Is VR the future of esports and online casinos?
Dec 3, 2022
Digital casinos have hit a new stride in the online gambling space, with tons of attention from the streaming world attracting a new wave of customers. However, the competition is consequentially fiercer than ever. Betting sites have sparked an arms race over flashy new features to attract willing bettors, but virtual reality has been suspiciously absent from the industry. Will the addition of VR esports attract a new crowd? Or is the current market just not ready for that kind of innovation?
Virtual reality represents a new frontier for gaming. It sits at the apex of new hardware and software development, but new VR players may be surprised to learn just how many options there are for the platform. Just as the new online casino experience shows players a huge selection of games right off the bat, a gamer cracking open an Oculus Quest or Valve Index will find hundreds of games already waiting for them. Among that massive list includes several titless specifically made with competitive players in mind.
Whether it’s telekinetic swashbuckling in Swords of Gurrah or battle royale-style shooting in Population: ONE, there are already multiple competitive scenes for VR games. There’s even a spirited element to single-player titles like Beat Saber and Superhot, which lean into the speedrunning side of gaming. However, VR esports currently lack the multi-million dollar prize pools of established esports like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Dota 2. Their player base is a fraction of League of Legends’, and spectatorship remains low. While these point to a lack of viability for bookies, those same traits could also attract a highly specific kind of bettor due to the lack of competition.
In addition to providing new battlegrounds for gamers, virtual reality also offers something for free that casinos usually pay out the nose for. Real estate is cheap in VR, with massive sprawling worlds limited only by file size and download speed. With growing interest in live dealer games, virtual reality casinos are a natural extension of that idea. Virtual reality already has a place to shoot the breeze with VR Chat, and the same software could be used to recreate a ritzy casino in the comfort of the home office.
VR esports are already present in casinos
People unfamiliar with the niche areas of gambling may be surprised to learn that virtual reality options are already present in many online casinos.
Digital racing exploded during the travel restrictions of 2020, with simulated cars tearing through virtual tracks at an extremely realistic pace. VR racing on platforms like iRacing is extremely competitive by nature, and the biggest esports events occasionally pop up in sportsbooks. While not necessarily virtual reality, many racers prefer a full-body tracking setup to closely emulate being in a specific car on a specific track. This growing industry has given bookies a foothold in the VR world, but it’s only the start of the spectating experience.
VR sports will eventually need to match watching live games from a stadium seat in your home to compete with established betting categories, and VR spectating is slowly becoming an option for certain games. Dota 2’s now-defunct virtual reality viewing option was a start, but now traditional sports are also entering the fray with specialized cameras that allow fans to watch the game from the very center of the field. Casinos have plenty of reason to incorporate unique betting options, and as virtual reality grows more and more popular, the potential audience of VR bettors will only grow alongside it.
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