If you are hanging around the lobbies of convention centres hosting online casino industry big-wigs and innovators, one of the buzzwords you are likely to hear is “immersion”. The idea of immersive gaming has always been something of a holy grail for online casinos, a search for the ability to replicate the experience of heading to a casino in Las Vegas or Macau.
To an extent, that was achieved a few years ago when the first live dealer games appeared on UK sites. Streaming capabilities and, more importantly, console technology, had improved enough to offer a daring new experience for players. Today, the best UK live casino sites will host multiple tables of roulette, blackjack, poker and so on. But they will go further, perhaps hosting multi-lingual tables, special in-house prizes and so on.
However, while the technology behind live casinos has helped reinvigorate the industry, there are signs that they want to take it further by really aiming for that immersive experience. Yet, that direction that they are taking might be a little unexpected. That is to say, that what makes an immersive experience might not be what the original designers of live games expected.
Social interaction may trump VR
What do we mean by this? Well, the idea of immersive gaming is inevitably tied up with innovations like Virtual Reality. At one point a few years ago, casino industry experts were suggesting we would one day be wearing Oculus Rift-style headwear before logging in and playing a few rounds of blackjack. That still might be the case, but one can also sense that casino software developers have seen another avenue to explore, one that focuses on community rather than creating a new virtual world.
During the FIFA World Cup last year, several live casino studios tried to create an arena where players could interact with each other but focus on areas away from the game. NetEnt, for example, created a betting widget, allowing the dealer to place bets on the football games for the players. This clearly fostered a sense of community on the platform, with players discussing the games with the dealer and other players.
Rethinking what a casino is supposed to be
You will see this idea now in live dealer games like Live Football Studio. The casino game – a basic card game in this case – is almost inconsequential to what is happening around it. You have a knowledgeable croupier, who has been tasked with discussing football with the players. The situation is helped with a live feed of scores and statistics.
This whole area is one that could be explored even further. Beforehand, casino games developers were focused on creating virtual realities that could mimics the sights and sounds of a real casino. However, it has been overlooked that the majority of us go to land-based casinos with our friends. It is a social experience first, a gambling experience second. That’s the theory behind these ‘social’ live dealer games.
So, how far will it run? It’s easy to see a future business model with online casinos positioning themselves as social sites, a place where players can chat and interact, but one that also has casino tables. It’s not a difficult pitch to make either, as despite our move to more virtual online lives, interaction with each other is still what makes the world tick. Online casinos, like social media platforms, look like they are on the cusp of monetising those interactions.