Many years ago you had the likes of Microgaming and Playtech way out on top of the online slot provider league. Then along came NetEnt and blew everyone out of the water. Microgaming were also hit hard after having had to pull out of the USA casino market whilst Playtech have often been spreading themselves a bit thin over too many sectors. Both companies trickled along in the online slots game but just couldn’t keep up with the Net Entertainment juggernaut.
Last year we had it in for Playtech for various reasons as they were falling backwards quicker than anybody and we ended up holding long discussions with them about their future plans and despite our apprehension, boy what a year they have been having this year. They are well back on track and the future is starting to look very bright, in particular following some very canny acquisitions. Microgaming on the other hand have been carrying on as they have been for a few years now by being completely inconsistent but at least they are steady and consistent in their inconsistency.
NetEnt on the other hand who seemingly had the online casino game in the palm of their hands have gone off the boil completely. Internally they have lost a number of key strategic and production staff who left for the highly innovative new start up company Quickspin (who have now been purchased by Playtech giving them some of the most innovative slot designers around today). NetEnt have also lost a number of management staff and all this while trying to crash their way into the highly lucrative and highly sought after but legally fraught USA gambling markets.
So where has this left NetEnt? Well it seems that most of the real talent behind their classic online slots have either gone or have run out of creative juices. Instead we as loyal and dedicated players have been patronised by their giant marketing machine and been fed copious amounts of completely unjustified hype. Let’s have a little run down of 2016 as delivered by NetEnt:
Glow – A rather dull and uninspiring release that crept under the radar. Nothing really wrong with it but nothing spectacular.
Guns N Roses – The most over hyped and over marketed online slot in history. Seriously. For a year we were hearing about how ground breaking this slot was going to be but when it was finally released it proved to be a huge let down. Buggy for the first month and whilst it had some very promising elements in the game play alas these were ruined by the things which didn’t work. With a few tweaks here and there this could have proven to be the monster hit NetEnt were hoping for but their clear lack of testing and using a focus group means we are left with a slot which is ok for the odd short session but never going to be anyone’s all time favourite.
Fantasini – The NetEnt marketers clearly had gotten the taste for hype when they set about releasing their TwinSpin slot clone. Some bits are better than TwinSpin but some are worse. Again a focus group of real players could have helped make this a classic.
Drive Multiplier Mayhem – The second most over hyped online slot machine in history. Ground breaking? High octane? Or dull and boring? The bonus feature is entertaining I’ll give them that much, but the base game is weak enough as it is without factoring in the ludicrous number of times the slot spins in the first 2 scatters and then nothing. We like winning money, we don’t like being constantly c*** teased. Seriously NetEnt… focus group of real players?
Jimi Hendrix slot – The second part of the NetEnt Rocks trilogy thankfully came without the fanfare of the first one. A really good job because the great man will be turning in his grave at the thought of this cheap and unimaginative slot. Clunky, illogical and with free spins features that are so similar it is pointless having different options. When I see this slot I join the cross town traffic in order to avoid it!
Aloha Cluster Pays slot – Ok I admit I have a soft spot for this one. A well rounded and original slot with great graphics and a cool set of free spins. Kudos where it is due.
NRVNA slot – Back on track here with the marketing machine. This slot has been around forever as an exclusive at a small handful of casinos but NetEnt treated it as a huge brand new release. It’s not just the age of the slot that makes this marketing a bit sad, it is also that the slot just isn’t anything special at all.
When Pigs Fly slot – Big hype for a clone of Reel Rush that doesn’t come close to the original… that’s if you can get the slot to load in the first place (Firefox users will know what I mean whilst Internet Explorer users will have had their own frustrations).
Football Champions Cup slot – And the hype machine strikes again trying to cash in on Euro 2016. Clearly a rushed slot and well off target.
Theme Park Tickets of Fortune – I bet you are bored of the hype talk by now aren’t you. I’ll just say this could have been a great slot but once again the execution and lack of focussed testing has relegated it to the bargain bin.
Joker Pro – Now here is something different. Billed as the next big thing in the TwinSpin type of slot, Joker Pro is indeed a bit different. NetEnt have proudly advertised their new maths model behind the game and clearly they have put a lot of work into it. Unfortunately for players it seems they have been mastering the knack of getting you to lose all your money. This slot doesn’t play like any other and it will be a cold day in hell when you have a winning run on this game. My first 44 spins on this slot produced ZERO winning spins and my return to player from my first 150 spins was about 3%. Criminal.
Secrets of Atlantis – Clearly this slot is using the new maths model as well because this seems to be another in the mould where winning is nigh on impossible. Poor paying features and overall a rather dull experience.
Wild Wild West – The Great Train Heist – Finally I want to end this article on a positive note. Easily the best slot NetEnt have released in 2016. Great looking and for casual players the perfect blend of action and pays. Again kudos where kudos is deserved.
This all brings us nicely along to Motorhead, the third and final part of the NetEnt Rocks trilogy. So what do you think my verdict is going to be? Well you are wrong in fact (sort of). Motorhead is head and shoulders above the first two NetEnt Rocks slots and probably edges Wild Wild West for my favourite NetEnt release of the year. Using elements of Dazzle Me and TwinSpin with additional features, the graphics, symbols, sounds and music are absolutely perfect for the source material. The design is excellent, game play works to a tee and clearly they have spent a lot of time making sure this slot doesn’t back fire. The Bomber feature is epic and right down to the choice of Wild symbol this slot is inspired. And finally a slot that really is aimed at adults. Dark and moody. Having said all that…. I’m not a big fan of the way the slot pays, it seems to also be using the new mathematics model, maybe that is something we just need to get used to but I’m just not convinced it is going to be very popular. I guess time will tell…
Dear NetEnt, we want more of Wild Wild West and Motorhead and less of the rush jobs please. Your position at the head of the pack is in danger. We, the players, are far happier to see fewer new slots as long as the quality is there. It is pointless giving us dozens of slots we won’t ever bother playing. Here’s a reminder of how you do it so well when you take the time: