all of their efforts into virtual slots machines and progressive jackpots over the years, and as a result, they have a huge library of table games. Their long list obviously includes all of the most popular variations of “Twenty-One” that are found in land-based casinos around the world today, and serious blackjack players will have all that they can handle at Microgaming partner websites.
To start off with, they obviously have a solid version of Classic Single Deck Blackjack, which is the traditional version that sees the dealer up-card exposed. Most people are unaware that this one has a microscopic House edge of 0.13%, making it an excellent option for those who want to practice basic strategy.
They then branch out into Atlantic City and European Blackjack, with both being dealt from eight deck shoes and having the exact same rules. Well, the only difference is that in European the dealer’s second card is not drawn until all players at the table have finished acting. It is this possibility of an after-the-fact blackjack that wipes out all of the splits and doubles bets, increasing the House edge to 0.39% instead of 0.35%.
They then offer some niche variants for those who like to mix things up a little, with Bonus Blackjack allowing side bets on dealer or player 21s and having a House edge of 0.39%. Or you can opt for Double Exposure Blackjack which allows players to see both of the dealer’s cards but gives them reduced payouts on blackjacks for the privilege. Also, the dealer wins all pushes, with these rules combining to elevate the House edge to 0.67% so it’s a variant that many like to avoid all together.
In addition, Microgaming offers Spanish 21 with a 0.38% House edge, thanks to the 48 card deck triggering fewer natural blackjacks. Finally, they have both Vegas Downtown and Vegas Strip options for 21, with the former being dealt from 2 decks and the latter being dealt from 4, ensuring a House edge of 0.38% and 0.34% respectively.
Microgaming also offers multi-hand games that permit as many as five hands to be played against a single dealer hand at one time. Individual casinos also have the ability to run blackjack tournaments and link progressive jackpots within their software.
Live Dealer Blackjack
They have been live streaming blackjack since 2006 and now have studios in Canada, the Philippines, and Argentina. Operators have their choice of which stream to take, which includes a fully-branded Playboy option. All of the feeds are browser-based so no downloads are required, but some partners may choose to permit live dealing only through their download version.
The Microgaming live blackjack is primarily dealt from a 7-seat table with an eight deck shoe. Dealers are appropriately dressed for an evening soiree and use a manual shuffle system. The tables fill up quickly at popular Microgaming casinos but players can sign-up for an alert to notify them when a seat at the table becomes available if they don’t want to wait around.
Like all of their products in general, the stream is first-rate but not overly exceptional. Pluses include the ability to play multiple tables at once, the functionality to bet behind other players, and the option to place side wagers on insurance.
Microgaming Practice Casinos
When you look at the final tally of their many offerings, you could encounter more than 30 different types of Microgaming blackjack online. Thankfully, you do not have to risk real money getting the hang of any unfamiliar versions, since most online casinos offer the opportunity to play for free.
Or if you don’t want to go through the effort of signing up a new account you can simply go to the official Microgaming practice area on their website and play any of their games for free, topping up your fun money balance as you please.