High Quality Mobile VR iGaming is Finally Here
CasinoSolutionPro magazine met recently in Malta with two men investing to be first to succeed in the commercial race to bring usable Virtual Reality products to the iGaming industry on mobile.
Martin McDonald is the Founder and Chief Exploration Officer of Virtual Reality technology pioneer Parallel66, and Luigi Spina is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the iGaming games creator JoinGames Malta. We were there to speak about the coming revolution in VR and specifically how it applies to commercially leveraging the smart mobile devices in everyone’s pockets for a new era of iGaming, immersed inside Virtual Reality.
For those who have been predicting a slow arrival of VR into the iGaming world a very pleasant awakening awaits them at the 2017 edition of the ICE Show. At the London Excel festival of everything great about the gaming industry, JoinGames Malta and Parallel66 will reveal their first VR iGame for mobile smartphones.
They explained that their reveal to visitors and Operators will demonstrate the first product in a pipeline VR suite of groundbreaking immersive iGames coming from the collaboration between JoinGames and Parallel66.
At their offices in Grand Harbour, Malta, Martin and Luigi gave CasinoSolutionPro a first media look at “Kleopatra VR”.
And we were astonished.
Experiencing Kleopatra VR on Mobile
Experiencing Kleopatra VR was a revelation. Putting on the head mounted display (HMD) was like stepping into a teleportation device. Without moving I left Grand Harbour Malta and was instantly in Egypt and in the throne room of the Queen of the Nile, Kleopatra.
The first thing that hits you is the realism of every detail and the huge scale of the environment. It really does feel like you’re there.
As I moved forward into the chamber Kleopatra turned and walked up the steps to her throne, sat down and looked at me with a regal gaze. The way she moves is very natural and seeing her was just like looking at a real woman. At the far end of the chamber I arrived in front of a Slots game reels display, but unlike anything I have experienced on mobile before. I felt that I could simply reach out and touch it.
But as Martin explained there was no need to reach out. Speaking about the unique aspects of navigating the Kleopatra VR game he said “We wanted to create an iGame user environment that sets an industry standard for VR. That meant for us one in which the player is not interrupted at all by intrusions from the outside, because those distractions break the magic of traveling away inside VR. So we created a “Look & Move” mechanic throughout the entire experience. At no time does the player need to touch the HMD and she has no need of a hand controller either. The player simply needs to “Think it, Look at It, and it Happens.” In a completely intuitive and natural way.”
Even as a first timer I was able to use the Look & Move to easily set the Slots game reels up for my own preferences and then hit the spin button. The sounds of the Reels rolling and of each of the different categories of win added to my visual enjoyment of the game, and I was completely hooked.
Before long I wanted to have a look around at all the things in the room. I set the game to autoplay and started to explore. Kleopatra was keeping an eye on me and it was difficult for me not to be keeping an eye on her too. Then something really cool and unexpected happened. When I hit the bonus, the Queen stood up, commanded the floor to open up and I started to descend into yet another world.
To see what happens next you will have to play the game as Luigi and Martin asked me not to say…..
Martin later explained about the Slots user interface “This is a crucial part of the experience and it plays to our strengths as designers of entertainment games that we were able to create an intuitive way to bring the game to life. The player thinks about what they want to do, for example changing the number of lines, setting an autoplay number or changing their stake, and then looks at that part of the game display, then a 3D menu glides out from behind the game reels, you make your choice, it happens and you’re good to go!”
I have heard rumblings about nausea in VR products but I felt not even a hint of that in Kleopatra VR, in fact the whole experience was so immersive and real that it was like being in the real world. Everything is so smooth and unhurried; you just cannot help but be completely relaxed.
The VR Partnership Journey
The journey from signing the production deal to delivering the reveal of Kleopatra VR has been very fast. Luigi and Martin explained that they only got together in August of last year and production was started in mid-September.
Their meeting of minds was instant and each saw the value of what they could jointly bring to each other and to the iGaming industry and so created their first IP in which they have equal ownership. Their shared vision centres on one thing: delivering a better entertainment value exchange to iGame players and thereby to increase the longevity and commercial value of every customer relationship to Operators.
Luigi said, “JoinGames was founded only two years ago with the aim to be the most innovative software and support services provider to Operators. Not by being the biggest, but by inventing new kinds of games that iGamers will love to play again and again. Our award winning mobile game innovations include JoinGames VideoSlots that are already being enjoyed by Operators and players around the world”.
We decided to start with our most successful game, Kleopatra, which in the mobile version features movies of a real model, and to take it to the next level in Virtual Reality. We wanted that you could step inside the game and play with Kleopatra and that is exactly what we have done. It is amazing.”
Why Mobile VR?
There have of course been other VR products demonstrated to the industry in the past couple of years. These include the VR Roulette game from Microgaming that was showcased as a prototype designed to explore what could be done with the technology. Perhaps the best promoted is ‘Slots Million’ that features a casino room with i-Frame Slots you can play in it. Both these products have used the high end Oculus VR hardware and powerful PCs, with either hand controllers or movement sensors to play.
So why is Kleopatra VR a first for the iGaming industry? Because it is being delivered on mobile smartphone technology, is completely immersive (you are playing inside the game) and has incredibly high production values given the processing limitations of the medium.
Martin explained the reasoning for going down the technically more challenging mobile VR route, over the easier (from a production resource perspective) route of Oculus, Vive and other powerful but cable-tethered platforms, “Oculus and Vive are amazing pieces of kit but they are also incredibly expensive for players to buy. Typically a top end VR headset, like an Oculus Rift, and the PC to run it will hit your wallet for £2,000 or more. And that is way too prohibitive to expect any kind of mass adoption by consumers.
“On the other hand, everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. And anyone can get into a Google Cardboard HMD costing as little as £10. By combining those two pieces of technology together you create the platform for a world of unlimited entertainment and communications possibilities.
“With mobile VR there is an almost zero financial barrier to entry for existing and new iGamers to get started, excited and playing inside our games. And that has to be great news for Operators.
“The other half of the success equation is developing high quality content and with Kleopatra VR we are opening the door on a whole new Metaverse of deeply engaging entertainment for iGamers everywhere that it’s possible for them to play.”
Head Mounted Display Sales
A quick search online reveals dozens of Google Cardboard compatible devices. The one we used for the demo was a BOBOVR, which looked very expensive but actually only costs around £30 from Amazon.
Sales of HMDs are already impressive and increasing.
The online marketplace Alibaba recently confirmed it is selling more than 300,000 units, per month which is backed up by a SuperData market research report for 2016 that estimates over 90million units were sold for the year, led by Google Cardboard sales of 88.4m units and Samsung on around 2.3m units.
Experimental Gaming & Social Gaming
Experiential gaming is very much spoken about as part of the VR mix and for Parallel66 and JoinGames multi-player games are already in the pipeline. These kind of games can be thought of as experiences that are social group games, but also monetised.
Valéry Bollier of Oullala.com put it to me in an interesting way last year that social iGaming is a bit like this: “Think about playing Grand Theft Auto, and not only killing the opposition but winning their money too!”
This is where the Social VR experience is likely to take off, and it doesn’t need to be GTA or Call of Duty, but it can be normal casino games in VR and within your group, or other social games adapted to become gambling games.
The reveal of Kleopatra VR takes place during ICE on the Kleopatra VR themed stand N4-320. If you miss it there the same exhibition experience will travel on to Italy and the Rimini event for the Italian iGaming market.
Either way you will be able to experience for yourself how fully immersive Slots games have arrived by stepping into and playing the first to benchmark mobile VR iGame standards: “KleopatraVR”.