Introduction to Casino VR
Gamcrowd spoke to Maro Kobelt, the founder and managing director at Casino VR, ahead of his victory in the Launchpad competition at the recent EiG held in Berlin. It is easy to see why the judges were so excited about the product. Virtual reality is very much a coming development in the wider technology world, with Facebook having made something of a splash back in the summer of 2014 when the company bought VR headset developer Occulus Rift for $2bn. Kobelt says the company already has strong links with Occulus, having displayed its product at a recent conference held in Los Angeles, and feels that the timing is right to get his virtual reality casino product out in front of investors. “It’s a bit early, but early next year it will take off,” he predicts. “It is quite complex technology, so it’s good to have the time to make the game a really enjoyable experience.”
Gamcrowd: can you explain what the USP is about your product?
MR: We started with poker, and now we have a multi-player poker game with VR, so right now people can walk around, feel like they are in a casino and play poker against people all over the world. With VR we can bring all that makes poker exciting, we can bring this online. You can see what the other player is doing, you can talk to the other player, so it’s all about the social stuff that makes it interesting in poker, so you start to think that the other player is thinking so you can play the player rather than just play the cards.
Gamcrowd: What is your business background?
I have a business background. I have some experience in the poker sector. Together with my cofounder, we really saw the potential. The use case is biggest for VR in poker; it is a multi-player game with a lot of social interaction. We really believe that VR is not only about feeling you are there, but you also want to have it so people can –play and act like they are in a real casino.
Gamcrowd: Can you explain what advances have been made in terms of VR in recent years?
In the last year it has advanced quite a lot. There are a lot of big players in the hardware sector. Occulus, the ones developing right now, were bought up a year ago by Facebook for $2bn. Facebook are investing a lot of money into it; Zuckerberg says he believes VR and Occulus will be the future for Facebook as a company, because it will be the next computing platform after mobile. Then there are other players in the market; Samsung, Sony for Playstation; H2C; all the big tech companies are investing a huge amount of money into VR. That is why the technology is advancing strongly and fast. Our technology is now in development stage; we tested the latest Occulus in LA at the Occulus Connect conference. It’s amazing the improvements they have made. Also, the controller they have now is like using your own hand. So people can play just using their hands. The long term vision is that you will forget that you are simply on the couch and you will think you are in Vegas playing a game.
Gamcrowd: is there a danger that you are just a bit ahead of VR developments?
Timing is definitely early. That is why we have started with poker; the early adopters are in California, mostly they are hardcore gamers, but they really like poker. Complex games. We want to launch a beta in two weeks with the early-adopters of VR technology who already have a head set. We have gathered a lot of interest. We will test out product and improve it. Then we will have good timing, as all the major consumer headsets will be launched early next year. The Occulus consumer version is coming in February or March, so we want to be ready for March and at the same time be ready for the other platforms. It’s a bit early, but early next year it will take off. It is quite complex technology, so it’s good to have the time to make the game a really enjoyable experience.
Gamcrowd: Have you got funding?
At the beginning we were bootstrapped. Then we got a seed round of funding, business angels, and for the next round we are in talks about with VCs and angels. We are looking for (US)$1.2m and the idea is that we want to develop our consumer version for poker, but we also want to develop further games. The full casino experience, with blackjack and roulette, and slots. In order to build that we really need the investment, and that would also take us through for the launch of these consumer products next year.
Gamcrowd: How many people have you got working for you at present?
We have a dozen people overall on the development side. Six on art and six on dev work. All the movement capture. Plus we are now working with Occulus on this; they are impressed with our movement capture. We are really ahead. Occulus want to work with us on some challenges that are facing the whole industry.