PokerStars continues to renew itself as much as possible. The company has just allowed a sneak peek into PokerStars VR — the site’s foray into the world of virtual reality poker.
Here’s a preview of what it looks like:
PokerStars VR will allow players to interact with virtual representations of themselves and their opponents in real time. The game puts players in a variety of extravagant or fantastical settings and gives them all the trappings of a high limit poker game. The player can choose from one of the following settings:
- Macau 2050
- The Macau Suite
- The Showdown Saloon
- Monte-Carlo Yacht
- The Void
Players will be able to look at their cards, make bets, and table their hands using similar real-life motions. Most notably, the product will allow players to observe their opponents and pick up tells.
Players can also customize their avatars with a variety of clothing and style options. The virtual representations can perform a variety of actions, like eating sushi, throwing objects at other players, or owning pets.
“Poker is about interaction,” said Severin Rasset, Director of Poker Innovation and Operations for PokerStars, in a press release. “It’s been bringing people together for well over a century. We’re really excited to invest in the next generation of the game and to give players the opportunity to meet in a brand new virtual reality dimension.”
At this point, the game will be a social game and free to play. Players can replenish their bank accounts using a virtual wheel. There has been no mention of an imminent real money version.
For streamers, PokerStars VR will feature integrated Twitch broadcasting, voice commands, and social media integration on Oculus Rift. PokerStars worked with Lucky VR to develop the platform.
What do players need to play PokerStars VR?
There is still quite a bit of time remaining until PokerStars releases PokerStars VR fully. The game is currently in closed beta using Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Steam.
However, in order to play, players will need to have the appropriate equipment. So, in order to experience PokerStars VR, a player needs:
- A gaming computer capable of supporting virtual reality play and graphics
- A VR system, such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive
Neither of those requirements are particularly cheap – the VR system is a $500 investment by itself. So, the market for virtual poker is likely to be quite small, at least in the beginning.
There’s no doubt that PokerStars is moving into a new sphere with PokerStars VR. The concept of a real-time virtual reality online poker game is a page right out of science fiction.
Is PokerStars innovating for the sake of innovation?
As the video shows, the product is very cool and different. However, it’s not photorealistic or any kind of live dealer interface at this point, so a real money release seems unlikely, based upon the current state of technology.
As gratifying as having such an innovative social game is, the company’s activities have been a bit choppy recently. Frankly, it has seemed like PokerStars is suffering from restlessness, and is continuing to release new products just to say it did.
About a week ago, PokerStars announced that it would drop its new Unfold game from the slate. The game, which allowed players to create side pots after they folded their hands and saw a flop, endured criticism as a money grab for most of its six-week lifespan.
Unfold went the same way that two previous PokerStars products have gone. Both Split Hold’em and Showtime Hold’em have now found their way to the recycle bin, presumably after a reduction in interest.
However, PokerStars VR is not a new game in the same model as those failed products. In this release, it’s clear that PokerStars is building for the future, rather than the present. As Rasset told reporters in a Q&A:
“It’s something we wanted to explore and it’s something we believe is going to be a mainstream medium in the future. It’s a great portal for us to engage with customers and it’s a brilliant medium to play around with.”