The gaming industry is one of the more fertile grounds as far as innovation is concerned, and virtual reality (VR) headsets already look like the beginnings of a new tech revolution. VR has a large following on PC and mobile in particular but what can it do for the more social experiences like multiplayer gaming?

While multiplayer titles do exist on VR platforms, with Minecraft and Elite Dangerous a few of the more notable options, the relative newness of VR means that developers are still finding out its capabilities. For that reason, the industry with arguably the most to gain from VR – casino – doesn’t have much of a presence on headsets like the Oculus Rift.

Customizable Avatars

A recent article from bgo about the future of poker intimated that the online version of the game lowers barriers for entry, offering a less daunting experience for newcomers than a physical table. VR, therefore, can create another bridge between the online and offline worlds, with the potential to introduce things like reading body language back into mobile and web-based experiences.

The addition of customizable avatars could give players a greater presence in a social VR game, creating a more casino-like atmosphere and fostering interaction between players. A good example is Oculus Avatars, an initiative that could one day give players a version of themselves to play with in a game.

An offshoot of Avatars and a good demonstration of how social aspects could work in VR is Oculus Parties – a virtual room for players to meet and talk. It’s easy to imagine a recreation of a casino lobby making its way to VR in future, with players able to “walk” from game to game, interacting with others they meet on the way.

The above could be significant in combating trolls and griefers as well; players may be less inclined to misbehave if they can be seen and interacted with. However, it’s worth noting that even requiring users to use their real name on YouTube didn’t exactly turn the video sharing site into a bastion of good behavior.

VR Experiences

One of the most exciting developments around VR and casino is spectating. For example, the World Series of Poker could theoretically sell tickets for VR experiences, in which fans could watch a competitive poker table as though they were sitting in the stands or even at the table itself, next to their favorite pros. The virtual environment also represents an opportunity for brands and their ambassadors – like bgo’s Verne Troyer – to get involved with their customers.

It’s a good bet that the spectating of eSports will be the next big thing in VR, given that an audience for similar content (streaming games) already exists on Twitch.

VR does have a mountain to climb in one respect though – pricing. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have price tags befitting brand new technology, with the latter costing the best part of a thousand dollars. Consequently, growth is likely to come in the mobile device market first, with the Samsung Gear VR costing around $75 and Google Cardboard at $20.

So, to answer the question in the title, VR casino is an untapped niche at present, with both developers and fans limited by the steep cost of entry. Brands offering VR games are rare; Pink Casino and 21, for example, carry many of the more modern games, like live blackjack and roulette, but not VR (or eSports betting, for that matter).

Sure, there are some VR poker games out there but they’re much closer to a proof of concept than a full-fledged experience, and cash games are virtually non-existent. The existing developments combined, inclusive of avatars, social rooms, and multiplayer gaming, are a promising start to a brand new area of gaming, though.

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