VR Gaming & The High Street By Luke Haward, CDC Gaming Reports June 14, 2018 at 1:00 am Virtual Reality has come too far by now for it not to be the future. The sad unspoken fact behind the curtain is that it has too many military applications to ever suffer a total short out in investment; if only for that reason, the money will continue to flow. Happily, the gaming potential also is essentially unbounded, though perhaps some few years away from showing its true colours. Virtual casinos themselves, though still few and far between currently, are the very beginning of what we’ll see in the virtual environment longer-term. What we’re far more likely to see sudden progression with is the virtual equivalent of loot boxes. More immersive gaming is just around the corner, and the opportunities for risk and reward in development are very real. Some proponents of the benefits behind virtual gaming suggest that, aside from the obvious incentive of a massive discount for operators on real estate overheads, VR is much easier to police than live casino play. With the advent of the blockchain, there are systems on the way in which offer ironclad protections against the likes of fraudulent wagering, identity theft, and even additional checkpoints for the monitoring of problem gamblers. Whether up-and-coming developers seize on these opportunities is another matter. Uptake in the early years looks set to be shoddy and piecemeal: many initial offerings are of course free play money only, and early real money releases are for the most part in beta mode. (Speaking of real estate, some indication of the vast territory ahead of us is the financial investment in virtual real estate, with some buyers sinking hundreds of thousands of real dollars into space in as-yet-undeveloped virtual spaces, including major investments to run casinos in those spaces. Decentraland’s ICO launch hit its $35 million target in seconds and is growing absurdly quickly.)As I write, a number of gambling options exist for my humble Oculus Go, a stand-alone cousin of the original PC-based Rift designed to allow a player into virtual realms for less than £200 and to do so without any assistance from a powerful gaming PC. This second-generation technology has been joined by offerings from Google (the Daydream) and HTC (the Vive Standalone) and all are engaged in the same project: drive the entry price down for commercial VR, pull in far more users, and move from there. It’s an obvious target for this second wave after initial uptake on the first commercial generation proved limited, at least partially due to the price point for entry, which included the need for a four-figure gaming PC set-up in addition to the cost of peripherals. Sadly, most of the current options which exist for my headset are of the VR casino variety, with no really savage-looking poker apps yet on display. Poker VR is the go-to choice in the current Oculus library, but that’s strictly play money. I’ve seen an in-development model called MetaTable which does offer the option to purchase additional chips, but there are still only in-app purchases available, just as in another recent offering, Casino: VR. This will change, but it’ll take further acceptance of the medium to really fuel it. We’re already seen Tonkaaaa showcasing the beta of private table-oriented Bolt Poker on his hugely popular Twitch stream, with many viewers typing out “this is the future!” in the accompanying chat. VR will ultimately prove to have much more than novelty value, and in reality it’ll be the gambling industry that finances a lot of what will cause mainstream gaming platforms to pick it up, since casino gaming companies stand to be some of the early winners from the medium.Imagine a casino you can wander through and play on two thousand gaming machines and two hundred table games (some with live dealers, some with virtual live dealers) without leaving your seat. First-generation models provide what’s called motion tracking and require perhaps 5×5 feet per terminal, but many of these second-generation systems dispense with that and allow the controller to simulate forward motion and turning. While less immersive, it’ll appeal in terms of space requirements for land-based ventures. I do believe that, given five or ten years, VR may play a key role in saving the high street from ruin. It won’t only be gaming operators featuring VR systems, in fact: the rest of the high street may do it too. Entering a space where you could view 100 times more stock than is possible to have on hand – and try it on without moving – might be a major boost to clothes retailers, for example. Imagine a bookie shop where you could sit down in one of three virtual interfaces. The first leads you into a virtual representation of the Venetian in Vegas, and you wander its halls able to engage in countless virtual representations of the resident gaming facilities. The bookies take a cut, and the Venetian gets publicity, play, and no wear and tear. Nobody to serve at the cage or throw out. The next headset puts you in the first-person perspective of endless sportsmen and sportswomen in real, live matches, and you can bet on what happens to them (you). Or you can switch out of first person and watch the match with buddies in a virtual room, ALA V-time, one of the first virtual social spaces (and currently already available on the Oculus Go.) The third headset will drop you into a virtual realm unlike the others, which seems at first to have nothing to do with gambling. You’ll be an elf in a mythical story, or a deep-sea creature, or the captain of a spaceship, and you’ll have tremendous powers and responsibilities and an option to risk it all on the roll of a cosmic die. There’ll be a special cloak available that prevents your real-time opponents from perceiving you, and it’ll only cost a fraction of a dollar. What fraction you ask? Roll the dice and see. There will be a million ways for money and gambling to insert themselves into deep virtual play. Some of them will be forced and hackneyed. Others will be streamlined, fit for purpose, and in some way add dimension or reality to the game played. All will be attempted as VR enters the mainstream. AR, or augmented reality, also will play a crucial role, although that one is even harder to predict. Some believe AR will ultimately be much bigger than virtual reality, although it will also present some serious challenges to land-based casinos, as players start attempting to use it to cheat the security systems in place. My prediction? VR is a fantastic bet: a game form you will be able, as a developer, to approach from a thrilling array of different angles, and a slow burner, one we’ll see as a rising star with increased public uptake over the decade ahead of us.