At Apple’s WWDC 2023, all the talk after the event was about augmented reality, specifically Vision Pro, Apple’s AR headset that will be released sometime next year. The showcase of Vision Pro was impressive, veering away from, for example, Meta’s (Facebook) concept of what the future of AR/VR would look like. However, it only lightly touched upon what most experts believe is AR’s most salient use case – gaming.
It feels like we have been talking about AR gaming for years, decades even. There have been attempts at mainstreaming the technology with the release of PlayStation VR and various headsets from Oculus/Meta. However, AR/VR gaming remains niche, much to the disappointment of brands like Sony. For instance, the PlayStation VR2 headset was expected to ship around two million units; it sold around 270,000 as of March 2023. For comparison, Sony has sold well over 500 million PlayStations over the years, so AR/VR gaming only represents a fraction of its market.
Live casino could embrace AR in coming years
But it is often the case that use cases for technology are incubated in surprising areas, and one sector we see AR taking off in the coming years is the online casino sector, specifically online live casino. Today, there is a wide range of real dealer live games that can be experienced online, some of which, as we will illustrate later, have evolved away from the traditional table and card games. You can make the argument that these types of games are uniquely suited to AR, and they might pave the way for mass adoption in other areas of the gaming industry.
If we could provide the example of poker. In effect, there are three types of poker experiences online: Live poker with real dealers, such as the live casino games we mentioned above; software-based poker, like video poker and other digitized games; and poker rooms, i.e., tournament-style and PVP games hosted on dedicated poker sites. Each has its own merits, but we can find flaws in each. For instance, live dealer poker is fun, but you play against the dealer and not other players. Poker rooms are popular, but the two-dimensional experience cannot replicate the thrills of a live game.
AR and VR could be the great leveler in that respect. Imagine that you could take a seat at the poker table, looking across the room into your opponents’ eyes, looking for their tells to see if they are bluffing, and so on. That’s not just possible for the future of online poker; it’s probable. It might overlap with other concepts like the metaverse, but they are all, at heart, coming from the same technological standpoint. It’s not a great leap to suggest that this could be applied to poker in the coming years.
New concept titles look well-suited for AR
Of course, poker is but one example of the live dealer experience. We mentioned earlier that many live dealer games have evolved away from traditional table and card games. These titles are broadly known as live casino game shows, with popular examples including Monopoly Live, Crazy Time, and Adventures Beyond Wonderland. These are played with hosts instead of croupiers (that’s where the game show nomenclature comes from) and the action is played out in a live studio. The game’s developers can be creative in what they bring to the casino platform.
Adventures Beyond Wonderland, for instance, is based on the classic Alice in Wonderland novels by Lewis Carroll. As such, the games can be a bit more fun and “wacky”, including the parts of those games played out in the immersive bonus rounds. Monopoly Live, which sees its bonus round played on a 3D Monopoly board, is a good example of the immersive experience offered to game show players.
Our point about the game shows is that these titles are once again suited to AR technology, and AR will permit the developers to offer enhanced experiences. Again, going back to Alice in Wonderland, we know that it is a surreal work by Lewis Carroll, so think of the directions that a Beyond Wonderland AR live game could go in. Of course, this is just conjecture at the moment, but it’s easy to see the possibilities.
Right now, there aren’t any AR casino games, at least not in the mainstream. But many of the big-name game developers have hinted that they are committed to working on AR games, and it seems a linear pathway given the technology being launched by Apple, Meta, and others. Online casino games developers have always been characterized by their willingness to make bets on technology. Want proof? They were optimizing games for mobile long before the mainstream gaming industry. They saw that the future of casino gaming was mobile, and they bet the house on it.
The question, therefore, is whether the games developers see the future of casino gaming as AR in the same manner as they saw a mobile future. We do not know for sure. But it seems like a highly logical step. If taken, it can open the doors for other types of AR gaming to be adopted by the mainstream gaming industry. Live casino AR games could be the tipping point.