Big Fish Casino Seems to Do Everything Swimmingly.
|Software & Games:|
Over the last decade, we have definitely seen a shift in the casino industry. While many real money casinos continue to make millions from players, and there is an increasing number of casino launches, a whole new category of casino play has emerged.
The “social casino” was an offshoot of the increased activity on social networks like Facebook. In amongst the dozens of farm and word games came a series of slots, card, and poker games. These games became surprisingly popular, given their intent and functionality. As someone who has been in the online gambling world for over 15 years, I was shocked at the overall success of these sites.
Today, I have the pleasure of reviewing one of the largest social casinos for you. Big Fish Casino has been in business since 2002 and has been generating loyal, valuable clients ever since.
Now, as the guts of a social casino are the games, that part of my review will be pretty similar to other casinos I have done for this site. However, as the business intricacies of social casinos are very different, you can consider this review a bit of a primer on what this category is all about.
Okay, enough of me going on. It’s time to jump right into the review of Big Fish Casino!
About Big Fish Casino
Big Fish Casino is one of the largest and most successful social casinos on the market. It is owned and operated by Big Fish Games, which is a games developer based in Seattle. While the casino is easily the largest of the games they offer, they are well known in the social gaming space, with over 400 Facebook games and another 3,500 PC games.
Big Fish Casino, having been around since 2002, actually predates the Facebook surge of social gaming. At the start, the game was nothing more than a play-for-fun casino option, with most of the development we see today coming over the last 10 years.
The company has been sold twice in the last 5 years. In 2014, horse racing powerhouse Churchill Downs bought the company for $885 million. Then, early in 2018, the company was flipped to Aristocrat Technologies for $990 million. This will give Big Fish Games access to the second-largest slot machine provider on the planet.
Social Casinos vs. Real Money Casinos
The main difference between a social casino and a real money casino comes down to finances. At a casino like Big Fish Casino, players are playing the same games as those playing at, say, Casino Fortune. However, no matter how many chips a player wins, they can never cash them out for real money. All they are playing for are the accolades of other players, and unlocking games and bonus levels.
I have to tell you that this just escapes me. The fact that you can pay for chips but never turn them back into cash is not something a gambler wants to hear. However, I do get that people choose to entertain themselves in many different ways So, to those of you reading this review, I say congratulations on having a whole category of gaming opened up for you!
How to Start at Big Fish Casino
Big Fish Casino (like most of the social casinos) is designed with Facebook and mobile devices in mind. If you are on a PC, you can head to Facebook and search for the casino, or you can head directly to their site. In either case, the non-download interface is clearly built to fit into the Facebook platform.
If you are interested in playing this casino from your mobile, then you can download a native app from the iTunes App Store or Google Play. The mobile app seems to be much faster than playing in a browser so I would recommend that to anyone who has the opportunity.
To create an account, you simply log in using your Facebook account (you can also just create an account with your email address). Upon creating your account, you can choose a username, along with a password. From there, you can upload a picture for your avatar, or select from one of the available pictures.
Your account is preloaded with 100,000 chips when you are done creating it. You can then head to the lobby and start playing. There, you will see all the games that are available to you, and others that can be unlocked by completing levels of play.
Now, right out of the gate, you are going to be bombarded by offers to try to get you to buy additional chips. My suggestion is that you ignore all of them until you are really sure you want to spend money on casino games that are for entertainment purposes only. As you play the games, you earn achievements that will award you bonus chips, as well as gold bars that are used to access VIP levels as well as unlock more games. There are dozens of levels to reach, each giving you more access to the casino.
You can see that most of the games are available to the public, while some are reserved for groups or private play. I am not entirely certain what road you should take here. For me, it seems the most logical to just sit down at a game you are familiar with and start playing.
Okay, now here is an area of the casino that I can get behind. The Big Fish Casino is run on software that the company built themselves, and one quick scan of the lobby shows many games available to players. This is similar, of course, to a real money casino, with the big difference being the fact that there aren’t nearly as many choices in this social casino. Let’s have a look at the game categories in more detail.
The slots catalog at Big Fish Casino features dozens of titles available for players. Many of these games are already unlocked when you first start playing, but some games won’t unlock until you reach Level 38. There are two tabs in the slots lobby: All Slots and VIP Slots. When I clicked on the VIP tab, a pop-up window gave me the option to access the games by spinning until I was a VIP or by buying that access for $9.99. I decided just to spin the reels for a while to see what would happen.
There are both 9- and 25-payline games, and there is even a progressive jackpot on the Jackpot City slot machine. The site also offers slots tournaments for its players, which is something I really like, no matter where I am playing. For me, stacking up against other players is far more interesting than just the lonely behavior of hitting the Spin button over and over again.
As far as titles go, here is what you will find without any VIP status:
- Jackpot City
- Money Rain Deluxe
- Crazy Money Deluxe
- The Secret Grove
- Sweet Stacks
- Sherlock Manor
- One Armed Bandito
- Stars ‘N Sevens
- Treasure Trove Grove
I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to see the Baywatch slot. It is evident that the Big Fish management appreciates the value of cross-branded content, so an agreement to brand a slot machine after the 2017 movie is an excellent sign that this casino wants to be competitive in the space.
The way the table games section works is slightly different than the slots area. There are no games that are locked. However, the minimums at each themed table are different, so if you want to play at a certain game, you need to have the bankroll to do so. Let’s take blackjack as an example to show you the different limits:
- Atlantic City: 100/5,000
- Caribbean Cruise: 1000/50,000
- Las Vegas Strip: 10,000/500,000
- Paris Lights: 50,000/2,500,000
- Monaco Mansion: 250,000/12,500,000
- Dubai High Rise: 1,000,000/50,000,000
You can see how a player would want to show off the achievement of just being allowed to sit at the Dubai table. This alone could convince a player to make a massive purchase of chips.
As for the gameplay, I was pleased to see that the game has a standard look and feel to it. The public blackjack table I played was a multi-player table with 5 spots. As the game is meant to be more social, I appreciated that there were others there. The gameplay also felt more like a live game, as I had to wait for other players to act.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of selection when Big Fish is compared to real money casinos. Aside from blackjack and roulette, there is a third game called Burn 3 Poker. I wish there were some of the other table games available, such as Caribbean Stud or Pai Gow Poker, as my session may have been longer.
Yes!! I love video poker, so to see it have its own category was awesome! Even more amazing was that when I clicked on the lobby, I found three variants of the game available:
- Jacks or Better
- Deuces Wild
- Jokers Wild
When you sit down at a machine, you see the screen names of 4 other players. Don’t worry…they are playing different machines. However, if one of them wins, the sound effect can be heard, so I guess that also simulates the feel of a land-based casino. The gameplay was very similar to most real money video poker games I have played before. I didn’t like that it gives you suggestions of what to hold – as far as I am concerned, you should be reading one of our video poker strategy guides and then making the decisions on your own.
Overall, I am very impressed that Big Fish has this much for a video poker fan, especially given how few table games options are available.
The Shop (Payment Options)
Beyond playing for the free chips that you are awarded at the start (and seemingly whenever you click on anything in the casino), you also have the option of heading to the Big Fish Casino Shop. This is critical for players who want to unlock higher levels and new games, as to do so, you need to play a significant number of hours or accumulate a ton of chips.
The Shop is easily accessible from the lobby, and when you are there, you will see options for purchasing Chip and Gold Bar packages. These packages tend to come with added VIP levels attached, which of course gives you instant access to the games.
Should you decide that you want to buy chips, the transaction is very simple. If you are playing on Facebook, then you must purchase Facebook credits to use for the transaction. From the mobile apps, you are just asked if you want to charge it to your app store account. Within a couple of clicks, you can complete the purchase and then head back to the tables!
It is important to remember that while it costs real cash to buy these chips, you are never allowed to cash them out for real money. This is a site designed with entertainment in mind.
Promotions and Rewards (VIP status)
Much like the rest of this casino, the promotions being offered at Big Fish are really just ways to get more chips for free and even more chips for real money. Now, this is the extent of the way the site tries to promote to you. The main objective for Big Fish is to have you play so much that you absolutely have to have the chips to unlock the next level.
One thing that is relatively annoying is the sheer number of pop-up promotions when you log onto the game. The last time I logged in, I received no fewer than 5 different screens that I had to close before I got to the lobby. Again, as this is the main source of marketing, I can understand why the casino takes this approach.
Sale! Sale! Sale!
It seems as though the chips in the shop are almost always on sale. The sales do seem to change on a regular basis (at least once every 48 hours). Here is one example of a sale I came across:
- 6.7x Sale – a 4.5x sale on chips, plus an added 1.5 VIP Bonus applied to all purchases
Let me start by saying that at this point I hadn’t played a hand or made a purchase, so I am not sure what qualified me for the VIP Bonus. However, this did make the breakdown of chip purchases as follows:
- 135,000 Chips – $2.79
- 371,500 Chips – $6.99
- 810,000 Chips – $13.99
- 16,875,000 Chips – $139.99
Yes, you read that right. There is a level of chips that you can buy for almost $140 REAL DOLLARS. Now, this will likely unlock every table for you, but still, this is an awful lot of money to pay for a game you cannot get any return on.
This sale also applies to the Gold Bars, which as I outlined earlier, are needed for certain VIP perks and to purchase virtual goods for the table.
As far as promotions go, this is very similar to a real money casino offering a massive reload bonus, giving you a ton of bonus dollars that you are unlikely to convert.
Would I Play at Big Fish Casino?
I will admit that at the outset of this review, I did not have a lot of optimism about what I was going to find. After all, the idea of playing casino games without the ability to win real cash seems like it would be a colossal waste of time, especially for someone with my background.
After spending some quality time at Big Fish Casino, I am starting to understand what all the hype is about. I recognize that many people like the excitement of tables games and slot machine but not the idea of gambling their hard-earned money. The player experience at Big Fish is well put together. There are a good number of games, and although there isn’t anything to cash out, the animations around winning are very nice.
I do like the idea of the “groups” that exist on the site. Having a social aspect to a casino does take a lot of the boredom out of it.
In the end, I still have to take some time to wrap my head around paying real money for chips I can never cash out. I think that if you are interested in the allure and rush of the game but have no interest or means to play for real money, then social casinos are the way to go. If you are going to play at one, I would definitely recommend Big Fish Casino!
This review was made by: LegitGamblingSites.com Rating: 4.17 out of 5