The online casino of today seems but a distant cousin to the first iterations released almost thirty years ago. Where the first versions resembled clunky and pixelated video games akin to what you’d find on an Atari console, the games of today are modern, rich in gameplay and graphics, and feature plenty of choices.
And now we can look forward to even more promising developments, with AR, VR, and AI combining to potentially provide a next-level futuristic virtual experience that would have seemed like a pipe dream just a few short years ago.
We’re going to give you a Doc Brown-style journey through time, taking you from the very origins of online casinos to the VR operators of the future. Based on the most recent technological advances, we have a lot to look forward to.
The 90s: Rise of the Internet and the First Casino
Even though the web had already been invented a while before the 1990s, it was only during this decade that it became a commercial product and available to the wider public. If you’re from the AOL ‘You’ve Got Mail!’ era, you’re probably still having nightmares about the sound of a dial-up modem connecting.
It was during this period that online financial transactions became a viable technology, making significant breakthroughs to guarantee security and reliability. This spurred the development of big-name companies like Amazon, for example, and would ultimately push casinos to also take notice.
In 1994, Microgaming was formed. The company is still a huge name in the gambling industry, responsible for some of the most popular slots and games in the business. In just a few months after its inception, the company launched its first-ever virtual casino.
The first rendition featured Wolfenstein 3D-level graphics, unrecognizable from what we see today, but for the 1990s, it was a massive achievement and caused a ripple effect. The industry was now in the ascendancy, with 1998 marking the release of the very first progressive jackpot slot.
The turn of the millennium was when online casinos became a mainstay in the gambling industry, representing a sizable chunk of overall revenues. Yet still, land-based operators reigned supreme.
Fast-forward to 2020
In the last few years, online casinos have grown to stratospheric levels. The industry is worth billions, growth is pinned at over 10% per year, and online casinos are available pretty much anywhere. Instead of just a handful of providers, you can now pick from geo-specific online casino operators in South Africa, to those in the United States, Poland and Peru (or anywhere else, for that matter!).
2020 was a bit of a landmark year for online casinos. With most of us cooped up in our homes, the industry saw a sudden spike in reach. From people who had never gambled before to those accustomed to visiting their local casinos or Las Vegas, new customers poured in at a rapid rate.
When we were once again allowed out into a brave new world, the demand didn’t slow down. The industry had well and truly arrived, with players now fully aware of the great advantages of online play.
Customers have been able to access online casinos from their smartphones for quite some time. But we’re now seeing the technology truly breaking through, in part due to improved cell phone data connections, wider reach of 4/5G, and significant investment from companies like Microgaming into their smartphone products.
Industry analysts predict that smartphone online casinos will become the go-to gambling choice for most players. It’s convenient, data is now ultra-fast, and smartphones have become mini gaming consoles that can deliver an equal experience to anything else available on the market.
The next steps in the technological developments of online casinos are no doubt taking place in virtual reality (VR). With companies like Facebook/Meta investing heavily in the technology, and headsets like the Meta Quest 2, Valve Index, and the PSVR 2, there are some seriously fantastic products already on the shelves.
The technology has some clear use cases for online casinos. These headsets enable players to enter a virtual casino environment, cranking up the immersion experience several levels compared to what’s generally available today.
Now that online casinos also feature live dealers, you can imagine the kind of experiences you can create. Compared to a land-based casino, you’d almost not be able to tell the difference.
Of course, there is still plenty of work to do. The headsets on the market today are only just about becoming viable products that are actually fun and usable, rather than simply being technological curiosities.
In that sense, online casinos are very much depending on how the technology develops in the coming years, but many are already investing in creating VR environments and releasing versions of their games to be used with products like Meta Quest 2. The future sure looks a lot more exciting than Marty McFly’s 2015 version.
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