Yggdrasil is one of the most unusual names in the online game development industry. In Norse mythology, it is the name of a sacred ash tree that stands at the heart of creation, and the company has grown to the point where it has a similarly central role in the lives of gaming fans everywhere. One of the key traits of Yggdrasil is its enthusiasm for innovation, and that constant drive to bring something new and exciting to players has earned it multiple awards. Here we'll look at how the company got started, the games that it is best known for and the recognition that it has garnered around the world.
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A Brief History of Yggdrasil
Yggdrasil Gaming was founded in Sweden in 2013 by none other than Fredrik Elmqvist, who had previously been CEO of NetEnt. Elmqvist's experience at the helm of one of the biggest development companies in the industry gave the new venture a great advantage over other start-ups, and within a year it had secured a licence from the Malta Gaming Authority and released its first title.
That first title, Winter Berries, was a five-reel video pokie that was visually stunning and boasted superb audio content. The simplicity of its theme, together with great features like Freeze & Re-Spin and a Column Multiplier, made the game an instant hit with players. So much of a hit, in fact, that it is still being played today at over 260 online casinos in New Zealand alone.
Yggdrasil has been committed to innovation from the outset, and it has worked hard to appeal to operators as much as to players. In 2015 it enabled online casino operators to set up their own tournaments and promotional events through its groundbreaking BOOST system. Licences were acquired in the UK, Gibraltar and Romania in 2016, as well as in Italy in 2017.
All of the games released up to this point had been pokies, but in 2018 the company - now rebranded simply as Yggdrasil - launched its first table games. Of course, it didn't put pokies on the back burner by any means. In fact, it was still pushing for innovation on all fronts. In 2020 it launched its famous SPLITZ mechanic, and also added another 40 games to its range.
Today, Yggdrasil is providing more than 110 games to operators in 24 licensed and regulated markets. Just some of the operators that offer its games include LeoVegas, Casumo, 888, PokerStars, and Mr Green.
We have mentioned the word innovation several times already, and that's because breaking new ground is one of the things that Yggdrasil is particularly well known for. It is also a quality that has earned this developer a considerable number of industry awards. Just a small sample of those awards include:
- Software Rising Star (2015)
- Gaming Software Supplier of the Year (2016)
- Innovator of the Year (2018, 2019, 2020)
- Innovator in RNG Casino Software (2018)
- Innovator in RNG Casino Supplier (2019)
- Pokie Provider of the Year (2016, 2017, 2021)
- RNG Casino Provider of the Year (2022)
As we said earlier, the first game that Yggdrasil released was Winter Berries. That title was launched in January 2014, and by the end of that same year, another six had been made available to online casino players. A couple of them - Fruitoids and Reef Run - can still be played here in New Zealand, although it is generally easier to find more recent titles.
Online Video Pokies
Most of the games released by Yggdrasil are video pokies. One game from the early years that is still massively popular is Joker Millions. This is a Vegas-style video pokie with traditional 'fruit machine' symbols and a special Joker. Land five Joker symbols anywhere on the reels and you'll trigger a jackpot spin. It's a tried-and-tested formula that clearly stands the test of time.
Vikings Go Wild is another key release from 2015. Not only is it still going strong, but it spawned a series of Viking-themed pokie machines from the developer, with later titles including Vikings Go to Hell, Vikings Go Berzerk, and Vikings Go to Valhalla. If you're the kind of player who enjoys spending time with seafaring warriors then this is a series of games that you should certainly check out.
The range of pokies that Yggdrasil has released is as diverse as you could want. There is clearly a world of difference between Winter Berries, Joker Millions, and the Vikings series, but that's just scratching the surface. Yggdrasil's back catalogue also includes games like Golden Fish Tank, Legend of the White Snake Lady, Double Dragons, Spina Colada, and Sunny Shores, each of which delivers a gaming experience that is completely different to the others.
Two pokies that showcase Yggdrasil's gift for innovation particularly well are Temple Stacks Splitz and Avatars: Gateway Guardians, so let's take a quick look at these in turn:
1. Temple Stacks Splitz Pokie
This is the game that introduced the world to Yggrdasil’s fantastic SPLITZ mechanic. This is a five-reel pokie game with an Aztec theme, and what sets it apart is the fact that a Mystery Stack can appear on any reel. When it does, the stack can split into as many as 12 identical symbols. That makes it possible to land multiple winning lines, and the mechanic was so popular that it has since appeared in several other titles, including Neon Rush Splitz, Syncronite Splitz and Rise of the Valkyrie Splitz.
2. Avatars: Gateway Guardians Pokie
This game is another great example of Yggdrasil thinking outside the box. Avatars: Gateway Guardians is best described as a circular pokie of three concentric reels. The game is divided into six sectors, and you win a prize by getting the same symbol on all three reels in the same sector. The topmost sector is a Hotspot, and if a prize is won in that sector it will activate a Multiplier Wheel that can multiply your prize by up to 101 times.
New & Exciting Yggdrasil Titles
These are just two fantastic examples of how Yggdrasil is always looking to bring something new and exciting to players. While some providers focus on delivering 'more of the same' to their end users, this company is dedicated to pushing boundaries, breaking unspoken rules and generally doing things in a way that nobody else has even thought of. That makes every Yggdrasil release something to get excited about because you never know what to expect next.
Although Yggdrasil has released a few table games, this isn't an area that it has chosen to pursue with any real enthusiasm. At the time of writing, the company has given us just three games: Sonya Blackjack, Dr Fortuna Blackjack and Golden Chip Roulette. These are all enjoyable games, and it could be that more will be released in the future, but we wouldn't bet on it.
One of the things that we love about Yggdrasil is that it isn't at all afraid to play to its strengths. Having dabbled with table games in the past, it has obviously concluded, at least for the time being, that pokies are its forte. We don't mind this at all, because there are plenty of other software providers with different strengths, and we would much rather Yggdrasil focus on doing what it does best than risk getting distracted by other genres.
Many Yggdrasil games that are currently being offered at online casinos are fully compatible with mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. This makes them just as suitable for mobile players as they are for those who prefer to play on laptops and desktop computers. Some of the most popular releases that play beautifully on mobiles include: Valley of the Gods, Jackpot Raiders, Easter Island pokie, Vikings Go Berzerk, Vikings Go Berzerk Reloaded and Suncatcher Gigablox.
At the risk of using the word innovation just one last time, that really is what Yggdrasil stands for and focuses on. Its ongoing commitment is to doing things differently, and that keeps things fresh and exciting for players everywhere. This month the company might introduce a new mechanic, but next month it could be a new reel format, a new feature or something that we can't even imagine as humble gaming journalists. What we do know for a fact is that every Yggdrasil release will bring something new to the online casino world, and we are always waiting for the next big reveal with keen anticipation.