Following on from the completion of EIG Berlin 2015, SBC chatted with Casino VR Founder and CEO Marco Kobelt, following his enterprise’s win at the 2015 EiG Start-up Launchpad in Berlin.
Kobelt details to SBC readers why virtual reality (VR) will have a big role to play in the industry’s future and how VR technology will potentially capture a new sector audience.
SBC: Can you give a brief summary of what it is Casino VR do, and how you made it to the 2015 EiG Start-Up Launchpad shortlist?
Marco Kobelt: Casino VR is a multiplayer casino platform for virtual reality. Our current flagship product is a multiplayer poker game. We are working towards merging the real life experience and online experience of playing casino games. We innovate on integrating movements and realistic voip to make poker like real life poker.
We applied to EiG through their website knowing that last year there was another VR startup that got in. There were interviews that revolved around our strategy and what makes us different in such a new field as VR. Fortunately we were one of the 5 startups that got accepted in the end.
SBC: Congratulations are in order! As the winners of this year’s Start-Up Launchpad, what does this now mean for the future of Casino VR? Many past finalists have been acquired by larger firms, or formed successful partnerships with other companies.
MK: Thanks a lot. We are working hard to get our product to early adopters that has been met with acclaim from the tech industry. This award shows us that also the iGaming industry loves our product and believes in our vision and strategy.
We will be launching a beta on Oculus Rift soon and Samsung Gear VR will follow. We will also be running a social casino in the near future. We’re already in talks with operators, industry specialists, as well as investors to make sure that casino VR achieves its vision. As we are starting a funding round, the Launchpad competition has helped us to get in contact with the top tier investors from the gaming industry. It’s still too early to give specific examples but we plan to follow in the path of previous winners.
SBC: What’s your biggest achievement to date, and can you outline your short term and long term goals?
MK: Our biggest achievement has been to get people who enjoy poker to love our product. Whilst still far from perfect, we believe that the early feedback we’ve received has set us into the right direction.
In the short term, we are launching a free to play casino game for early adopters of the Oculus Rift and Gear VR. Followed by a social casino product that hosts more games than poker. The long term vision is that we want people to not just be in a VR casino but also feel and act as if they were really there and playing those games.
We want to create a virtual casino city such as Las Vegas in real life where people can enjoy any casino game in multiple casinos so much so that they challenge the need to fly to Vegas or Macao.
SBC: An exciting product such as Casino VR is likely to capture the imagination of many, on the site’s ‘What we are working towards’ section it mentions gesture recognition. Could you tell our readers a little more about this?
MK: Absolutely, one of the biggest goals for us is to go towards intuitive and natural movements in our game. This is important to us because we believe that we will drive up engagement if the users can act just as they do in real life without any limitations.
In our current game, there is already head and body movement recognition, which means that you can see everyone moving as they are moving in real life, making a game such as poker much more exciting. Next up, people should be able to stack chips as in real life and throw cards when they want to fold.
SBC: With your personal background in poker itself and business, how is it that you came to be interested in launching a virtual reality product?
MK: Two years ago, I was playing poker semi-professionally in land-based casinos. I tried online poker, but I didn’t like it, because there was so much of the real life experience missing. I talked to many poker players about this and most also missed the psychological element, the atmosphere and the social interactions of real poker.
At the same time I was doing my master’s in strategy and international management. I met Hamza who got really excited about virtual reality, and how through VR we can build an online product that can finally capture the real life elements of poker.
SBC: Finally, having attended this year’s EiG, what will you take away from the conference?
MK: We know much more about VR than the structure of the iGaming industry. We are basically outsiders of the industry with a new perspective. EiG helped us to connect with a lot of industry professionals to get to know the major hurdles and challenges the industry faces today.
We received very positive feedback on our product and the industry is really excited about the possibilities virtual reality opens. If there is one takeaway for us it’s that the time for VR is now and the gaming industry awaits our progress.
Marco Kobelt – Casino VR –