Is Virtual Reality the Missing Link?7 years ago
If there is a future ‘poker world’ which will bring the recreational, play-money hobbyists into the same space as the low-stakes, ‘hidden’ grinders and lesser-pro level poker aficionados, then according to Alexandre Tomic that place will be a virtual reality oasis – with augmented reality helping to bridge the gap.
Tomic is the brains behind Slots Millions, the first virtual reality casino which features slot machines from 40 different sites including NetEnt, Microgaming, Playtech and Play’n Go.
Along with his partner Charles Gross, Tomic has been one of the industry’s leading innovators for a decade now – and his future vision of poker following in his VR slots casino footsteps might not be so far away.
Tomic told CalvinAyre.com recently:
We have the social gaming, where players basically don’t play for money but share a lot of the experiences. And we have the real-money players that basically, they play, but it’s almost like they do a shady thing. They hide themselves, you know."
His answer for bringing these disparate groups together resides in the ‘relatively untapped technology of augmented reality’, where players will actually see and interact with each other as they play.
Q;What we think that virtual reality is going to bring is the missing link between social gaming and real-money gaming,” stated Tomic, adding, “We’re going to be able to design a place, a virtual place where these people can meet, where these people can play together.”;
This might not happen immediately, but Tomic is convinced that it is definitely in the near future for poker, and a step towards bringing the ‘for-fun’ players into the world of ‘real-money’ gaming.
So we can see the social players looking at real players, how they play, maybe [it] will take one day, one week for them or one month and they will start playing for real money.”
‘Play-money’ poker is a huge part of many of poker’s biggest sites, and the recent FullTilt ‘greenlight’ to operate in the Steam gaming platform, for example, will see millions of previously ‘untapped’ poker players being exposed to the games ‘cash-free’ version.
Tomic’s vision will see them enticed in to a virtual reality ‘real-money’ scenario, much as has happened with his own Slots Millions world. The SlotsMillion virtual space has been described as ‘a casino lobby in the clouds, on the 80th floor of a towering skyscraper set against the backdrop of a futuristic city.’
"We build, on purpose, quite a small space because we want to have a lot of slots inside in one place, focus on slots and don’t lose themselves in the environment,” Tomic said.
It’s a multi-player environment so you can bring your friends, you can speak with them and you can chat with them. We have support agents that are also inside. We also have this special place, it’s a big wall where you can play all the poker slots we have in the big mode. You take your iPad, you swipe it, you choose the game you like and you have it on the big wall.”
It doesn’t take a visionary genius to understand the appeal that such an option in poker might hold. Imagine, if you will, donning VR goggles such as the Oculus Rift and entering a VR casino, surrounded by machines and poker tables and ’real’ people – all from the comfort of your living room.
“When you have the goggles, it’s immersive. You’re inside, it’s a very, very special experience, but we don’t have yet a consumer product which is ready. It’s going to come next year,” he said, talking of his ‘Slots Millions’ casino.
Part of the challenge that virtual reality faces is convincing those who have not tried it just how amazing it really is," said Tomic, late last year. “While users are immersed in intricately rendered 3D, their senses are completely tricked into believing they are truly there. It’s mind boggling, and so are the possibilities for online poker.”
The possibilities for the gaming industry as a whole could indeed be endless -and poker is a perfect vehicle for such a vision - although Tomic admits it’s not quite there yet.
I don’t think we’re going to see a rise of virtual reality - and virtual reality in gaming - next year. I don’t even think it’s going to come in 2017. As Mark Zuckerberg said, he believes in it but it’s, maybe, five, 10 years so there is no rush to invest in it, but you really have to watch it like milk on fire.”
The Oculus Rift goggles, which should hopefully be available soon, in connection with the incredible VR software capabilities, have the ability to transform poker in a way which the industry has been searching for years now.
Bringing together the traditionally disparate demographics of real-money and play-money poker lovers is one of the main ways for the industry to expand and reverse the trend in both numbers– and the growing average age - of poker players.
The future is not yet written – but the chances are VR will be high on the wish-list of tomorrow’s poker players.
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