Not that long ago, we’ve witnessed the demise of the first 3D virtual poker room, PKR Poker.
The room tried hard to offer a unique virtual poker experience to their players, making them stand out from the crowd, as most other rooms focused on the number of hands per hour, rakeback/VIP program, and similar.
PKR survived for over a decade, and it attracted a fair number of players who were primarily looking for the experience they can enjoy with a few beers and without having to deal with grinders playing ten or more tables at the same time, taking forever to act when the action gets to them.
However, as noble and as fascinating this approach might have been, it didn’t work out in the end. PKR was rapidly losing momentum (and player traffic), and first try to fix the problem by joining Microgaming, one of the few large poker networks.
Despite big expectations, this didn’t help them solve their issues, and in the end, they were forced to shut down.
Future of online poker
PKR was, beyond any doubt, well ahead of its time. Their idea of virtual poker experience is something that big poker rooms, like Unibet, are just starting to explore now.
But, the real question is, did PKR fail because they were too early to the market, or was it because the product as such didn’t have the required critical mass of customers?
Although the idea of virtual poker sounds interesting on the surface, the fact is, poker isn’t a highly interactive game. This is especially true with the latest trends of players who prefer to talk as little as possible at the tables and focus on playing their cards.
And even with the player interaction, the virtual reality factor doesn’t add that much to the overall experience. In the end, chatty people will talk using a flat 2D chatbox or via the full-fledged 3D environment.
That’s one of the reasons PKR couldn’t hold, and it might be the reason why virtual reality poker will never actually become mainstream.
While virtual reality technologies are getting better and more sophisticated by the day, these technologies seem to be much better applied elsewhere, regardless of how much you might love online poker. From everything seen from the industry over the past few years, players want something entirely different.
Online poker isn’t the craze it used to be a decade ago in the years after Chris Moneymaker.
The dream has pretty much faded away, as players came to realize that becoming a poker made millionaire isn’t as easy as some of the TV coverage might have led on.
So, the only ones who continued pursuing poker seriously were the ones willing to put in a lot of hours of hard work – commonly called grinders or regulars.
However, the problem with grinders is that they don’t care about all the visual aspects and stunts which necessarily slow down the games. They are there to make money, and they make the most money by seeing the maximum number of hands per hour. That’s why PKR was never particularly appealing to this group of players.
One would think this is a good thing, as games wouldn’t be as tough, and recreational players could have more fun. And, to a degree, this was true.
However, grinders make up a majority of the earlier mentioned critical mass, and without them, there are simply not enough games running. Recreational players are there to have fun and jump into already running games. If there are none to be found, or the number of open tables isn’t satisfactory, they’ll move on to a different pastime – because that’s all poker is for them.
And, like any business, PKR had to make a certain amount of money just to stay afloat and cover its expenses. There is a lot more to running a successful poker site than meets the eye, and if they can’t get enough money in to cover they day to day operations, the site simply can’t continue to operate.
In the time where the number of recreational players is dwindling as it is, having them visit the site where they can’t find enough games running at all times is a real challenge and the one that PKR couldn’t successfully surmount.
What do recreational players want?
So, if PKR’s model wasn’t an answer, and other online poker rooms aren’t doing so hot either, what is it that recreational players want? Are they just fed up with online poker, or is there a way to keep them coming for more?
The answer is fairly simple: they just want to have fun.
PKR was fun to an extent, but dwindling player numbers led to even more players leaving, and the result was the eventual shutdown. Poker rooms populated by grinders aren’t fun because it has come to the point where recreational players stand no chance. So, what’s left?
Speed poker, jackpots, and a more casino-like approach.
Serious players have frowned upon these new inventions ever since they started to appear on the market, but numbers don’t lie. Recreational players do enjoy games like Twisters, Spin & Go’s, and other similar games, where there is a possibility to win a huge prize regardless of your skill level.
Yes, it might be closer to slots than poker, and yes, poker players hate the idea.
But, that’s where we are now, and that seems to be the journey online poker is embarking on.
This doesn’t mean that poker as we know it will become extinct and that we won’t have 3D virtual poker to enjoy.
However, it does seem that the large majority of players will fluctuate towards these new trends and settle there.
Not only that these games offer a chance to win big, but they also don’t take up too much time, which is a great option for someone just looking to have fun. Plus, due to fast structures, recreational players are no longer such big underdogs because the skill factor is severely diminished.
So, it seems that fast games favoring luck over skill are the future, and there isn’t much that can be done to change that, especially not now that the ideas like Spin & Go’s and similar formats are out there.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not Casinopedia.