The world of iGaming is fast becoming more immersive than ever before. With so many online casinos operational today, the marketplace has become increasingly saturated.
Differentiation is the key to enticing new customers and maintaining existing ones. Virtual Reality (VR) gaming is being increasingly employed by iGaming brands to transport their audiences to life-like land-based casino environments, which provide the most realistic gaming experience without players having to leave the confines of their own home.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of VR gaming, let us try and paint the picture for you. Imagine you could don a headset and transport yourself to a new, three-dimensional environment that you can interact with.
Small sensors are fitted to an accompanying handset that records all your movements and translates it into the 3D virtual environment. VR should not be confused with augmented reality (AR), however.
While VR offers a full digital recreation of a three-dimensional environment, AR overlays virtual 3D elements to enhance real-world experiences.
Most VR experiences are delivered through wearable technology. Head-mounted displays such as the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift are sound and lightproof and are fitted with LED screens and a 360-degree sound system that aids users’ spatial awareness in the virtual world.
The Oculus Rift has positional and rotational tracking, allowing players to wear the headset and move around, even if they are sitting down in their real-world environment.
Top software pioneers of the iGaming industry, Microgaming, developed a prototype for VR roulette back in 2016 at the ICE Totally Gaming exhibition. Players were asked to don an Oculus Rift headset to be transported into outer space to play at a roulette table with a robotic dealer.
Aside from VR table games, developers have also worked hard on VR slot titles, such as Jack and the Beanstalk, aimed at owners of the rudimentary Google Cardboard VR headset. It’s quite possible that virtual reality could soon converge into the world of online poker too.
Leading network PokerStars, which also operates its own iGaming platform – the PokerStars Casino – has already dabbled with VR competitions and giveaways at previous live tournaments in Monte Carlo.
Of course, one of the main drawbacks of VR gaming at present is the cost of purchasing the necessary hardware. The Oculus Rift is set at a recommended retail price of £399 while its competitor, the Samsung Gear VR (which is only compatible with Samsung smartphones), is available to buy online at around a tenth of the price of the Oculus Rift.
It will take time for VR wearable tech to become mainstream, but once it does it could transform the world of iGaming and pose a serious threat to bricks-and-mortar casinos.
There’s no doubt that the concept of VR casino games is fascinating even to traditional land-based casino-goers. But whether these individuals are prepared to fork out hundreds of pounds to acquire their own headsets to experience VR in their own homes remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, this ground-breaking technology will certainly appeal to the next generation of casino players, who may be more inclined to play in virtual environments than to step into a high street casino.
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