Online Gaming: The Pursuit of Getting Players “In The Room”
For those of us who follow the evolution of the gaming industry, there is a kind of fascination with how the online and land-based industry compete. Of course, it’s often the case that there is crossover among the two industries, but while the big Vegas casinos will have online sites, the majority of online casino operators do not have, and never will have, physical premises.
The interesting aspect is that the land-based industry never really suffered its moment of digital disruption in the same way as, say, Blockbuster video did at the hands of Netflix, or bookstores did due to the rise of Amazon. Casinos don’t close down in the same manner as brick-and-mortar stores on main street, citing the impossibility of competing with the internet. Both industries are in rude health.
The point is that playing poker, blackjack, roulette of online is something you might do, whereas going to the casino is an event; perhaps, something you would describe as momentous. That clear line marked between the two has been very important from a business perspective.
Live dealer games seen as huge success
Yet, there has always been an ambition within the online casino industry to replicate the real casino experience. As you might expect, that goal has been at least partially realized with the advent of live dealer casino games. Today, if you sign up to casino.com to experience live Hold’em, you’ll probably agree that they have made great strides in delivering on that promise. The cards, dealer, sights, sounds and strategy are the same.
Live casino has been immensely popular, giving players much more in the way of the experience of an “event” than, for example, the animated gameplay on dedicated poker sites. This is not to say that live dealer poker is better than the offerings of a poker site – any assertion like that is a subjective one – but it is much closer to the real thing than anything else we have seen online before.
Technology does not stand still, however, and the multi-billion-dollar industry in online casino game development is already firmly behind the next steps in creating experiences that truly rival the real casinos. What they want, ultimately, is to get players “in the room”; to allow you to take a seat at a virtual poker table and look into the eyes of your opponent.
VR iGaming industry set to take off
The side of the industry working on this has been tagged as VR iGaming, and the projects they are working on are surprising in their ambition. Much of it has to do with VR, of course, but there are also elements of AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality). The idea will be to eventually get everyone into the room, offering an experience that recreates real casino to such an extent that it makes little difference whether you are in Las Vegas or your bedroom.
We should make it clear that this kind of thing is not readily available yet. Software developers have been brandishing Oculus Rift Headsets, HTC Vive Pro Headsets and Touch Controllers at exhibitions, but it might be a few years before it is all readily available.
Perhaps surprisingly, online casinos are not alone in pursuing this kind of technology. The land-based casino industry is also looking to bring such experiences to life. The reason? Millennials. Land-based operators have realized that millennials are not as enthused about playing games of cards and dice as generations past, and they believe that the virtual experience might be the key to sustaining the industry.
Does the above mean that we will one day eschew the traditional way of playing casino games? Will sitting at the table chatting to the croupier with a cocktail be a thing of the past? Perhaps. But not in the way you might think. Why would millennials go to a casino to play the same games but in a virtual format?
Well, that’s the key. The industry has realized that the future of the casino industry is not to find novel ways to replicate classic games of the past, but to offer something entirely different: Skill games; gambling adventure games, where you defeat monsters for cash; playing poker in a virtual saloon that puts you in the Wild West. This is the type of experience they are aiming for. There will always be room for the classics, of course. But the pursuit of technology will soon look beyond getting players in the room, and put them somewhere else entirely.