Virtual reality (VR) is not a new concept, having first been explored in the 1950s and 60s. After years of depiction in sci-fi films, the technology is at last coming to the fore, with Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive attempting to bring VR to the mass market. Both companies have promised to deliver immersive experiences, covering concerts, films, travel, gaming and more.
Having identified VR’s experiential nature, Microgaming has made an open commitment to examine its potential for online casinos. The software provider announced its intention just over a year ago, in March 2015, when CEO Roger Raatgever spoke about VR within a wider announcement of wearable technology plans.
This came shortly after the release of a YouTube video showing a journalist actually playing a VR roulette game developed by Microgaming. Filmed at the Mobile World Congress 2015, the journalist can be seen wearing an Oculus Rift headset and moving his hands around while placing chips.
Although Microgaming didn't release VR roulette in 2015, the developer still won the 'Digital Gaming Innovation' category at the Global Gaming Awards that September. Microgaming managed to convince a panel of 50 judges that its creation was worthy of defeating nine others on the shortlist.
Another innovation crown followed at the 9th International Gaming Awards. Hosted on 1 February 2016, Microgaming received the 'Innovator of the Year' award for its VR work on the Oculus Rift platform. Over the next couple of days, Microgaming made a detailed presentation at ICE Totally Gaming 2016.
Attendees at the iGaming exhibition were able to go see Microgaming’s CRYO lab, which was made to add spectacle to the futuristic showcase. Those fortunate enough to try the technology played a demo while wearing an Oculus Rift DK2 headset and using a Leap Motion 3D controller.
Following ICE 2016, Microgaming released a YouTube video summarising its presentation. After outlining a range of innovations, the focus switches to VR. Towards the end, the unnamed VR technician from the intro describes the research team’s current activities as:
"building prototypes and concept pieces to make sure that, when the time is right, Microgaming is ready in position to be first to market."
At no point in the video or at the exhibition did Microgaming commit to a VR release date, so it might not be until 2017 when the technology appears at online casinos. Nevertheless, CEO Roger Raatgever did offer the following comment in the video:
"We’re going to make sure that we’re at the forefront of any technology when it comes to wearables."
That being said, Microgaming is currently forced to bide its time until the Oculus Rift is made available in the UK and other European markets. This is because the device is first being rolled out in the US, where some customers received their headsets on the 28 March 2016 release date set by the company. For the moment, Europe will have to wait until the US market has been served.
Ultimately, it seems a smart move for Microgaming to hold off, given the costs of running an Oculus. In addition to the $600 (£410) price tag, customers might also have to spend upwards of $1,200 (£830) on acquiring a PC powerful enough to run the headset. For the moment, the VR market is still in its infancy and needs time to develop before the immersive experience can be deployed at casino sites.
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