Recent projections from Juniper Research have indicated that virtual reality gambling wagers are set to soar substantially over the next five years.
Estimations for 2016 are that gross wagers will hit $58.5m (£47.76m), but this figure will climb 800% by 2021 to approximately $520m (£425m).
It is deployments in the casino space that are expected to play a significant role in the growth, with players visiting online casinos demanding captivating and real-life-resembling environments in which to play games like blackjack and roulette.
We have previously touched on the role that 5G technology on mobile devices will play in the future of the online gaming industry, in terms of the speed of streaming, stability of servers and latency upgrades to reduce the time delay between networked points.
But another critical factor to help bring online casinos closer to the real thing is the availability and detail within virtual reality hardware:
Reaching The Masses
Progress is already being made to ensure that virtual reality products are not solely available to the rich and famous, with some headsets now more affordable to the wider public (although they still cost sizeable sums in the region of £500).
With the products only likely to generate additional mass market acceptance as they become more commonly recognised, the pressure will then be on providers to ensure greater affordability.
And with this, the cheaper options should not suffer from flaws such as drastically lower visual resolution, a less detailed virtual world or a lack of finished polish.
The projections above are moderate and on the assumption that a decent chunk of the possible market will struggle to reap the rewards because of the costs of equipment.
For example, to successfully use some of the headsets currently entering the market, individuals also need access to a certain calibre of computer or model of gaming device.
Therefore, the expectation is that small-stakes casino-game players may end up marginalised, with the high rollers more able to afford expensive hardware. This will obviously slow the pace of the growth.
Among the biggest players in the virtual reality market at present are Oculus, whose stock rose considerably in 2014 when they were bought out for $2bn in 2014 by Facebook. Sony and Samsung are other big technology companies already laying the foundations towards a virtual reality future.
The focus so far has related to the comfort of the headsets, with the content side of the products still having untapped potential. This is reasonable for now as the virtual reality sphere still possesses a clear novelty value.
Users will be happy to play fetch with a dog or climb to the summits of mountain peaks for now but, as this wears off, the pressure will be on the depth of the games on offer.
With the casino industry expected to profit more than most, there is a case that forming allegiances with technological companies represents a sensible idea.
Marketing expert Brandon Gaille highlighted last year that “people in the 36-50 age demographic are more likely to play slot machine games than any other age demographic”, while “younger gamblers prefer to play traditional or electronic versions of blackjack” and “people who go to a casino to play craps are the most likely to also gamble online”.
It is unlikely that any virtual reality developments in the immediate future will be done with the older age group in mind, as these are the least likely to indulge and familiarise themselves with new technologies.
Yet they represent a noteworthy portion of the casino-game-playing population. By working closely with technology companies, casinos can ensure that this age group are better catered for.
Meanwhile, for those younger casino visitors in their early 20s, a direct replica of a real casino environment, especially one that directly resembles one of the monster Las Vegas resorts would undoubtedly be attractive.
But there is also the possibility that the imaginations of this demographic may also demand a new reality.
In the same way that the classic board game of Monopoly is available in numerous varieties, ranging from an ABBA edition, to a Hershey’s Collector’s edition to a Taiwan Here and Now edition, the virtual casino environments could offer a rich selection of choice.
Whether this be having a quick slots spin at the top of a ski jump, to betting at roulette while surrounded by topless women or playing blackjack in the White House, the options are endless.
Only by working closely with those directly involved in the virtual reality revolution will casino operators be able to make the most of developments.