For most industry watchers, the introduction of virtual reality into the world of online casinos games has been an inevitable development. After all, the industry has always led from the front when it comes to adopting new technologies, and been at the cutting edge when it comes to finding applications for the latest developments — consider the dramatic impact that HTML5 has had on the accessibility of online casino games across multiple platforms, for instance, or how improved mobile technology has significantly changed the approach to the design and functionality of slots games.
The driver behind the online gaming industry’s willingness to explore and embrace the latest technology is that its success depends primarily on both attracting new players and retaining existing ones. And increasingly, greater levels of player engagement are seen as the most effective way of achieving this aim.
The most successful names in casino software development have a proven track record in doing this, despite ever-growing competition, and therefore, as VR is a way of taking player engagement to the next level, the biggest game producers’ moves into VR casino games is not unexpected.
This is not to say that VR gaming has become a fully-fledged part of the sector yet, as online casino VR is still in its infancy. This means that for most players, playing live dealer games will remain the way they recreate the feeling of playing in a bricks and mortar casino until VR casino games become more widely accessible.
The road to VR online casinos
Player engagement has always been at the heart of the online casino industry, and developers are constantly wrestling with ways in which to keep the experience of playing slots and other casino games fresh and dynamic. The evolution of the online slots game is the perfect example of this process. Although it remains at is heart a very straightforward game, the player experience is almost unrecognisable from what it was only ten years ago.
The first online slots games were essentially online re-creations of the poker machine of popular imagination — three spinning reels and a couple of flashing lights were pretty much it. But both rapidly improving technology and player expectations changed this, to the point where many online slots games now more closely resemble elaborate video games than their simple predecessors.
Likewise, developers realized that for a generation brought up on Game of Thrones and Call of Duty, they needed to embrace engaging pop culture themes for their slots games. This is why the most popular slots games today are often branded ones, featuring characters, music, and storylines based on hit TV shows and movies, successful video game heroes, or popular music icons.
However, it is also the case that for many players the social interaction land-based casinos provide is an important part of their appeal. Producers responded to this challenge by developing live dealer games, which have become an important part of the offerings of most online casinos.
Live dealer casino games are streamed in real time from either a land-based casino gaming floor or, more commonly, a purpose-built studio, and are dealt by real professional dealers with whom online players can interact. Classic casino games like blackjack, roulette and baccarat, as well as table poker games, can be played in live dealer casinos, and so this has proven to be a popular way of combining the best of both worlds, and another demonstration of the way in which the industry innovates. Live streamed slots sessions have also been another inventive method online casinos have adopted as a means of recreating the land-based casino experience in order to enhance player engagement.
Given the way that the industry responds to both technological development and the demands of players, VR online casinos are therefore rightly seen as the next logical step in this direction.
How big will VR online casinos become?
As with any emerging technology, the ultimate popularity and uptake of VR online casinos is at this stage difficult to predict with any certainty. However, recent research into the VR casino sector suggests that its growth will be both rapid and substantial.
A report published by Technavio, entitled Global VR Gambling Market 2018-2022, has predicted a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 55% across the VR gambling sector in the years to 2022. This is an industry-wide assessment, including e-sports betting and lotteries as well as online casinos, although the report’s findings suggest that it will be in the latter sector where the majority of this growth occurs. The report also predicts that much of this growth will be fueled by a rapid uptake of VR online gambling in the US, where there are already high rates of adoption of VR technology.
For players, the highly competitive nature of the market also means that we can expect developments and improvements in VR online casinos to be rapid and significant. Competition has always driven the search for improved technology in online gaming, and VR casinos will be no exception. Therefore, as impressive as the most recent VR online casinos may be, we can expect to see the industry evolve at breakneck speed as developers and operators seek to dominate this highly contested space.
If the evolution of online gaming has taught us anything, it’s that competition amongst producers always leads to an enhanced gaming experience for players. This is why VR casinos look set to become one of the most exciting new developments in the industry in recent times.