2017 will be the year virtual reality (VR) takes the world by storm. With headsets and goggles such as Oculus Rift and Google Daydream View now available to UK consumers, the technology will quickly make its way into homes and business across the country. From watching porno to playing video games, VR immerses users in digital world that is more engaging, entertaining and exciting than the one outside of the goggles. I remember the first time I tried on a headset – I became hypnotised by a table leg such was the attention to detail and minutia built into the game by developers.
Oculus and Daydream are the VR heavyweights, and will see Facebook (which owns Oculus) and Google slug it out over market dominance. At this stage, the devices are going after opposite ends of the market – Facebook the techie with cash to burn (device price, £529) and Google the casual consumer (device price £69) – but the fact both have invested heavily in VR is evidence of the potential they believe the technology to have with users the world over. By targeting both ends of the spectrum they will ensure that, over time, devices become more affordable while the power and technology continues to improve.
The price is not the only difference between the two devices. Daydream View is constructed from a light fabric and uses a smartphone to deliver the VR experience to players through apps available to download to the phone. Oculus, on the other hand, has to be synced up to a powerful computer but can deliver a truly mind blowing experience. Think Daydream as a gateway to the more explosive, hardcore experience offered by Oculus. Of course, there are other devices – Samsung Gear VR and Sony Playstation VR – that offer a sort of middle ground, and at a more reasonable price.
It is still early days for VR, but already the online gaming and gambling industries are leading the charge when it comes to designing and creating content for the platform. Developers have been hard at work for a number of years now tweaking and fettling games that can be brought to life by slipping on a headset and entering a virtual world. They are also rolling-out new tools and features that better engage players with games, and help to make it a more social experience. This is particularly the case when it comes to game lobbies, allowing users to walk around and interact like never before.
According to online casino affiliate site, Jackpot.co.uk, VR allows game developers to create an authentic casino floor where players can interact with waiters, hostesses, dealers, and security staff. They can walk around the slots machines and poker tables, taking in the atmosphere or choosing to roll the dice themselves. As they would in any casino on the Las Vegas strip, they can visit a sports book and watch a game while placing a bet on whether their favourite team will win. They can also chat with other punters or players, and talk to customer services agents if they have any queries about their account.
Don’t break the spell
The key to building games for virtual reality – whether gambling or other – is to ensure the VR spell is not broken. The headsets go a long way to helping with this as they prevent the user being distracted by outside influences, such as a phone call or advert popping up on the screen. But that is also why it is so important for game developers to get inventive with how they go about building key features – customer support, account information, etc – into the game. You want to avoid your player having to leave the playing space and removing their goggles to ask a question or add money into their account.
It is also important to think about what sort of games work in a VR environment; role-playing games are a no-brainer, and slots and casino games also align with the tech nicely too. In a VR casino, players can expect to find slots machines that come to life, showering them with symbols from the reels and cash if they win big. The interactive environment also allows them to use tablet devices located around the casino to play various games. Jackpot says this also helps to market new games and products to players by allowing them to walk round the gaming floor and to watch the action taking place at the various tables.
Online casino operator 888casino.com goes one step further and in a blog post says VR is a great way of introducing people to the world of real-money betting for the first time. Those who would like to enter a casino but are unsure about how games work and the protocols and procedures that come with certain games can try out a virtual casino before taking on the real thing. For those serious about their gaming/gambling, VR also lets them hone their skills in an environment that is authentic and real above and beyond what standard online casino, poker and sportsbooks offer them.
The next 12 months will see virtual reality have something of a breakthrough moment, driven by Oculus and Daydream and the raft of new games and sites built to make the most of the technology. According to research firm Jupiter, VR wagers will hit $58.5million in 2016 alone, and rise to more than $520million by 2021 – an 800% increase over just five years. Online gaming and gambling firms have only just scratched the surface when it comes to VR; there is so much more that can be done as the technology improves and heads towards widespread adoption.
So sit down, strap on your goggles, and hold tight – it’s going to be one hell of a ride.