Virtual reality or VR, it’s the next logical step in the world of gambling; or is it? Do online poker players want the full VR experience or are they happy with the way things are? Could we ever see the day when playing Texas Hold ’em in a virtual world would seem a more attractive option than hitting the local casino? Well, if history is anything to go by, poker players would be quite open to the option, but why hasn’t it happened yet?
Well, before we answer those questions, let’s first take a look at the state of the online gambling industry today.
Online Casinos Today
Back in 2009, the size of the online gambling market was just over $20 billion. This year, that figure is expected to reach almost $52 billion. So, to say that the online gambling market is enjoying a bit of a boom would be an understatement. Betting and casino providers the world over have been quick to realize that if they want their fair share of the market, they must provide convenient and secure online options for their players.
In fact, since Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP back in 2003, what is known as “the Moneymaker effect” has seen a massive rise not only in online poker providers but also casinos offering a variety of games. From video slots to blackjack, if you can play it at the casino down the street, then the chances are you can also play it at your favorite online casino.
And with over 2.4 billion people on the planet now using smartphones, never before has it been more convenient to play casino games. It’s likely this convenience factor rather than the popularity of the games themselves that has seen such an increase in the industry market value. But what about VR?
The truth is that there have already been plenty of moves into the VR world, with several game titles released over the years. Except for one that involves scantily-clad players, there have been no games that have used real live action in their games. Yes, there are quite a few titles where players will sit down opposite CGI players, but these have a decided video game feel to them.
Now, before you say it, yes, VR titles are often video games of sorts, and that is possibly where the problem lies, but more on that later.
Current Online Casino Tech and Features
Without a doubt, the most popular online casino game now is poker. Online poker is a little different to other online games as there is a definite crossover between the real-world professional circuit and the online world. Such makes for an exciting environment for players who may get lucky and find themselves playing against a pro. Also, there are many online tournaments that offer seats for live events as prizes. But as for features and tech, there aren’t too many to talk of as most online providers like to stick with what they know. They provide straightforward and uncomplicated games with simple features and controls.
However, some providers like to engage their players with some intriguing features. One such provider is online poker platform 888Poker, which has been known to push the boundaries when it comes to exciting in-game features. Their SNAP game offers players the opportunity to leave a table and start a new game at another table the moment they fold, which cuts down on waiting time. These kinds of slick features are the types of things that are keeping poker players quite happy with things the way they are and to be honest, who can blame them.
And like we said, most platforms don’t bother too much with innovative features and don’t seem too eager to do so. Features such as the ones in the SNAP game we mentioned above are often outside the norm and possibly why 888Poker have a user base of over 10 million registered players.
Why It’s Not Happening Yet
Remember those CGI avatars we mentioned earlier with that video game feel to them? Well, the thing is that most serious casino game players (we are talking poker here) care only about the game and their strategy. If they can see their cards and place a bet, then they are happy enough. They don’t see much difference between current poker rooms and a VR room with cool cartoon-style players.
And this is where we believe game publishers are doing it wrong. Give poker players the opportunity to play in a VR room with live action actors, and you might see them taking more of an interest. Create a virtual casino world that gives them the complete casino experience, and they’ll be far more likely to pick up an Oculus Rift.
Then there’s the cash element. Without placing bets on their games, real players lose interest in games rather quickly. It’s something that is missing from current VR integration attempts, and even if it were available, players (poker enthusiasts or otherwise) would be highly unlikely to play for cash with an untrusted provider which leads us to our conclusion.
Will it ever happen?
That depends entirely on the willingness of the industry heavyweights to get involved. It’s all well and good when game developers create new titles that are fun to play, but it will take a major player to get on board before others can trust a VR casino. As we mentioned, you can have all the impressive gameplay in the world, but it’s all for nothing if a player can’t choose to play for money. Without that, it’s another video game.
Perhaps one day a leading casino provider will dip their toes in the VR world, and if it does happen, then we can expect their counterparts to follow suit. But in truth, the world of online gambling is booming right now, and players seem quite content with the options that are available at present to them. It’s a situation that begs the question “Why change?”