While GiGse touched on virtual reality’s place in the casino industry last year, this year it was a major focus. In its Day 2 opening lecture, KWP Limited Director Kevin Williams dove into VR gaming and what it could mean for the casino industry.
Kevin comes from the digital out-of-home entertainment (DOE) industry which, historically, has not overlapped much with the casino industry – although the two industries have sometimes competed for customers. However, with consumer trends toward entertainment shifting, the two industries have recently started working together. Kevin noted, for instance, that people are beginning to see casinos as experience destinations instead of gaming centers.
Kevin brought his experiences with VR from the DOE industry to share with those at GiGse who might be mulling VR setups in their casinos – listing various ways VR is already being used. He noted that many places are looking to VR to supplement their current entertainment options or provide something new for guests.
Advertising was listed as a major use for VR. Kevin described VR being used in theaters to promote films and how it can be used to showcase a company’s abilities. He listed arcades and hotels as places where VR booths are already being used for short, immersive experiences.
“Theme parks love the idea of immersive entertainment,” Kevin noted – citing examples of combining VR with roller-coasters and other rides. This, he said, allowed theme parks to get prolonged use out of their attractions as they could switch out different scenarios with VR and provide continually new things for customers. He also pointed to the educational uses of VR, noting that museums and zoos are already using VR for more immersive and informative experiences for visitors.
Finally, he also pointed to the rise in VR (as well as AR and MR) centers – dedicated spaces, much like a laser tag arena, where customers pay for specialized game experiences across an entire floor or throughout an entire building.
In regards to casinos themselves, Kevin saw many ways the industry could utilize VR. The first was as a promotional tool on exhibition floors. He also noted that mobile VR could be used to drop consumers into VR experiences (such as virtual sports) in the hopes they will bet more. He also noted that, with the rise of skill-based gaming in casinos, there were opportunities for VR booths in casinos targeted toward non-casino gamers. Finally, he noted the potential to bring the casino to the consumer by offering VR igames for those at home.
However, Kevin also noted that 60 percent of Las Vegas business doesn’t come from gaming floors – it comes from entertainment, food, beverages, and so on – a fact that was not lost on a later GiGse panel featuring speakers from Spectrum Gaming Group, Victory Square Venture Capital, BCLC and RSD Partners. Panelists discussed at length the ways that VR could be used to drive traffic into casinos and potentially convert them to casino players.
A major takeaway though, said BCLC Director of Corporate Strategy Richard Fenster, is that the casino industry needs to start looking for relevancy among new audiences that are casual or non-casino players. He noted that the best way to expedite the creation of new things that might catch new audiences is to help companies de-risk their ideas by allowing them to experiment with their concepts in a live environment.
Victory Square Venture Capital CEO Ray Walia noted that VR doesn’t need to necessarily only appeal to younger audiences either. A 50-year-old male, for example, might enjoy a courtside seat to a sports game in VR – while a younger player enjoys a zombie-killing VR experience. RSD Partners’ Rich Roberts noted that casino operators should use what they already have done successfully for new things – such as game rooms, which are great for creating VR (and AR) experiences.
Fad or New Market?
While there were many differing opinions between Kevin and all the GiGse panelists, there were a couple things everyone could agree on. The first is that VR attractions need to be social. Both Kevin and Richard noted that most people do not go to VR experiences alone – they go in groups.
The second thing everyone seemed to agree on was that VR is not a fad. Ray, in particular, noted that companies such as Microsoft and Facebook are pouring millions into research and development – and changing the very way we interact with the world using technologies like VR. Richard noted that VR (and AR) have much larger applications – from entertainment to utilities.
Richard also imparted one final piece of advice to casino executives in attendance at GiGse: If you want to develop a VR attraction yourself, it could cost millions or billions of dollars. However, if you’re just looking to integrate a VR game into your casino, there are lots of companies well-versed in game design that could be potential partners and reduce costs to tens of thousands of dollars.
It remains to be seen if the casino industry at large will follow his advice, but it if does, casinos could prove to be a viable market for independent VR game developers.