The video game Tomb Raider and Lara Croft, its iconic female protagonist, has been a fan and player favorite since it came onto the scene in the 1990s. From this humble beginning, the Tomb Raider brand has spread into publishing in the form of comic books, motion pictures with a successful movie franchise starring Angelina Jolie, and the wagering space thanks to successful slot concepts used by online, mobile and brick-and-mortar casinos.
Microgaming, the Isle of Man-based provider of online and land-based casino games and systems, is now celebrating 10 years of its Lara Croft: Tomb Raider online slot. According to Mike Hebden, head of casino games at Microgaming, as a pioneer in the online gaming industry, Microgaming couldn’t help but take notice of the success of the first Tomb Raider video game published by Eidos in 1996.
“Eidos published the video game Tomb Raider, which helped establish and shape the console gaming industry, in a similar way to how Microgaming helped to establish and shape the online gambling industry,” said Hebden. “We felt there was genuine affinity between our brands; we have always been huge fans of Tomb Raider and their licensor was keen to implement a brand extension taking Lara into progressive new industries.”
According to Hebden, there are two particularly noteworthy games in the Microgaming Tomb Raider online slot franchise. The first is the initial Tomb Raider online slot game that was launched in 2004, which also happened to be the first brand partnership established in online gaming. This was not only a big step for Microgaming, but for the industry as a whole, according to Hebden.
The second evolutionary Tomb Raider development was when the game was adapted to mobile gaming play.
“We’ve released several noteworthy game variants and sequels [since the initial Tomb Raider launch]” said Hebden. “But for me, a highlight was when we released the first Tomb Raider game on mobile in August 2006.” According to company press materials, Microgaming developed the branded game for mobile in J2ME. Web App, Android and HTML5 versions followed. The mobile version of the game was also configured for use in a tournament environment, when Microgaming launched its multi-player software in 2007.
Hebden said a combination of things have contributed to Tomb Raider’s ongoing success. One thing that has undeniably kept the franchise afloat in a saturated online casino game market has been its ability to evolve over the years, integrating the latest design and industry trends while still keeping its dedicated fan base.
Another reason for Tomb Raider’s success is Microgaming’s ability to “create themes and mechanics that players love,” Hebden said. For example, following the success of the original Lara Croft: Tomb Raider online slot, in 2008 a highly anticipated sequel was released entitled Lara Croft: Secret of the Sword. This game sent players on a brand-new mission to track down fragments of a lost sword. It quickly resonated with core and new players alike.
“Our very talented and experienced game design team simply did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of the Tomb Raider brand and produced a really strong online slot,” Hebden said. “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider [online] slot has been there from the very early days of online gaming, an industry that has experienced exponential growth. Thankfully the games have grown with the industry and we have updated them to ensure they remain popular.”
Over the years as online gaming has grown in popularity, the technology driving it has expanded and evolved as well. Therefore, the quality of the Tomb Raiders games had to improve, as did the mechanics and security behind them.
“Investing heavily in the stability and the security of our systems [ensures] players feel comfortable that their experience is fair and safe,” said Hebden. “Releasing flash versions of the games when we felt this would fulfill the technical needs of our operators and their players, releasing a sequel, keeping the games fresh and relevant, recognizing the shift in technology to mobile and releasing versions of the game that are not only accessible on mobile devices, but which also retain the rich features, graphics and sounds of the originals… all of these things have contributed along the way. One of the things I love about our industry is that it takes an incredible breadth of diverse skills to do all these things successfully.”
When it comes to the future of the Tomb Raider online casino game franchise, Hebden has faith in the concept’s strength and relevancy. Square Enix, the current owner of the Tomb Raider brand, has released a reboot of the game that is focused on the origins of Lara Croft and her ascent from a frightened young woman to a hardened survivor. This will be reflected in Microgaming’s latest Tomb Raider iteration—Rise of the Tomb Raider—which will be released later this year, according to Hebden.
“Suffice to say the games remain extremely popular with players and we continue to have a strong relationship with Square Enix,” said Hebden. “So watch this space!”