HTC is expanding its out-of-home VR entertainment reach with a new deal with gaming giant IGT that will see its Vive hardware and software power a new competitive VR initiative where players compete for real money stakes.

The recent reveal (and subsequent pricing controversy) of HTC’s Vive Pro headset underlines the company’s commitment to the corporate market and by extension the out-of-home immersive entertainment sector. The company has been front and centre when it comes to key VR arcade-style developments in the East, one of the most notable being a partnership with Bandai Namco’s VR ZONE franchise. It also launched Viveport Arcade last year, a dedicated platform designed for the distribution of arcade focused VR software for operators of such venues.

HTC’s VR content division Vive Studios is today announcing another leg to this initiative with a new partnership with IGT (International Game Technology), a large multinational vendor of slot machines and gambling entertainment hardware, on IGTs new Virtual Zone (can we get some more originality in these names people?). The initiative will take the form of booths on casino floors, equipped with HTC Vive headsets and controllers running dedicated games designed specifically for competitive play and, more specifically, for each of the players to stake real world money on the outcome of any matches in the hope of winning “cash prizes in spirited VR tournaments”, according to a press release from HTC.

See Every Vive Demo in Action at Bandai Namco's VR ZONE

“Arcade-like installations and experiences are skyrocketing across the globe as VR has proven to be a consistent traffic generator in entertainment venues,” said Joel Breton, HTC VIVE VP Global Content. “By combining IGT’s gaming expertise and the world’s best VR in HTC VIVE, we are launching a combined platform that can deploy the best complete experiences for VR tournaments or stand-alone VR arcades. This is also a huge opportunity for more consumers to be exposed to amazing VR content.”

The first venue to open a Virtual Zone is Boyd Gaming’s The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and comprises two booths which look to be large enough for standing (rather than roomscale) VR experiences which are externally adorned with multiple spectator screens with views of each competitor’s gameplay as well as combined views of the action – quite a neat looking set up (see featured image above).

The underlying logic for the tournament platform is powered by a proprietary set of APIs which form IGT’s own SDK, which developers can use to build out experiences targeting competitive, monetised gaming for out-of-home venues. The first game to be adapted for the platform is Vive Studios’ own Arcade Saga.

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Based in the UK, Paul has been immersed in interactive entertainment for the best part of 27 years and has followed advances in gaming with a passionate fervour. His obsession with graphical fidelity over the years has had him branded a ‘graphics whore’ (which he views as the highest compliment) more than once and he holds a particular candle for the dream of the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Having followed and been disappointed by the original VR explosion of the 90s, he then founded to follow the new and exciting prospect of the rebirth of VR in products like the Oculus Rift. Paul joined forces with Ben to help build the new Road to VR in preparation for what he sees as VR’s coming of age over the next few years.