Virtual reality: the advocate’s view
Alexandre Tomic argues that casino players will quickly see beyond the initial distractions to embrace the immersive possibilities of VR, while also transforming how the casino is managed.
Since the 1980s, people have been hungering for virtual reality, catching glimpses of the incredible experiences portrayed in films and letting their imagination do the rest. It is therefore natural that the minute VR has started to become a viable option, people are scrabbling to get their hands on it in any way they can – and the obvious entry point for many is gaming.
It is commonly acknowledged that the more realistic a game, the more engaged the player, the longer they stay playing, and the more successful the game is. Virtual reality provides access to levels of immersive experience that no gaming platform has been able to offer to date, and it is for that reason that gaming operators are starting to take notice.
VR may not be in wide circulation yet, but some companies are looking at opportunities to enter into the field now in order to be ready once VR becomes more widely accepted.
As technology progresses, it is expected that the immersive nature of VR will see it quickly surpass the gaming experiences of today. Players within a VR casino are already capable of playing poker with friends, cheering each other on as they play slots, or watching Netflix on a VR iPad, for example. They can communicate with other users via a chat feature or talk in person with support agents to ask for help, clarification on security issues, or be granted bonuses.
Soon, affiliates will be able to bring players directly into virtual casinos. Features like these make for smoother gameplay, a better customer experience and a more enjoyable time within the casino.
Aside from the benefits VR can bring to customer service, it also provides a far more immersive experience in-game. At the moment, online slots are played by the user in their home in front of a computer screen. Current VR allows them to play, yes, inside a casino, but still in front of a slot machine.
The next step for VR, however, will place the player inside the slot, with the different features of the game comprising the universe around them, and the reels floating in front of them. An environment this immersive could engage players so much that they may not want to leave.
Even more impressive than the impact on the players, though, is the way VR could revolutionise how we do business within the gambling industry. Instead of going to the office, staff could manage the casino from inside, communicating face-to-face with colleagues they would otherwise speak to through Skype, improving their perspective of the casino’s inner workings.
Managers may see a different version to that of players; fewer graphics but more data, including players’ spending and whether they are winning or losing, and could then award bonuses and recommend slots based on this information. Interactivity like this will help casino staff to understand their clients’ needs, giving them a much-needed edge in an industry as competitive as ours is.
In addition to gaming, VR offers huge potential benefits in fields such as medicine; helping surgeons train and patients overcome fears, to give just two examples; and education, providing an immersive, distraction-free environment and allowing students to attend school from anywhere.
It is also used by military training programs, for visualising prototypes in the automotive industry, and in architecture for creating virtual models, as well as helping astronauts prepare for trips into space.
Similarly, HR managers in other industries could interview prospective new employees in virtual meetings, and VR will also be useful in training new employees, reducing business travel and offering retail customers a better experience by allowing them to fully explore the product before buying it.
There are high costs currently associated with VR, which is why we predict that the early adopters will be the Millennial generation, who may already have invested in the necessary technology. The costs will decrease over time, though, and the benefits of VR will far outweigh these.
In the casino industry, there is the possibility that players may be distracted from the games and simply want to explore or marvel at the technology the first time they use the goggles. However, as players become accustomed to the new reality, the novelty will wear off and they will focus not only on playing the games, but also receiving a much more immersive experience than ever before.
The new version of Oculus to be released in June includes enhanced luminosity, wider images and pixels magnified by x20, all of which will make the experience even more realistic.
Eventually, a large part of the world’s population is expected to be using VR during working hours, staff and users alike sharing the VR world. In the casino, the playground of the consumers will become the workplace of the industry, and it is clear that VR is now about more than just playing games; it is a new way to do business.
Alexandre Tomic is co-founder of ALEA Gaming, which operates the virtual reality casion SlotsMillion and specialised affiliate programme Affiliate Republik.