Starburst finished last year on top while the likes of Book Of/Legacy Of Dead (Play’n GO), Bonanza (Big Time Gaming), Gonzo’s Quest and Fruit Shop (NetEnt), Piggy and Dynamite Riches (Red Tiger) plus the Nine Masks/Pots family (Games Global) all held their ground.
But there’s no denying it was another successful year for Pragmatic Play, which once again controlled around 50% of the top spots at year-end – and half of those were part of the Big Bass family (see below).
Top 20 games by distribution
The studio’s latest releases, Bigger Bass Blizzard Christmas Catch (Pragmatic Play) and Gold Blitz (Fortune Factory Studios), were the only new entries last December.
Now, let’s turn to the Christmas charts.
CHRISTMAS CHART COMMENTARY
Operators had less than a week to swap out their World Cup games for Christmas crackers. The extra seasonal event was a headache for the studios too, many of which were scrambling to launch tailored games, albeit some repackaged as ‘Slot ABC: Football Edition’ and then ‘Slot ABC: Xmas Edition’.
It probably felt a bit rushed but some were up to the task. So, which Christmas slot had the widest distribution? Which studio made the most Christmas titles? Do Christmas ‘editions’ of existing games work as well as brand-new Christmas titles and what insights into the life of seasonal titles can we glean from last year’s crop?
If we were to give our main charts a Christmas overlay, Pragmatic Play, Evolution Gaming, Play’n Go, Games Global and Inspired Entertainment would dominate the top 20 spots (and Pragmatic would actually dominate the top five). However, to ensure variety and also in keeping with our Halloween and Christmas leaderboards from last year, we limited our Christmas charts to the single best performer from each studio.
Games are ranked according to their distribution across the casino pages of more than 2,000 operators. Topping the table last year was the new Christmas Blizzard variation of Big Bass Bonanza and, while it didn’t appear due to the ‘one title’ rule, last year’s number one, Christmas Big Bass Bonanza, would have charted in second place.
But Santa was reeled in last year as another fishy sequel, Fishin’ Christmas Pots of Gold from Gameburger Studios netted second place. Jingle Spin (NetEnt), Moon Princess Christmas Kingdom (Play’n GO) and Piles of Presents (Just For The Win) made up the top five.
Focusing just on titles released last year, our Chart Newcomers list below shows the best new performers, again limited to one title per studio.
The top two new releases are also those that made the top two spots in our main Christmas chart, suggesting that new titles, while costing more, do work better than those resurrected from previous years. But the back catalogue still rolls out nicely: two thirds of all Christmas games in the top 100, for example, were launched before 2022.
Overall, we considered 423 Christmas titles, 111 of which were launched in 2022, a decent number compared with the 98 releases in 2021. However, a couple of studios took a ‘Christmas edition’ approach, bumping up those numbers.
The most prolific developer of Christmas slots of all time has been Spinomenal and this year was no exception (see Studio Comparions chart, below). It not only launches many new seasonal titles each year but also revamps existing games with Christmas (and other seasonal) variations.
Games Global is always well-represented with its seasonal games sourced from several in-house studios, while Playtech, normally fairly prolific, was a bit quiet, other than its Cash Truck Xmas Delivery (Quickspin).
Wazdan often likes to release a handful of Christmas editions and it was joined for the first time by Fazi, which launched a massive 15 Christmas variations of its portfolio. It’s easy to get a bit snooty about the value of new titles versus Christmas editions of existing games, but a few considerations are worth keeping in mind.
First, most of the biggest Christmas titles over the last couple of years have been ‘editions’ in all but name. A Bigger Bass Blizzard Christmas or a Fishin’ Pots of Gold Christmas game is, after all, a very close sequel to an existing title.
Second, regardless of title, players seem to like spruced-up versions of something they’re familiar with and operators are always keen to refresh the seasonal or new sections of their sites.
Overall, new editions perform only slightly worse than new titles but, as with many issues relating to game design and distribution, the devil is often in the detail. There are always exceptions and, to get the full picture of what works best, you need to visit igamingbusiness.com and filter the tables by country, by studio, by operator group, by site, by page type or even by position on page.
No surprise that Christmas Bonanza by Big Time Gaming performed well and Belatra Games launched the Christmas Jackpot. Reindeer Rampage (Spinomenal) promised a bit more than it delivered but Naughty Nick’s Book (Play’n Go) offered us a taste of ‘Rude Olf’ mischief: clearly a cracker-joke challenge was issued. Puntastic stuff!
On the deals front, there’s change at the top. Lady Luck Games has sealed two more distribution deals taking it to the busiest studio dealmaker in recent months.
Top studio dealmakers – six months rolling
Meanwhile, Relax Gaming’s aggregator arm was plugging in yet more content, such as the Air Dice portfolio, meaning it now shares top spot as the busiest aggregator over the last six months
Top aggregator dealmakers – six months rolling
A belated happy New Year to all and look out for our 2022 casino review on igamingbusiness.com!