Pretty much all of the major casino software designers have been hard at work developing both games and a casino ‘experience’ to make use of the emergent virtual reality technology. An awful lot of money has been invested in the potential for VR to be at the center of next generation online gambling, and to some extent, it is actually already with us. Industry observers remain slightly split on how they expect VR to pan out with online casinos.
A majority believe that considering the sums invested, there’s simply no way it’ll be allowed to not take off. Yet a growing minority suggest that the technology itself is simply too expensive for the mass market and that it may be decades rather than years before it really becomes successful. So which school of thought is it worth listening to? Let’s start with assessing where we are at the present.
Current VR Gambling Is A Very Niche Market
While VR headsets are available off the shelf (Oculus being perhaps the best known) not many people currently own them. Consequently, this means that even though there are a couple of dedicated VR casinos now operating, they do not attract a huge amount of traffic. LuckyVR is the major player at the moment and they have around 40 VR slots for clients to enjoy. These are very simple and involve the player literally just tapping the ‘buttons’ as they would with a real world slot, just without that satisfying click! Optimists speculate that providing the tech becomes more accessible, and a wider range of interactive casino games become available, these fledgling operations could blossom into incredibly valuable companies.
Optimists speculate that providing the tech becomes more accessible, and a wider range of interactive casino games become available, these fledgling operations could blossom into incredibly valuable companies. Critics, on the other hand, point out (and not without some justification) that the slots are simply nowhere near as impressive as those that still use a 2D standard display. Will players really want to sit at a virtual slot poking away at thin air for long sessions? The jury is out.
Yet Signs Are That Better Games Are Coming Soon
When the likes of Playtech and Microgaming are committing serious resources towards VR, you’d certainly expect things are going to get much better pretty soon. Yet while that’s all well and good, the online casinos are only going to host these games providing there is a market for them. For example, what would happen if only a small number of online casinos Canada based decided to sign up for the VR versions of their games? Will it really spin a profit if the majority of casinos steer clear of VR simply because there aren’t enough players to make it worth their while?
This really is the million dollar question. Online casinos aren’t typically shy of adapting to new technology or gambling trends – just look at how so many are now offering odds on the likes of E-Sports and Virtual Horse Racing. But going to the effort of developing an entire VR subsection hosting these games (which will likely be heavy on data and bandwidth use) may not appeal to many operations. There’s a good chance that at least in these early days only small independent specialist casinos and the huge multinationals will actually host VR slots. The middle ground will likely hold back to assess uptake before committing.
Does The Smartphone Experience Really Compare To VR?
Everyone knows how smartphones breathed new life into the online slots market, and this example is used by many optimists to predict how VR will take off and revolutionize online gambling. Yet this ignores the simple fact that smartphones – at least older models – are not only far more affordable but also provide a number of essential practical uses. VR is currently a luxury.
In regards to the casino industry, there’s more than a few executives who are desperately hoping that phone contracts/packages start having VR headsets bundled in. If this happens the potential market for VR gambling could certainly explode – but so far there’s no sign of this happening anytime soon. Other entertainment and leisure sectors are equally slow to start making VR an essential part of their own industries. To put it simply – there’s not really much reason for people to currently buy VR headsets apart from the novelty factor.
Has The Gambling Industry Jumped The Gun?
As mentioned the gambling trade has always been fast to adapt to new technology. The problem with VR, however, is that all of the millions so far invested may actually end up being squandered if VR falls flat on its face yet again. Plenty of people – myself included – have predicted for a good couple of years that this tech was perfectly poised to utterly change the gambling industry. Yet despite all the investment – which could have been spent many other ways – you can’t force people to adapt to a new format.
Despite a growing sense of pessimism in some quarters, it is still too early to write off VR. If it does take off the possibilities are truly endless, but as for the timeframe – that’s still anyone’s guess. Unless prices drop drastically by the end of the decade there’s certainly a chance the gambling industry may largely mothball VR and just cut their losses for now.