The Stars Group debuts VR title
Published 29th January 2019
Virtual reality (VR) technology has been of significant interest to the entertainment industry as a whole in recent years, and the igaming industry is no different.
Enabling developers to achieve new heights of player immersion and engagement, the technology has the potential to bridge the gap between the social elements of physical casinos and the digital platforms which many players use today.
We spoke to Séverin Rasset, director of poker innovation and operations at The Stars Group to learn more about the development of their latest product, PokerStars VR.
Developing a competitive offering
With this increased attention, VR titles are increasing in numbers, and therefore creating a more competitive market.
To match this, Rasset explains that the company focused on two main aspects when developing PokerStars VR: gameplay and social interactions. He says: “These are pretty much the twin cornerstones of good poker in any format.”
The first step to achieving these aims, he says, was ensuring the controls felt as intuitive and natural as possible: “Everything from the chip physics to the way you glance at your cards reacts to your input. Even the way a ball bounces across a table.”
Additionally, the game features chat options and voice commands, all of which amount to the ultimate aim for players to be as immersed as possible in the game and their surroundings.
For the social elements, PokerStars VR gives players a variety of props options, with the aim of allowing them to interact with one another easily, from high-fives and fist-bumps to throwing snowballs and spawning beers. Rasset says: “We’ve taken advantage of every dimension VR allows us to, with more to come.”
Opportunities in VR
Rasset says that he sees PokerStars VR as a complementary product for the market; an extra that sits alongside our desktop, mobile and live experiences.
As its first foray into VR, he also explains the company’s decision to enter the space as ’a bit of an experiment’. He continues: “We’re lucky to have the resources to invest in and explore future tech and we have a lot of avid gamers as well as poker players at Stars, so it’s been on our minds for a while. I believe that as the category leader, it’s up to us to push the game forward for new generations of players.”
He believes that the limitless potential in VR allowed the company to answer some difficult questions: “How would a player watch their favourite streamer with a headset on? What if they wanted to change their hat, take a selfie or stream themselves? What do we do when they want to throw a miniature donkey at their opponent?”
With VR technology improving at a rapid pace, the technology is becoming cheaper and more accessible, and users are increasing exponentially, says Rasset. However, there is still room to grow.
He continues: “The consensus is we have all the right ingredients for VR to emerge as the next big thing in gaming but, of course, no one can really say for sure whether it will ever take off in the mass market. It could happen this year, it could be the next. If it does, though, we’ve already taken our seat at the table.”
“There are so many different forms and game types when it comes to poker, but the big constant, the thing that makes the game so enduring, is that it’s easy to learn, difficult to master and social. By bringing together online and live, we’re offering exactly that. The response from our players so far has been better than we ever could have hoped for.”
As the game hits the market, we’re looking forward to see how the game is received across the industry, too.
PokerStars VR will be downloadable for free at the Oculus Store, Steam or Viveport for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The Stars Group invites all attendees at LAC 2019 to try the VR game by visiting the PokerStars Partners stand at A1.