The Unexpected Impact of VR on Niche Gaming Industries

VR was predicted to revolutionize the gaming industry for many years, and perhaps it did – though not in the way many imagined. While some tech industry analysts bemoan VR, calling it a “commercial failure”, the truth is a bit more complex.

Many VR companies, including Facebook and Oculus, had very conservative estimates for the number of units that would sell. Back in 2014, former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe estimated the first-gen Oculus Rift to sell around a million units within a few year’s time, which technically came true. By 2016, Oculus had sold more than 300,000 units, and by 2019, around 1.7m units have shipped.

When it comes to VR, the entire plan has been to allow the technology to mature. Devices like the Oculus Rift cater to a niche hardcore gaming audience, while more mainstream VR headsets, such as the Samsung Gear VR, cater to a more casual, mobile audience.

VR continues to carve out a sizeable niche in the gaming industry, as the technology continues to mature, and game developers find new ways to take advantage of the technology (which was always one of VR’s major obstacles). In this article, we’re going to look at how the online gaming industry has best utilized VR, and where the technology has had the most impact.


Online casinos

Online casinos have been utilizing VR for several years, fine-tuning its various applications. From VR based game tables to allow players to more realistically interact with live dealers, online casinos have been finding innovative ways to implement VR technology.

In fact, online casino companies were developing VR casinos before the Oculus Rift even launched. In 2015, SlotsMillion was developing its VR casino, even though the Oculus Rift wasn’t slated to launch until at least Q1 2016. Thus, SlotsMillion was able to launch the first VR casino that allowed players to gamble with real money.

Since then, several other VR casinos have sprung up – notably Mr. Green, and VR Poker (formerly Casino VR Poker). While SlotsMillion focused on the slots market, VR Poker focuses on Poker (obviously), and Mr. Green offers roulette and blackjack tables.

SlotsMillion is the most popular, not only because it was the first, but because slots are in fact the most popular form of gambling in casinos, whether online or land casinos. SlotsMillion offers VR versions of some of the biggest 3D slot titles, such as Starburst, Gonzo’s Quest, Cloud Quest, Fruit Zen, and many others. As mentioned, these are VR versions of those popular titles – you can find some of the original versions on casumo, which offers a range of the latest slot games.

Gaming Studio

Melee combat simulators

While there’s a ton of VR shooters available, which is to be expected, a new genre has slowly been gaining traction over the past couple of years. These are “gladiator” games, sword fighting simulators, or any VR game that focuses heavily on melee-style combat.

The premise is quite simple. Players engage in medieval-style combat, either against bots or other players, but there is typically a focus on “realistic” portrayal of sword techniques and combat maneuvers. Some of the best examples of this game genre include titles such as Blade & Sorcery, GORN, True Blades, Gladius, and Sword Master VR.

Of course, melee combat in VR isn’t simply limited to medieval fantasy games. There have been numerous Star Wars titles in VR, which feature lightsaber duels as a major gameplay element. The two best known are Lightblade VR, and Star Wars: Jedi Challenges VR. We should also mention Robo Recall Lightsabers, which isn’t an official Star Wars licensed game, but rather a game mod for Epic Games’ Robo Recall.


Traditional Tabletop Games

There are numerous tabletop games in VR available on Steam. VR Chess, Monopoly, Mahjong, and all sorts of other traditional board games are available for the VR experience. However, perhaps the most popular is Tabletop Simulator, which is actually a full engine and creation kit for not only playing the handful of board games that come pre-installed but creating your own entirely from scratch.

The best feature of Tabletop Simulator is that users are able to import their own graphics, 3D assets, and scripts into the engine, allowing users to create any type of board game they want, or recreate existing board games entirely in VR. This of course has led to dozens of real-life board games being cloned in Tabletop Simulator by dedicated fans, including titles such as Dungeons & Dragons, Risk, Clue, BattleShip, and hundreds more, all created by the dedicated community.


Casual Exploration Simulators

There’s been a rash of VR games cropping up that are focused exclusively on exploration, with traditional gameplay elements either non-existent, or an afterthought. These types of simulators are all about the exploration experience, allowing the player to simulate ocean diving, walking across alien planets, or traversing through the jungle.

Some of the most popular titles include games like Sea Life Relax, which isn’t really a game at all (the point I’m trying to stress for this genre). Your “mission” is simply to sit back and relax and enjoy interacting with over 400 types of marine life animals, swimming around deep under the ocean, and observing the biology as it passes you by.

Similar titles include FREEDIVER: Triton Down, Jupiter & Mars, Titanic VR, and Windlands.


The rest of the game industry

While VR’s impact on the gaming industry hasn’t been the ‘revolution’ many VR enthusiasts were talking about for years, VR could still be the future of gaming, though just as many predict that the more advanced AR (augmented reality) will be the revolution that VR so far hasn’t been.

True, there are many VR titles, and the technology is growing more popular (and affordable, to a degree), but VR is still being slowly adopted by the mainstream – and thus, it’s being slowly adopted by developers.

However, with the Oculus Quest being recently launched as an “all-in-one” VR gaming headset and console, things could take some very interesting turns throughout the rest of 2019, and beyond.

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