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What is VR's role in the future of social casino gaming?

What is VR's role in the future of social casino gaming?

Alexandre Tomic is the co-founder of Alea.com.

With the Oculus Rift VR headset due to hit the shops sometime early in 2016, virtual reality is now real.

VR is going to be big, but how long the market will take to grow is anyone's guess.

TechCrunch's estimate is that the new medium will be grossing $150 billion by 2020 and the website predicts that both virtual and augmented reality will be a huge disrupter to mobile technology.

More than gamers?

Most of this revenue will come from the video gaming and 3D films market, which is, of course, what Oculus has been designed for. But social casino, too, is likely to benefit from dose of virtual reality.

Speaking at the recent Casual Connect conference in Tel Aviv, Adam Krejcik, analyst at Eliers Research, said that he expects social casino to be one of first genres to monetize successfully on Oculus.

Social games are all about engagement - the more engaging a user's experience within a certain game, the more money it makes, pure and simple.

It's logical, therefore, that games enhanced by VR will be more compelling and therefore successful.

It's logical that games enhanced by VR will be more compelling and therefore successful.

In fact, social casinos can become even more "social" with the help of virtual reality, allowing users' virtual presences to "meet" and interact with one another online. Players will explore virtual spaces together and engage in multi-player tournament style games.

Audience cross-over

When it becomes commercially available, Oculus is expected to retail for around $350, but users will need a high-spec gaming PC in order to use the new technology, which will hike costs up to a good $1,500 to $2,000.

Thus, early users will be "gamers," young males under 40, which may not be demographic we traditionally associate with social casino.

Yet, the demographic is shifting. A recent study by market research firm Newzoo suggests that the 59 percent of the monetized social casino audience is male and 55 percent are aged 21-35.

Is this the future of social casino gaming?

This puts the social casino market broadly in the same ballpark as the general mobile gaming audience.

The social casino consumer is very different from the traditional gambler. Focusing on unlocking new levels and trying to "beat" the game, he has the mentality of a video gamer, not the gambler who craves the thrill of risk.

Adding skill

Social games creators have cottoned on, and there is a deliberate movement towards integrating more skill-based elements into the games, broadening the demographic by rendering it more palatable to the younger millennial generation.

Social casino has become a $3.4 billion market.

Land-based casino companies are dismayed by the millennials' apathy towards traditional forms of casino gaming, and they, too, are expected to introduce hybrid skill-based slots to their gaming floors in 2016.

For online social casino games, the demographic shift is working.

Social casino has become a $3.4 billion market, accounting for 4 percent of all social games revenues as a whole, and Eliers expects that market to grow to $4.4 billion by 2017. Virtual reality is likely to play a part in that growth.

Ready for Oculus

Virtual reality casino developer LuckyVR has already developed a fully functional, Oculus-ready virtual reality casino for SlotsMillion.

SlotsMillion's virtual reality space is a casino lobby in the clouds, on the 80th floor of a futuristic skyscraper.

Here, players can explore the environment, interact with other players and engage with any one of SlotsMillion's slots games which have been lovingly rendered in VR.

It's the first of its kind, and a glimpse into how social gamers will interact with operators is the very near future.

With no customer base, as yet, this impressive virtual space is somewhat empty of visitors at the moment, but that should all change in early 2016. Who knows, maybe our virtual presence will bump into yours at the opening night party.

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