The battle for virtual reality (VR) supremacy is now very much underway with Facebook and Google bringing their headsets to the UK market for the first time in the run up to Christmas. The former is targeting the techie user with Oculus Rift, a powerful and expensive (£529) device that needs to be hooked up to an equally powerful and expensive desktop computer, while the latter is going after the casual user with its simple and cheap (£69) Daydream View device which syncs up with a user’s smartphone.
They are two very different products for two very different types of player, but both will bring VR into the mainstream and provide the best chance for the tech to finally be embraced by the masses. The devices also provide the best chance yet for online casino operators and suppliers to work with virtual reality, push the boundaries, and see what can be achieved on the platform. Some have been banging the VR drum for some time already, but others now need to get in on the action.
Those who do and can crack the code will be able to offer their players an experience above and beyond what they can find elsewhere, while those who don’t risk falling firmly behind the curve. Below are three ways virtual reality can enhance and improve the experience of online casino players.
When done properly, VR allows online casino operators to immerse players in a digital world that is far more engaging than the one outside of the goggles. The headsets themselves cocoon players, and prevent them from being distracted by external influences, such as their mobile phone ringing or an email dropping into their inbox. Early iterations of VR casinos are impressive to say the least, with operators and developers fine tuning their sites so that they are as real and lifelike as possible.
Players can walk around the casino floor and interact and engage with dealers, security staff, waiters and waitresses. They can spin the reels on slots machines, or pick up tablet devices to play their favourite casino games. They can take a break from gambling and watch a show, or catch a game on one of the sportsbook TVs. The devil is in the detail, however, and developers need to invest time and resources in ensuring their digital casino floors are a match, and in many ways, surpass what players can find in the real world.
In the battle of the headsets, this is where Oculus Rift has a huge advantage. The computing power required to deliver this digital environment is pretty mega at this stage, and certainly not something mobile devices can handle. Players wanting this level of immersion will have to play via desktop computers and link them up to the more complex and expensive VR headsets. For those looking for a more fun, lite, casual VR experience, a growing number of operators are offering VR apps as a way of introducing their players to the tech.
Online casino operators have long struggled to push players between different games – slots to casino, casino to sports, sports to bingo, etc. When it comes to it, players know what they like and it takes a lot to persuade them to try something new. Millions of dollars are spent via various marketing campaigns and tools to try and change that, but often with limited success. But VR has the potential to drive cross-sell in a way that operators and markets can’t achieve at this stage.
By creating an immersive and authentic casino floor, players will not just be interested in wagering on their favourite slots games but also exploring the environment around them. And like in any real-world casino on the Las Vegas strip, by walking around they will discover new and different games they may not play regularly or at all. In a VR casino, players can be enticed to these games with pop-up offers and bonuses, but in a much less invasive way than traditional marketing methods allow.
The VR environment itself acts as a cross-sell tool, with various features and points of interactivity used to push players towards games they may not usually engage with. If they walk passed a blackjack table and a couple of players are on a winning streak, they may decide to sit down and play, especially if they get a 10% cash back bonus for doing so.
The key to a best-in-class VR casino experience is to ensure the player doesn’t have to remove their headset/goggles at any time while playing. For operators, this means they must build in customer service and support functions that seamlessly blend into the game, and don’t require players to click out of the casino and into other tabs. It is a challenge, for sure, but has the potential to change the way operators and players engage and interact, and very much for the better.
But how exactly should they do this? Imagine a player has a problem with their account. In a traditional online casino they will click out of the game, find the help tab or chat function, and speak with a customer service agent. But in a VR casino this doesn’t work; customer service agents need to be on hand on the virtual casino floor and ready to engage with players no matter what issue they may have. They also need to be able to resolve them quickly so they can continue playing without breaking the VR spell.
The same can be said for affiliates. There will become a time when they literally walk players into the VR casino and, again, will be on hand to discuss the different games available, how they work, which offer the best return to player and so on. The way VR allows players to connect with operators, customer service agents, and affiliates will not only enhance the experience for the end user, but keep them engaged and playing for much longer than is currently the case with traditional online casinos.
Of course, this level of immersion and interaction are still a long way off but operators looking to fully capitalise on the opportunities VR present need to really start dialling in on the technology. Oculus Rift, Daydream View and the raft of other goggles and headsets now on the market mean the technology is here and ready to showcase platforms and products built around VR and what it can offer.