Traditionally, in the UK if we are talking about bingo then we are talking about the 90 ball game. This is the version that became popular in Britain back in the day and it is the game that we all grew up playing and understanding.
In America, it’s different. They play the 75 ball game as standard – this is their ‘normal’.
Yet anyone who has played online bingo more than a handful of times will have spotted a couple of other variations like 80 ball bingo, 50 ball bingo, 30 ball bingo, and others.
There are quite a few variations now, but perhaps not quite so many as you would expect given how easy it would be to create new games with the technology available these days.
Afterall, there are literally thousands of online slots out there, all basically doing the same thing but with different themes and features, so why does bingo only have a handful of variations to play with?
Don’t we deserve better than this?
Let’s take a look.
The Many Different Bingo Variations
It would be good to take stock of exactly which types of bingo are available to us here in the UK before we go any further, so let’s explore what’s already out there.
The obvious place to start is good old 90 ball bingo. It’s the bingo hall stalwart, it never lets us down, giving us a perfectly balanced mix of timing and enjoyment. 90 ball bingo doesn’t take too long to play, but makes us feel like we have got our moneys worth out of each and every game. Each ticket contains 15 numbers on a 9×3 layout, and you can win a row, two rows, or a full house.
Moving down to 80 ball bingo, and we have a game that is a little quicker, very flexible but quite niche. Each ticket has 16 numbers with no gaps, and four colours are used to distinguish the vertical rows on the 4×4 layout. There are multiple ways to win in 80 ball bingo, so you need to pay attention and make sure you know what qualifies and what doesn’t. The potential for confusion and mistaken claims may be why 80 ball bingo is not played so often.
75 ball bingo is the all American variation, and is played on a 5×5 layout with 24 numbers covering all the squares but the one in the centre, which is ‘free’. Well known for allowing wins for creating crazy shapes, like an aeroplane, a cocktail glass, or a turtle, as well as more traditional lines and full houses, 75 ball bingo can be a bit wackier than other game types.
You can think of 50 ball bingo as a mini version of 90 ball bingo. It takes half as long to play a game, and the tickets are much smaller, using a 5×2 layout with 10 numbers covering every space on the ticket. Winning is via a line or a full house. That’s it. Not widely available.
Moving into what might be considered ‘speed bingo’ territory, we have 40 ball bingo. There are 8 numbers laid out across a 4×2 grid, but they really make the most out of winning possibilities. Lines and a full house are in there, but four corners/all left all right are also sometimes an option.
Only used online and usually with some fairly left field theme as well, 36 ball bingo doesn’t really look like bingo at all in most cases, especially since you can only buy 1 ticket per game. Games are very quick, and the full house is the only way to win, but there are often communal and/or progressive jackpots attached.
Last but not least, we have 30 ball bingo, otherwise known as speed bingo. It’s played on a 3×3 layout so there are 9 numbers on the card (it’s like a mini 75 ball game), and games are over almost as soon as they have started. Full house tends to be the only way to win, although some online bingo providers have the odd pattern thrown in there.
You can probably already see that there is a decent amount of variation in there in terms of how each game is played, they aren’t all just the same but with a different number of balls to draw from.
So, why did these sorts of innovative bingo variations stop being created? After all, there are hundreds of numbers.
Creating Different Types of Bingo
It’s clear that creating new types of bingo is possible, but what do you need to do in order to create one? Perhaps, the problem is that it is just too difficult?
Well no, not really. You just need to pick a number – 100 ball bingo, 77 ball bingo, 65 ball bingo – create a card and prize structure, and you’re off. New bingo game – yay!
Sure, it takes a bit of number crunching, but the people who run bingo networks and bingo halls know how to do that, so this clearly isn’t what’s stopping them.
Plus, new bingo games do still come out, but what is ‘new’ about them isn’t the number of balls being used, but the theme or skin that is given to the game.
As an obvious example, think of Fluffy Favourites or Rainbow Riches, these are bingo games with a twist, and maybe with extra features like a jackpot or something, but not a new version of bingo itself.
So developers aren’t averse to creating new games using existing bingo formats either.
What is stopping them coming up with new types of bingo then?
Now, full disclosure, we haven’t done the maths here, but perhaps the most profitable bingo formats have already been created, and anything new would be harder to make money from?
Even if this wasn’t the case, justifying the effort and expense that goes into creating a brand new bingo game would be difficult if there wasn’t great demand for it, which there isn’t currently.
People are generally happy with the options out there, and tend to get more excited by branded versions of existing formats, like Coronation Street bingo or Deal or No Deal bingo. This is fine, but new hit TV shows and game shows don’t come around very often, and therefore the frequency of bingo games based on them won’t be as great either.
Bingo tends to follow trends rather than start them, which is why successful slots get bingo variations, for example – the developers know people like the game, and they think it could also work for a bingo audience.
However, creating a whole new bingo format for the game is a risk, so they use an existing format that they know people like already.
Lack of Players
Online bingo is booming overall, but on a site by site basis it can be a struggle to get enough players to sign up.
We don’t notice it as much as players because all sites run on bingo networks, which pool players from many different sites together, so rooms can be full even if the site you’re playing from is not busy.
Even then, at some points in the day bingo rooms feel very empty indeed, so creating more games and therefore more rooms would only exacerbate this issue.
Who wants to play a bingo game with only 2 other players? Bingo is supposed to be social which that definitely wouldn’t be, it would be very boring, not to mention the fact that the prize pool would be pennies.
Better to have fewer games that are busy, than more games that are empty.
Too Much Variety
If you watch Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, you’ll know that a menu with too many options on it is no good. The customer gets confused about what to choose, and the kitchen gets overwhelmed with too many different things to make.
Well, maybe it’s the same with bingo games.
If we had a different bingo format for every 5 numbers (10 ball, 15 ball, 20 ball, etc) how would we ever pick what to play? We would never try anything different because it would be overwhelming.
This would also create a problem in terms of player numbers as described above. The online bingo community is big, but not big enough to fill millions of bingo rooms running hundreds of different bingo variations.
Plus, the differences between them would be paper thin. 90 ball and 75 ball bingo are very different games, but 76 ball and 77 ball… what could you realistically do to make these games distinct?
Are we Stuck with the Same Types of Bingo Forever?
Fingers crossed no, but don’t be grumpy about it.
30 years ago, pre-internet, you had 90-ball bingo and that was about it in most bingo halls. You might have found the odd 75 ball game in places, or perhaps another variation, but they certainly weren’t common and they certainly weren’t as plentiful as they are now.
In terms of variety, bingo players have never had it so good, and we largely have the internet to thank for that.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be excited about what the future may hold though, and while it doesn’t seem likely that a new stream of bingo formats are going to come flooding in over the next few years, innovation comes back around to everything eventually.
Yes developers may currently focus much more on slots and table games and the like, and yes the bingo industry doesn’t attract as much spending as other forms of gambling, but things can change.
In another 30 years who knows what different types of bingo will be available.
You could also flip this on its head and ask why you don’t diversify the games you play?
There are bingo elements being introduced to some slot games (or bingo themes at least), and games like Slingo or Mega Ball (a live casino game) have undeniable similarities to bingo despite being different games.
It’s not just one way traffic here, bingo is being integrated into other types of games as well as other types of games being integrated into the bingo world.