Microgaming has already enjoyed a 2015 to remember. The Isle of Man-based supplier has seen its trading figures soar, it has begun work on a state-of-the-art new, five-storey headquarters in Douglas, the Isle of Man's capital, and, perhaps most notably, it was the star contributor at this year's prestigious Global Gaming Awards, carrying off two of the 12 major prizes.
Microgaming is the Digital Product of the Year
Announced in the lavish surroundings of the Venetian Palazzo Congress Center, Las Vegas, in late September, Microgaming took the prize for Digital Product of the Year for their immediately recognizable and very popular Jurassic Park online slot. The innovative use of parallax scrolling effects combined with a hugely impressive visual presentation that undoubtedly made the most of 3D rendering meant that the Jurassic Park slot was the standout product amongst the 50-strong panel of industry experts.
Virtual reality standout
But it was the firm's foray into the world of 3D technology - rather than just the visuals - that was the main feature of the entire event. Microgaming's experimentation with the potential of 3D wearable technology, specifically the Oculus Rift headset, generated a level of excitement rarely seen at such events. Amongst the ten nominees for the award of Digital Gaming Innovation of the Year Microgaming's Virtual reality (VR) Roulette was the leading entrant and irresistible choice for recognition.
Although Microgaming's existing technology is already doing good business in terms of licences for 32Red roulette games amongst others, which are already providing as many as six stylish online roulette variants, the potential for a fully immersive, 3D product offers a depth of gaming experience that goes way beyond a simple stylistic appeal.
More on Microgaming's VR roulette
Microgaming's VR roulette offers players the chance to enjoy an ‘out of this world experience' as they play at a roulette wheel that appears to be floating in outer space. The Oculus Rift DK 2 headset with Leap Motion 3D Controller allows players to place chips with their hands, just as they would in an actual casino, and to experience a fully immersive 360-degree sense of space - literally in the case of Microgaming's wittily designed prize winner.
Currently the 3D developments are as much about showcasing Microgaming's continued commitment to innovation as they are selling the VR game itself. The Oculus Rift headsets are due to hit the open market early in 2016 which means that the likes of 32Red, William Hill and Party Casino need not fall over themselves to offer up branded versions of 3D casino games just yet.
Turning VR into revenue
But if the reaction of the judges at the Global Gaming Awards is anything to go by, there is certainly an appetite for such a fully immersive experience waiting to be tapped into. And as the speed with which the industry has adapted to digital/mobile technologies suggests, we should not underestimate just how radically and how rapidly a new technology can transform the marketplace.
Industry analytics suggest that almost one third of all online revenues are now sourced via mobiles. But with the proportion of mobile-derived gross wins increasing at a rate of 9% annually, it is anticipated that by as early as next year - when global gross wins are estimated to reach £26 billion - 39% of that business will be conducted via mobile. In such a technology hungry and highly dynamic marketplace, it is hard to argue against the notion that VR will not soon be making significant inroads.
The unlimited potential of VR technologies
As and when that take off does occur, Microgaming and their partners will be well placed to capitalise on it. There is already lively speculation focusing on the potential for VR technologies in terms of other casino games. The prospects for animated avatars in poker, where a player's gestures can operate as the 'tells' which are such a feature of real-world play, has been mooted. Likewise, the possibility for a virtual dice roll along the same lines as Microgaming's VR roulette is easy to imagine. In truth VR technologies offer an unlimited, barely imaginable potential.
For the time being, such possibilities remain something to look forward to. For now, Microgaming has given its clients plenty to get to grips with. It has also given itself plenty of reasons to celebrate, as this has been an extraordinary year.