Games April 09, 2018 by Ben Pateman

HTC partners with IG to bring next level VR casino games

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There’s been no doubt in anyone’s mind that VR brings a huge amount of potential to the gambling industry. Offering experiences that are both captivating and extremely immersive, it’s really the ideal gambling platform, particularly when it comes to virtualizing the casino experience. There’s been a lot of talks, a lot of experiments, but not a huge deal of success in bringing these two worlds together in a commercial context, despite the clear consensus that it’s essentially an unstoppable force.

When it comes to consumer VR, a lot of this can be attributed to the less-than-dominant uptake VR has had in the PC market thus-far, largely attributed to the price of the hardware itself. Commercial VR solutions are a lot more promising in the short to medium term, and two giants of their respective industries – HTC and IGT – are betting money on that.

In an announcement last week, HTC VIVE unveiled a new partnership with the global gaming provider IGT with the aim of bringing VR content to brick-and-mortar casinos. They’re calling this platform the “Virtual Zone”, and within it you’ll find all manner of VR entertainment, with a welcome focus on competition over mere virtual slot machines. Indeed, casino patrons will be competing against each other for cash prizes in what would perhaps more closely resemble a VR arcade than a casino floor, adding a twist of amateur e-sports to the mix. This comes as a somewhat radical innovation in the world of VR gambling, and one that we think has a lot of potential to draw fresh crowds into casinos across the globe.

To help kick-start a diverse selection of VR experiences, IGT has also already released a set of tools to help game developers create new games – or adapt existing ones – that are compatible with the somewhat unique platform that is the Virtual Zone. One game that has already been added the mix is Arcade Saga, which is a suitably Tron-like reimagining of the classic arcade experience.

From the looks of it, these Virtual Zones may, in fact, end up having more in common with carnival games than with anything traditionally found in a casino. Where pure competitive gaming tends to focus on skill-based experiences, and casino gaming tends to focus on chance-based experiences, the classic carnival game tends to sit somewhere in-between. By harnessing these elements of skill – or, at least, the illusion of skill (no way does the ball I’m throwing really fit through that hole) – casinos can target a much wider audience, luring in patrons that would perhaps otherwise stick to game arcades.

With VR, these carnival games can be given a truly remarkable make-over: where once we were trying to toss a ring onto a bottle, now we’re firing laser beams out of our eyes into swarms of encroaching aliens. The chances of success – and the impact of player skill – can be just as opaque, but the experience itself is far more alluring. And, often, it’s the attractiveness of this make-up that makes or breaks a casino game.

The first Virtual Zone is already live at Boyd Gaming’s The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Vegas, with many more to come.

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