PokerStarsVR is launching a batch of new features to try and cash in on the COVID online poker spike. They are adding Spin&Go events, as well as expanding the game’s non-poker offerings, like blackjack.
This latest update has put PokerStarsVR back into the news cycle, right at a time when the market for something like this is exploding. Shelter in place, lockdown, social distancing, and quarantine all mean that more than ever, home game players are craving the infectious human contact of an old fashioned coffee klatch game.
You can see how this works in the video for this Tweet where the software makes table banter feel somewhat natural in a way that chat boxes might struggle with.
Playing VR Poker and this guy cracked me up. Kept accidentally joining and quiting (i would have too) pic.twitter.com/dl0ntZBx7I
— 86TheMadHatter (@86TheMadHatter) October 18, 2020
“Playing VR Poker and this guy cracked me up,” tweets @86TheMadHatter.
Coronavirus has created a lot of idle hands. Gamers at home who have never played poker are looking for new experiences. Old hands at the game want a rake-free option for their home games. And virtual reality hardware owners are always looking for something to do with their rigs.
So, Stars’s largely forgotten virtual reality app has suddenly got legs again in a world where people are tweeting things like: “My husbands not very social at all. We got a VR headset and he’s been playing poker with these new friends of his.”
My husbands not very social at all. We got a VR headset and he’s been playing poker with these new friends of his. He’s laughing and having a great time and it makes my heart happy 😂❤️
— Brianna 🤙🏼 (@Bri_OBryan12) October 16, 2020
An idea that’s time has come
PokerStars put its toe into the VR market in 2018 with PokerStars VR. Advertised as “ all the fun of real-world poker with cutting-edge visuals and design to transport you to the frontline of VR entertainment.”
It hit the spot, for that small intersection of play-money poker players and people who owned an Oculus Rift. At the time it was a good distraction for anyone with the overpriced but underserved VR kits like the Rift, HTC Vive, or Valve Index.
But back then, VR didn’t have much going for it. It was a novelty.
Now, with the release of Valve’s own Half-Life: Alyx this year VR finally had a big franchise exclusive. There are VR specific games like Boneworks and movie tie ins like Crisis on the Planet of the Apes and a few Vader Immortal. There are even a couple of fancy flight simulators which have added VR capacity.
So, there now appear to be enough reasons for more casual gamers to fork out for goofy headsets beyond just idle curiosity and too much money.
The PokerStars VR software was — and remains — free to download.
Though there is the option to buy in-game chips with real money, the chips cannot be cashed out. They just open up new areas of the game and access to higher stakes games.
Here then, there is more in common with pay-to-win models like CandyCrush than the main PokerStars.com client.
The market is shifting in other ways too. Poker Club is due out on November 19th. That will be a next-gen revamped poker simulator for the Xbox Series X.
Zynga have lost market share to for their Facebook poker game as apps like Pokerrrr have become a staple of the new online home game. Even Zoom has got itself some new customers from the poker community. The video call app has proved a great way for players to keep their home games sociable.
Much has been made of the additional value pumped into poker by the “stay at home” economy. But it is interesting to see the way the market has shifted for play money peripherals like PokerStarsVR.
It will be even more interesting to see if this turns out to be a bubble born of COVID bubbles. Or if this expansion of digital home game options will be part of a long term expansion in poker’s popularity.
Featured image source: Twitter