Home   >   Industry Voices

The lessons learned from making a virtual reality casino

Alea Co-founder Alexandre Tomic shares some of the lessons learned while bringing SlotsMillion to market
The lessons learned from making a virtual reality casino

Alexandre Tomic is Co-founder of Alea.

Over in the world of casino and real-money gaming, we've watched the work the video games industry has done in both mobile and VR with great admiration.

Video games have, as ever, done a vital job in familiarising the consumer with these new technologies.

And today, in part thanks to the effort of video games developers, over in the world of entertainment gambling, mobile – and increasingly VR – is a significant factor in the global health of the sector.

Smartphones are at the centre of so many people's connected lives; it is only natural that mobile is today a hugely popular destination for playing casino games. And as VR continues on a course to mass adoption, the most innovative real-money gaming.

Everday VR

Of course, we at SlotsMillion can't absolutely guarantee that VR will become an everyday part of life in the same way the smartphone, car and television have. But equally we know the best way to make that a reality is to start contributing to the VR content ecosystem, and embrace learning how to make the technology work for industry and player.

That's what motivated us to build and open the world's first true 3D virtual reality casino. For now the public version is an Oculus Rift exclusive, but we certainly haven't limited our vision to exclude mobile VR and have been keenly investigating how applicable such an experience is to Samsung's Gear VR.

And in building the SlotsMillion: Virtual Reality Casino, we've learned a great deal about how to make such a space workable, successful and meaningful, whether you're targeting mobile or tethered headsets.

<em>SlotsMillion: Virtual Reality Casino</em>, like its name suggests, puts playrs in a virtual casino
SlotsMillion: Virtual Reality Casino, like its name suggests, puts playrs in a virtual casino

A key lesson we learned was that much of what applies to a real-world casino design is entirely relevant to building a virtual space. It goes without saying that a real casino should be spacious, comfortable, well lit, and clearly laid out so moving through the space is never confusing.

As it is with mobile games, in entertainment gambling engagement and retention is king. That means a VR casino has to offer a space a player would want to spend time in. There, we can apply much of the logic that makes a free-to-play mobile game sticky.

Equally, machines have to sit at an ergonomic height, and the games themselves have to be the focus. As tempting as it might be to offer a VR space that does all it can to provide an alternative to reality, there is little point in obscuring the games themselves behind dazzling lights, unusual interior design and ostentatious aesthetics.

virtual reality casino games can be updated and re-skinned to adopt different themes or licensed IPs.

That doesn't mean making a deliberately utilitarian space, of course. There needs to be enough environment design to make a place compelling. But in establishing a VR casino it is important to remember why you are doing it.

Blending virtual with reality

Virtual reality doesn't only provide entertainment gambling outfits an immersive, engaging product; it also offers players the chance to enjoy the casino environment wherever they are, be it on the bus, during a work break, or in their living rooms tethered to a PC.

The chances are, then, that customers want a taste of what a visit to a real casino is.

Of course, once again taking lessons learned in mobile gaming success, virtual reality casino games can be updated and re-skinned to adopt different themes or licensed IPs.

In the era of live games-as-a-service, seasonal and temporary makeovers of a VR casino offer an opportunity to bring lapsed players back and keep active users feeling well-served. A Christmas-inspired redressing over the festive period, for example, or perhaps a temporary new spaceship interior theme to promote the launch of a new game carrying a licensed sci-fi property, is entirely possible and valuable with a VR casino.

And that approach is one most mobile game developers will already deeply understand.

But the space must be designed to work as a quality casino first and foremost. And yet it must compliment the physical space in which the player is located; something that presents a significant challenge.

An early established convention of quality VR states that if the user's body position matches their simulated position, they will find the experience more immersive, convincing and engaging. It's likely that, out in reality, VR users will be seated or stood. Fortunately, that is largely the case with conventional casino games in the physical realm.

Ultimately, you must remember that you are not just placing your existing digital slots games on a screen in a virtual space. You must also ensure that the virtual gaming machine itself is comfortable, and works in a reasonable, logical way. Fortunately, there we have hundreds of successful 'traditional mobile screen' casino games to take inspiration from.

Open to collaboration

There were challenges to making the SlotsMillion: Virtual Reality Casino, not least because there was nothing like it to learn from as we built the content.

That meant expertise in virtual reality was vital to our success. Not every casino gaming company has its own dev team in-house, but that isn't a problem.

Here at Alea, we have previously launched other gambling entertainment products, and we are very open-minded to collaboration, therefore we recommend that anyone building a VR casino adopts the same thinking.

That collaboration presents a vast opportunity for those from the entertainment gambling sector and the game development community. We have much to learn from one another, and much to offer our respective industries.

At Alea, we've seen our VR casino enjoy fantastic success, and it's a space players are happy to spend time in and return to. But what we have made is just the beginning. VR has the potential to dominate the future of digital casino gaming, and it might even emerge into something entirely distinct from traditional casinos.

For, now, though, we should be confident that what we already know – about mobile game design and real casinos – is powerfully informing when it comes to designing contemporary virtual reality casino spaces, for smartphones and beyond.