“At Gamblit, we are trying to revolutionize casino games,” said Darion Lowenstein, Chief Marketing Officer at Gamblit Gaming, during a phone interview. A big part of that revolution was announced as a partnership between the casino gaming giant and Phosphor Games, creators of the smash-hit VR zombie shooter, The Brookhaven Experiment.
The casino gambling industry is an old beast with a lot of tried-and-true traditions.
Did you know that people in my age range, 21-45, are the most likely to visit a casino? However, if you pay attention, the vast majority of the gambling centers are overflowing with traditional slot machines and table games, but the people playing those are typically much older than the biggest age group. Those sorts of games just aren’t as popular with today’s generation. Instead, millineals are on their phones. Players are matching shapes and colors in Candy Crush instead of the latest slot machine.
“We’re trying to make wagering experiences that are actually fun to play,” explained Lowenstein. “That top demographic doesn’t really gamble in the traditional way much because they either don’t have the money to lose or because they don’t find it as interesting. We’re trying to think of what’s next for the gambling industry.”
According to Lowenstein and Justin Corcoran, CEO at Phosphor Games, virtual reality is likely a big part of that future. “One of the ways that casinos are looking to solve their declining revenue is to introduce game experiences that are more skill-based,” explained Corcoran. “Brookhaven is working with Gamblit to create a real-money gambling version of Brookhaven as their highlight of the upcoming G2E expo.”
In the images above, you can see a prototype rendering of what the “VRC” or “Virtual Reality Cube” at a casino might look like. With an elevated position, the player is visible to spectators and passersby. The cube will be decorated appropriately on the outside and inside — complete with a fully operational fog machine. Lowenstein even mentioned they were looking to hire makeup artists that worked on AMC’s The Walking Dead to help dress up workers in zombie costumes to fully complete the scene.
“We might even surprise some people inside the cube by having a zombie waiting for them as they exit the headset,” Lowenstein laughed. That’s certainly one way to get people’s blood pumping.
Naturally, this adaptation of the zombie-killing first-person shooter is quite different than its non-gambling counterpart. The core of the game remains the same — shoot zombies as accurately as possible and don’t die — but it’s the details vary a bit.
“Most people that go to a casino are going with a group of friends, but there isn’t much actual group content at these locations,” said Lowenstein. “We put players up in these cubes and the outside has betting tablets as well as screens that show what the player is seeing inside the headset. We want to turn VR into a spectator sport.”
Initially, my reaction was to inquire about how they prevent people from cheating the system. If you plan on making it to Wave 2 and dying each time, can’t I just bet on that outcome while we watch the cash flow into our pockets? Well, it’s not that simple.
“You can only bet on how well the player does, you can’t anticipate their failure,” explained Lowenstein. “If the player dies for example, everyone loses, but their goals are actually the same as the spectator goals.”
He gave me the example of certain challenges or goals that the player would have placed before them. For example, I could bet either $3, $5, or $10 that the player will survive the wave, that they will kill an enemy with a melee attack, or that they will kill 10 enemies with headshots. The bets incentivize the player to do better, with a bit of risk on both ends. But there is of course the fact that since this game is virtually entirely skill-based, if someone is just really, really good at it, they could run the score up for a big payday all around.
“All the odds are based on the difficulty of the objective,” said Lowenstein. “It’s all about testing and we have to gauge it based on the skill of the average person.”
The Brookhaven Experiment will be making its casino debut in VR this month at the G2E expo in Las Vegas from September 26-29. You can also read our full review of the current home version on the HTC Vive for more information. Brookhaven will also be coming to PS VR next month when Sony’s headset launches.