Virtual Virtues

A new take on reality

Virtual Virtues

In case you haven’t heard, virtual reality has finally reached casinos. The Orleans in Las Vegas has joined the MGM Grand in making the once-unheard-of move of clearing out hundreds of slot machines to make room for virtual-reality attractions. And over at the Venetian and Palazzo, they’ve evidently drained part of their virtual Venice canal space for a Star Wars virtual reality thingamabob.

These attractions are the latest attempts by our industry to bring younger players to the casinos. Right, the “M” word again. As has been repeated ad nauseam by industry pundits left and right (yes, me too), millennials don’t like slot machines, so we need something to bring them into casinos.

The idea is to get them into casinos with the VR stuff, and while they’re hanging out with their friends, going to ultra-lounges and battling virtual monsters, knights and such, we’ll figure out new ways for them to gamble, so by the time these kids have serious gambling budgets, we’ll know how to separate them from their money.

So, let the virtual games begin.

At MGM’s Level Up lounge, players can pony up $50 apiece to form teams to roam through a digital universe. There are four games. Team members can fight the undead in a zombie apocalypse, fight different zombies amid a virus outbreak, battle rogue robots and killer drones in a military space station, or “solve physics-based problems” in “a fantastical world with flying whales, giant parrots and colorful creatures.”

Hey, who wouldn’t love solving physics-based problems for big money? I’m still waiting for the calculus tables to open up at the South Point. They say these are skill-based games, so the skill here obviously is trying to concentrate on physics with big whales and giant parrots flying around your head.

But even better than whales and parrots, you’ve got zombies—in not one, but two digital universes. Just in case you’re all zombie-apocalypsed out from binge-watching The Walking Dead, you can shoot those pesky zombies in the head during a virus outbreak, because, as you know, the most scary prospect of a viral pandemic is the thought that after the sick people die, they’ll all come back as zombies.

It’s one of the things that keeps me up at night.

Meanwhile, the Orleans has set up a virtual archery attraction, in which players have to use digital bows and arrows to defend a castle under siege.

Yes, it’s another skill-based game, allowing all the millennials to show off their archery skills, at $10 a pop. For $30, the kids can form a team and compete on the IGT SiegeVR apparatus. The Orleans awards the top daily archer with $125 worth of Slot Dollars and the top SiegeVR team $300.

So, let me get this straight. The virtual reality games are there to draw in millennials who don’t like slot machines, so the top virtual-archer prize is a bunch of Slot Dollars that can only be redeemed by playing them through a slot machine. Is is just me, or does that seem to be a conundrum?

In any event, I’m certain there are hundreds of thousands of millennials out there who are skilled archers, but this is going to be one of the VR experiences on which I’m going to pass. As hard as this might be to believe, I have never manipulated a bow and arrow, and knowing me, I’d probably injure my hands even trying to shoot a virtual arrow.

Finally, the new VR attraction at the Venetian and Palazzo charges $32.95 a person to roam a galaxy far, far away alongside the characters from the Star Wars movies. This is another one on which I’m going to pass. I’m not a Star Wars guy. When people were lining up at theaters for that original series of films, I was in college, and I was much more interested in playing in rock bands (typically for little or no money, or, of course, for beer) than in crowding into a theater with a bunch of whiny children to watch a movie about intergalactic wars.

I was, however, always a Star Trek guy. Cook up a VR gizmo that puts me on the bridge with Kirk and Spock—or better yet, out on the holodeck with Piccard—and you’ll definitely get my attention.

In the end, I’m an old-school casino patron. I actually go to casinos to gamble. Maybe someone will come up with a virtual craps game that simulates me actually winning. Virtual dice that make every point, virtual players cheering me on… I might go for that.

Hey, throw in a few zombies, and I’m there.

Frank Legato
Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the recently published book on gaming, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying.