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  1. The world is yet to come up with a widely applicable use for augmented reality. While virtual reality gaming has gained a certain level of momentum due to companies like Sony actively encouraging indie Game developers to create VR titles for use with the PS4 and PS5 the same is not true for AR. Yet despite AR not being a mainstream gaming application, there is one mobile-only game that has managed to generate an astounding $5 billion in revenue over its first five years since its launch, Pokémon Go! ✓What Is Pokémon? For newcomers to the world of Pokémon, it is a Japanese franchise owned and operated by gaming legend Nintendo. The world was first introduced to the adorable “pocket monsters” that are collected by Trainers and then used to duel one another in non-lethal Pokémon Battles in 1995. Players would take on the role of a Pokémon Trainer who would wander the world finding, befriending, and training various Pokémon in order to become the “regional Champion” by winning the Pokémon League. Since then, Pokémon has grown to be an international powerhouse comprising dozens of video games, a popular collectable trading card game, an anime series with over 1000 episodes to its credit, a live-action/animation crossover film starring Ryan Reynolds, clothing and toys lines, a multi-billion dollar AR mobile game and even a travelling theme park. ✓Niantic Not Nintendo While Nintendo owns the Pokémon IP and is the main beneficiary of the massive success that the mobile-only AR game has achieved the actual game and its mechanics were conceptualised and developed by Niantic. Here is how they describe what they achieved with Pokémon GO: “We’ve built the world’s only planet-scale augmented reality platform for current and future generations of augmented reality hardware. We think of this platform as a global operating system for applications that unite the digital world with the physical world. We pioneered real-world gaming — adventures on foot with others — which has helped transform the Earth into the new game board.” In 2016 when Niantic unveiled Pokémon GO to the world it was an instant success. The combination of the spellbinding world of Pokémon mixed with this fresh use of AR where you walked around your neighbourhood tracking creatures to catch was intoxicating. While the game is incredibly high-tech and innovative, the gameplay was surprisingly simple. Find a Pokémon, get it on your screen and use your finger to flick, aka throw, a poke ball at it till you manage to catch it. Rinse and repeat. Best of all it is free to play, and you do not need to buy an expensive Nintendo console or VIVE VR headset to play it. All you need to do is download the free app onto your cell phone and you will be collecting Pokémon in minutes. ✓International Appeal Pokémon GO was also released in the sweet spot when mobile technology and internet speeds were peaking. Everyone had access to a tablet or cell phone, and mobile data was commonplace which allowed you to load up the game and play whenever you had a gap. By making it free to play and giving players a reason to stay engaged with the game throughout the day Niantic created a loyal global fan base that has installed the game more than 1 billion times. Unlike other games where installs and active users do not line up a report by Finances Online shows that Pokémon GO fans are dedicated daily players: USA = 827,000 daily users UK = 272,000 daily users Japan = 270,000 daily users Sweden =117,000 daily users Canada = 105,000 daily users When looking at the global player base there is also no real skew towards any sex with 56% of the players being male and 44% being female. With ongoing review, it is highly likely this number will flatten out even closer to 50/50. ✓Player Friendly Monetisation With an average annual income of $1 billion, there is an instinctual inclination to assume that the game must make use of predatory money makers like loot boxes or gacha-themed incentives but that simply is not true. The reality is that Pokémon GO is one of the few games where you can truly get experience everything the augmented reality game has to offer for free. Rather than create loot boxes and using video slot themed monetisation tools Niantic and Nintendo offer a few items for sale in the games store such: Additional Pokéballs Additional Pokémon storage Additional item storage Clothing items for your Trainer However, all these items are fairly cheap in terms of the in-game currency, Gold. For example, additional storage space may cost 200 Gold, but rather than spending real money to buy it you can drop one of your Pokémon at a gym you will earn 50 Gold for “holding” the gym for one day. One of their primary income generators is special events. During events such as the ‘Pokémon GO Fest’ players stand the chance to catch special shiny variants of the events Pokémon and get cosmetic items showing they participated in the event. Tickets to these events usually cost less than $5 and not attending does not negatively impact your gameplay experience. Yet despite this soft sell, no pressure, approach to monetisation fans of the game still spend more than $1 billion a year, proving that creating an engaging experience for your customers is the key to generating revenue. ✓Health Conscious Developer While Pokémon GO always encouraged its players to get out from behind their desks and take their creature hunting on the road Niantic and Nintendo went the extra mile when it came to ensuring that their players could still play during the pandemic. The developer made some helpful quality of life changes to some of the games core mechanics to keep players entertained: They increased the spawn rate of Pokémon in less populated areas so players could make new virtual friends at home. They had enemies fly around in hot air balloons to allow players to battle bosses and win better items and complete quests. They extended the Trainers radius making it easier to trigger Pokéstops from further away to ensure social distancing. They began adding daily free boxes with items and Pokéballs to give players the tools they need to play for free. While they could easily have added a bunch of microtransactions to the shop which their fans would have made use of they chose to not add additional financial stress to players lives and offered all these useful new mechanics for free. ✓Leading the Charge for Mobile Gaming It is interesting to see how mobile casino game developers have responded to the success of mobile games like Pokémon GO and others. When Candy Crush first began to dominate the mobile space, we saw the launch of cluster pays driven mobile slots featuring big square game screens. These games are still popular today with Pragmatic Play having recently launched Gemix 2 using this model. The mobile gaming megalith Clash of Clans spawned its own series of mobile slots built using its premise of base building and pitting competing armies against one another. One of the best examples of this type of mobile slot machine is the SG Digital game Reel Clash. While we have seen the development of several RPG and adventure-themed slot titles what we are yet to see hit the market is a video slot that uses the augmented reality premise of Pokémon GO to allow players the chance to interact with reels and find bonuses by using their phone as a virtual gateway into the world of the casino game. ✓Gotta Catch Em All This is blend of conversation-starting tech wrapped in a model so simple even your grandparents can use it is one of the fundamental development challenges faced by casino companies looking to do new and exciting things in the mobile and AR space. However, with Niantic proving it is possible to create a mobile AR game that generates $1 billion a year from transactions that range from $1 to $5 it is only a matter of time before award-winning developers like NetEnt, Evolution Gaming or Pragmatic Play wow us with an innovative AR casino experience.
  2. In the online gambling world, few game types take as much intricate planning to produce as Online Slots. Increasing innovation and technological enhancements have made playing video slots super exciting. The special graphic effects, sounds, and features developed over the past few years have been entertaining and have inadvertently churned up a heated and competitive market space. Did you know? In the USA, the latest stats show that nearly half of all casino visitors play slots. The trends are not set to change either, as a new generation is entering the market. These players have grown up on video games and are likely to engage better with slots than other game types. Quick fact: Online gambling stats in the UK show that young adults between the ages of 25 and 44 years old dominate the gambling player market. This is sure to make an impact on gambling trends. It is believed that online slot games will rule the casino world for years to come. We can expect to see so much more from this sector. Each year, the quality of the games improves, and the diversity of features and mechanics grow. This has us excited about the prospects for 2021! Let’s take a look at what we can expect in the slot world this coming year. ✓ Bitcoin is Booming! Decentralised casinos are a big thing right now, especially with all the attention that Bitcoin is getting in the finance sector thanks to its hefty growth over the past year. This has resulted in a healthy introduction of casino start-ups in this segment. With a push for a more transparent gaming environment, Game developers in this segment are introducing more and more titles with provably fair algorithms built into the RNG software. This way players can validate that each game is random and fair. Quick Fact: With provably fair games, the game developer provides specific tools for players to use that grant them access to the software’s open-source code. Gamblers can check to make sure that no alterations are made to the RNGs algorithms while a spin of the reels is underway, thereby proving that the result is unmanipulated and random. For this reason, we can expect that far more provably fair online slot games will enter the marketplace over the course of 2021. This is sure to set a strong trend for greater transparency in the casino market, as a whole. ✓ Mobile is Mapping the Future While mobile gaming is not new to the online gambling industry, we expect that far more players will be turning to “on the go” gaming options in 2021. More and more people are acquiring mobile phones year on year, which bodes well for gambling statistics. Did you know? Many top gaming providers are developing their games for mobile-first, in keeping with the obvious trends in this market. More and more people are using their mobile phones to manage every part of their lives. From watching Netflix to diarising their days and spending time on social media. It is only natural that these same people would use their handsets to play their favourite online slot games too. ✓ Keep an Eye on AR and VR Technology Virtual Reality entered the market a few years ago, providing players with a far more immersive way to play slots. Players could actually enter into the virtual world of the game by donning special headgear. They could control the mechanics with hand gestures which would be relayed back to the gaming software via sophisticated sensors. The main reason that VR did not catch on then was that the hardware was very expensive to purchase and not everyone could afford the tech needed for it. New tech is always over-inflated when it comes to cost, but we can hope to see these prices normalise soon. The implementation of VR for mobile is a far more cost-effective alternative as well, so expect to see VR’s possible return this year. Augmented Reality (AR) is another engaging gaming alternative to watch out for. The technology uses overlays in the mobile app software to superimpose an augmented reality over your present environment, which is visible on your phone’s screen. Did you know: One of the most popular Augmented Reality games still played today is Pokémon Go. While it is not a gambling title, it provides us with the perfect example of how slots may play out in the near future. We said earlier that this was the year for mobile technology innovation, and this may be two ways in which “on the go” gameplay might steal the show in 2021. ✓ Enhancements in 3D Imagery The noticeable demand for titles in video gaming culture has been for games that look more realistic. The better the graphics and effects, the more popular games tend to be. This is becoming the norm among modern video slot players too. This is also one of the reasons that games like Gonzo’s Quest are timeless classics. Here, 3D imagery was used to provide a cinematic-like experience for its players. With enhancements in CGI, game developers have all the tools at their disposal to create ground-breaking strides in the graphics department. Quick Fact: CGI stands for Computer Generated Imagery. It is a popular form of technology used to enhance the special effects visible in movies and TV programs. It is based on the 3D imagery that we are seeing more and more in video games and slots today. Keep your eye on the line up of games each month to earmark the stacks of ‘pretty’ games we are expecting will arrive this coming year. ✓ AI to Handle Slot Security The standards of security are set for enhancement this year, as game developers and online casinos opt for AI-backed protection for their players. Quick Fact: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a computer science that uses machine learning protocols to undertake smart actions that would normally require human intelligence. In many sectors, AI is used to greater effect than a human workforce, because of the speed of transactions possible through the software mechanics. Artificial Intelligence protocols will be able to pick up on suspicious activities and hacking risks within seconds and move to resolve/neutralise the issues that players are facing in real-time. The Promise of More While the forecasting for the future of the slot industry is no exact science, all the trends suggest that the above technologies and innovations will be metered out over the next few years. One thing is certain though – This year promises advancements in the iGaming realms and is bound to build upon the innovations of last year to give us something more than we had in the past.
  3. Las Vegas is known as the land of strip clubs and casinos. While many still flock to the Strip for both, technology's made it easy for people to gamble online on digital slots and more. But as for the strip clubs part, many would agree that the in-person experience is a lot better than any online counterpart. This is probably why this industry's been hesitant to embrace things such as VR strip clubs. However, now that COVID-19's struck the world and most people are at home quarantining, strip club owners need to think outside of the box. People need entertainment, after all. For many, this is just the push they need to venture into the virtual reality world. But is this enough to save the industry? And will Las Vegas strip clubs finally go VR/AR? Read on to find out. How Does a VR/AR Strip Club Work? Creating a VR/AR strip club involves lots of camera work. For instance, since users can "walk around" a club, the physical establishment needs to be captured on camera in as many angles as possible. A dance can either be prerecorded from the client's point of view or club owners can provide "live" dances to visitors. The clientele would wear a VR headset that's compatible with the software that the gentlemen's club using. Benefits of Using AR/VR for Strip Clubs Many strip club owners might think that by offering VR strippers, they'll kill their own business. After all, who wants to visit a physical strip club when they can enjoy one from the comforts of their own home? Well, you'd be surprised to find that AR/VR actually has many benefits for gentlemen's clubs. Below are just some ways they can help boost business. Help Clientele Feel More Comfortable The legal age to go to a gentleman's club in the United States is 18 in most clubs if they don't serve alcohol, and 21 if they do. Either way, the patrons are quite young, and they may not feel comfortable going. They may end up feeling very pressured by their peers, and it turns out to be a negative experience for them. If clientele can get a feel for the experience through a virtual strip club, then they know what to expect. Perhaps it's not as scary as they thought it'd be, especially after they've had a few VR "trips." Once they've gotten familiar with some of the girls, he'll be more inclined to go visit them in person. In the end, AR/VR strip clubs can help younger patrons feel more confident and comfortable about going to a physical establishment. Encourage More Patrons to Go to Brick and Mortar Strip Clubs As we've said above, VR strip clubs can help clientele become more comfortable with the idea of visiting an actual gentlemen's club. The younger generation is entranced with devices, but strip club owners can definitely use that to their advantage. Essentially, a VR strip club can be like a "taster." Users will get to see how the experience can go, and they'll be intrigued. Again, VR can't replace the real touch, so users will have to go to a real gentlemen's club to get the authentic feel. By providing a digital experience, club owners can actually drive traffic to their establishments. Less Overhead Considering some VR lapdances have to be prerecorded, this means all you need to do is pay the stripper once to perform. Once you've got the footage, then all you need to do is convert it into VR form, and distribute it. Of course, this will be different if the club owner is providing "live" dances. Of course, all this will cost money to do. But considering this one dance can basically last a lifetime and be shown countless times, it'll pay for itself very quickly if it's a popular lapdance with your virtual patrons. Safer for the Dancers Since the strippers won't have to actually touch anyone to do their jobs, it'll be much safer for them. They won't have to deal with anyone sexually assaulting them; if a patron is making them feel uncomfortable, they can simply log off. This can encourage more women to take up jobs as exotic dancers, especially if physical threats are eliminated. Great Promotion During the Coronavirus Pandemic You'd think that during the pandemic, business would be quiet for strip clubs. And it is at the brick and mortar locations. But online is a different story. Some strip clubs have taken to the internet with free VR lapdances for its patrons. People are still lonely, after all. Membership to many establishments cost a pretty penny, so these virtual reality strip clubs are allowing many to get a glimpse into this usually-gated world. Not only that, but it provides them with plenty of entertainment as they're sitting bored in their houses. In fact, this may be the silver lining to the COVID-19 crisis. Since everyone has to stay home, this has provided an excellent opportunity for strip clubs to test out and entice customers for the future. VR Strip Clubs Are the Future Even without the coronavirus pandemic, it was high time that Las Vegas strip clubs (and others) embrace technology instead of shy away from it. Considering the younger generation is tech-savvy and (let's face it) lazy, catering to their needs with a virtual reality strip club is exactly what's needed to bring revenue back into the adult entertainment industry. In fact, VR strip clubs will be what gets them out of the house and into these brick and mortar strip clubs once again.
  4. We live in a fast-paced world powered by countless marvels of technology. Over the past few decades, the world has witnessed things that even some of the biggest visionaries of the past couldn’t dream up. And it seems we’re on the verge of yet another technological revolution that’s being ushered by new 5G technology and that’s likely to have a huge impact on the online gaming niche across the spectrum. Why Is 5G Such a Big Deal? Although most of you reading this have probably heard a lot about 5G already, you might be wondering what all the hype is about. After all, there is already 4G and the switch from 3G to 4G didn’t really have that big of an impact. However, 5G technology will create a huge leap, significantly increasing mobile internet speeds. In the early stages, you may only get download speeds of 300 – 1,000 Mbs but later on, this number could go as high as 10 Gbps. This means you could download a full-length movie in the highest quality in a matter of seconds. And, according to some tests, in certain environments, 5G speeds could reach 25 Gbs, which is 250 times faster than what you currently get with 4G. And, while breaking speed records in such manner is definitely impressive, it is the potential that this new technology will unleash that really matters. Ushering Way for New Style of Gaming You probably remembered 2016 and the hype that was created around Pokemon GO, the first mobile game to really take the concept of Augmented Reality and bring it to the masses. Four days after the initial launch, Pokemon GO had become the number one mobile game in the US, with 21 million downloads. While the game itself wasn’t particularly complex, it was the first real attempt to bring the gaming experience out in the real world. Various pokemons were virtually scattered around the real world locations and players could use their phones to locate and pick them up. Judging by the numbers, players loved it. Of course, the gaming industry as a whole and the gambling niche specifically have been experimenting with AR for some time now. Pokemon Go was definitely a great proof of concept and gave wings to the visionaries out there. However, technology wasn’t there just yet to really go full out. 5G could change things forever. With super-high internet speeds, there will be no more limitations for cloud-based gaming. Players won’t need to have any information stored locally, so it will be possible to feature much more complex and demanding games as all processing will be happening on the cloud servers. With such fast response times, there will no longer be any obstacles. Bringing “Real” Casino to Your Home When it comes to gambling industry, it has been struggling a lot lately to keep new generations of players interested. What used to work before simply doesn’t any more. For millennials, traditional slots that require no skill and offer no real challenge simply don’t cut it. They require more entertainment than traditional RNG doesn’t offer. And, while live casinos still hold their own due to the overall experience they’re able to offer, the online gambling niche is falling behind. However, Virtual and Augmented Reality could offer a solution to this problem and 5G could be the final missing piece, allowing players to enjoy the full experience using just their phones. Although this technology isn’t widely available just yet, it could offer a true lifelike experience, with dealers, other “patrons”, and, of course, gaming tables and slot machines you could actually interact with. You’d still need your VR goggles, of course, but compared to today’s online casinos, this is a whole new level. Shared Gaming Experiences So far, online gambling has been a rather solitary experience. Even though some operators have tried to improve this particular aspect, the whole setup is such that you simply don’t get many opportunities for shared experiences. The combination of 5G and AR platforms could change the whole paradigm quite drastically. The biggest obstacle to this becoming reality right now is the maximum connection speed. The 4G network simply doesn’t have the capacity to carry the amount of information required to create large shared experiences involving multiple players. As 5G evolves and unlocks its capacity, Game developers will definitely jump on the opportunity to create complex and immersive worlds that will pull players in. While this may still feel like science fiction even right now, all the signs indicate that this style of gaming will become standard in a very near future. There is little doubt that this is exactly what players want and game creators will be happy to accommodate as soon as the opportunity is there. But how far are we, really? Expensive Gear Might Be the Biggest Barrier Right now, the equipment required to enjoy a complete VR and AR experience is still quite expensive. For most players, this is the biggest issue. While you may want a better and more immersive experience, you might not be thrilled about the idea of dishing out $1,000+ just for entertainment. When it comes to the gambling industry, this might be an even bigger obstacle. While there might be a fair number of hardcore gamers ready to dig deep into their pockets, there aren’t that many dedicated casino players. If you couple that with the fact that gambling is, by definition, a losing proposition, this is another issue the industry has to deal with. However, time has shown that prices of technology tend to decline quite rapidly. Just look at the prices of computers or mobile phones. Sure, you can still spend a fortune on a brand new PC, laptop, or even a phone, but you can also get a very good one at a very reasonable price. There is no reason to think AR technology will be any different in this regard. Once 5G takes hold and we get first fully developed AR experiences, the price will likely be very high. However, as the initial craze subsides and sales start to take a hit, companies will begin to create affordable models to tackle a much wider market. It is also quite possible that once this technology goes live in the online gambling world, some of the bigger casinos will provide their biggest players with the gear completely free of charge. For them, it is a drop in a bucket and a great way to advertise the new style of gambling, giving select players an opportunity to experience it at no additional costs. Is Gambling Industry Ready for the Change? Despite all the indicators and all the research, it is no secret that people running some of the biggest names in the world of gambling aren’t that open minded when it comes to changes. The casino industry has established itself over many decades and from the numbers it posts, things clearly work quite well. Taking a step off the well-known and safe path is a big challenge. While there is a big segment of the market that clearly wants the change, the gambling industry is far from being in dire straits. Hundreds of millions all over the world still quite enjoy the traditional way of gambling and are quite happy with the current state of affairs. So, for casinos, it’s a balancing act. They can’t run the risk of alienating existing players whilst they have to find the ways to attract those who just don’t find the current setup very appealing at all. In all likelihood, major online casinos will be the ones to do the heavy lifting in this revolution. While brick and mortar venues have been toying with the idea of AR and definitely want to take advantage of it, they probably don’t have the proper drive to really switch things around. On the other hands, many online operators have always closely followed latest trends in technology, experimenting with different things as early as possible. To be fair, it is probably much easier for the gambling sites to do this as they aren’t nearly as restricted in terms of physical space and costs related to buying equipment. What Does All This Ultimately Mean for Players? At the end of the day, the biggest question is what all these changes will mean for the end-user, i.e. the player? How will AR powered by 5G change your personal gaming experience and is it something that you want to happen? There is really no liner answer to this question. While 5G represents maybe one of the greatest technological developments in the recent history, not everyone is as excited about it. It’s not like we don’t already have fast internet speeds and access to all sorts of entertainment via our numerous devices. Some may even argue that all this VR and AR talk is a bit scary. Going back to the Pokemon Go example, it was sometimes funny to see people chasing invisible monsters all over the place. And Pokemon Go is nowhere near to what modern AR simulations are going to look like. A more immersive virtual casino experience has its upsides but it has its risks as well. Getting completely pulled inside a beautifully designed world filled with bright lights and countless gambling opportunities can easily lead to spending way more than you intended. Walking out of brick and mortar casino isn’t always the easiest thing to do and these AR platforms won’t be much different. But there is no need to take things too far. These new technologies will definitely improve the overall quality of your playing experience if you decide this is something you’d enjoy. There is always a certain feeling that this is just too much but couldn’t the same thing be said about the development of the gaming industry in general? Several decades ago, computer games were flat, simple, and not very exciting. Today, we have fully developed 3D worlds offering exciting adventures and virtual worlds that just pull you in. AR and VR are logical next steps in the process and it was just the matter of time before it happened. With 5G becoming a reality, it seems like it is finally happening. Living the Future For some of us, many of the things happening in the world of technology right about now seem to share many characteristics of things we used to watch in our favorite sci-fi shows. Even if the idea of fully immersive gaming worlds has been present almost for as long as computers have been around, not many people believed it would become a reality so soon. However, it seems that we’re now on the cusp of 5G introducing the necessary missing part to allow game developers to give us these amazing digital worlds that take the idea of entertainment to a whole new level. It is still very early days for Augmented Reality but once it kicks off there will be no stopping it. We’ve already seen just how immersed people can become with an AR game so this effect is likely to be much stronger with more complex games offering more complex tasks and more meaningful rewards. Of course, this technology will likely find its applications in many areas outside of gaming as its potential is almost limitless. It could change the way we receive information and interact with all sorts of digital content, creating a brand new world wide web. But, in all likelihood, the gaming and gambling industry will be the torchbearer for the AR revolution. They have the most incentive to do it and the best target market to test it on. Yes, we’re the generation living the future that will get to experience all the marvels of VR technology and potentially see the biggest technological revolution since the birth of the internet.
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