Following this year’s International Casino Expo in London, it dawned on the Gamingslots team that VR (Virtual Reality) was very much becoming the real deal in the online casino market. There are now a handful of companies building their own virtual reality products for the casino industry, with a focus on delivering the true casino gaming experience in your own home. One of the leaders in casino gaming virtual reality is SlotsMillion, who have been developing a VR casino for some time now and officially launched it in 2015. We decided to catch up with Alexandre Tomic, Co-founder of SlotsMillion, to find out more about VR and what possibilities it offers for slots gaming in the future.
What is VR?
Virtual reality is a simulated environment created by a computer and viewed through virtual reality goggles. When using VR, the player is placed inside the game or the VR world instead of experiencing it through a screen, which immerses them in their surroundings and affords them a much more realistic gaming experience.
The idea of VR has been around since at least the eighties, telling stories of futuristic lifestyles in films like The Matrix and tempting people with the thought of achieving things they could previously only dream of. It is only now, though, that the technology is beginning to reach the necessary standards to provide users with a truly realistic and game-changing experience.
How will VR change the online casino gaming experience?
VR will make the online casino gaming experience much more immersive, much more social and much more interactive. In our VR casino, players are already able to use a chat feature to communicate with other users; they will soon be able to watch Netflix on their VR iPad, play poker at a table with friends and cheer each other on. Users can also contact support agents directly just by raising their hand or approaching their avatar, or get information and help from security if they are having problems with deposits. The pit boss can grant bonuses by approaching users inside the casino and, in the future, affiliates will be able to deliver players to the casino directly. All these features will allow players to experience levels of immersivity never before achieved in gaming, which makes the whole experience much more realistic and therefore much more effective.
Is your VR product ready to use now?
Yes. The pre-ordered Oculus Rift goggles came out in late March, with a consumer version scheduled to be released in April. All that was available until now were the developer kits, so up until now all our customers have been playing in 3D. Now though, we’re going to start seeing the first customers coming to play in VR with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
What do you need to play casino games in VR with SlotsMillion?
All you need to play inside the VR casino is a pair of Oculus Rift goggles, headphones and a high-spec gaming PC capable of running the software. Simply download the casino from our website onto your desktop and you’re ready to go!
How does the VR experience differ when playing slots online?
Playing slots online is a very different experience to playing inside the VR casino. In VR, it’s much more immersive, which makes it feel a lot more realistic. However at the moment, it’s too early to observe patterns in this area, for the simple reason that the preordered Oculus Rift goggles have only just been released. As previously mentioned, we have not had any customers playing in VR yet – only in 3D. As the VR becomes more accessible, we will hopefully be able to get some helpful feedback from players. But judging by the enthusiasm and fascination we’ve encountered when we’ve taken SlotsMillion VR on the road, showcasing it at exhibitions around the world, it’s clear that there is a real hunger for VR.
Are all your slots available in VR or is it limited to selected games?
We developed the first version of the VR casino in October 2015 and are expecting to release the second version in June or July this year. During the development, we realised the technology had not quite reached the required standard yet; some games didn’t work in VR because of the way they were developed and the language they were developed in – flash, for example -, so we chose which games we would adapt for VR according to those requirements. At the moment, players can choose from 40 different slots in the VR casino and can play them in either single or multiplayer mode on a traditional slot machine, or on a big cinematic screen for a more immersive experience, complete with 3D graphics upon a win on particular games. We are also currently working on a recommendation engine for the online version of SlotsMillion that will allow us to suggest games to players based upon their behaviours, in addition to having tags and filters so players can easily choose between the 1000-plus games according to their preferences.
VR still seems quite niche, when do you see it becoming more heavily adopted?
At the moment, the main hurdle to the adoption of virtual reality is the cost. Although the Oculus Rift goggles were released at a slightly higher price than originally anticipated, they are still affordable, but a high-spec gaming computer will be required to run the software and this will greatly increase the overall cost. It’s likely that the primary adopters of VR will be the millennial generation who may already have invested in this hardware, but given enough time, VR will become not only widely accepted, but necessary in the industry. Considering how technology has changed over the past few years, and the platforms that have brought about those changes – namely desktop, internet and mobile – each one has been accepted more quickly than the last, and virtual reality is on the same scale. Mark Zuckerberg pointed out that Facebook is becoming ever more immersive over time, with text posts being overtaken by photos, videos and 360° panoramic videos, and though it may take five or ten years to enter widespread use – especially with such high costs still associated with it – virtual reality is the next logical step.
Can you get the full VR experience at SlotsMillion using Google Cardboard?
The VR casino is currently not compatible with Google Cardboard. We did consider it and we may again in the future, but we pride ourselves on providing the best possible experience for our players and so we are reluctant to offer SlotsMillion for Google Cardboard. Currently, the slots are injected into VR, and since the technology used for Google Cardboard is different to that of the top-tier products like Oculus Rift™ and HTC Vive™, the performance doesn’t quite match our expectations so we would have to downgrade the experience quite dramatically, and we want to remain consistent in providing high-quality gaming experiences for our users.
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Images from inside SlotsMillion VR casino
Gonzo Quest available on the big slots wall in the casino
Slot machines, that look just like a real casino
NetEnt slot Starburst during a spin
Walk-through video of SlotsMillion VR casino