When was PKR Poker launched?
PKR Poker, also known as PKR.com or simply PKR, was an online poker room that was licensed under the Alderney gaming authority. Allowing punters to play in a virtual reality (VR) setting, this online poker room was started by Jez San and launched in June 2006. The site’s customised 3D graphics and character animation eventually paved the way for virtual reality gambling.
How did PKR Poker innovate?
PKR upset the fledgeling online gambling industry by using larger and better quality graphics than any of its competitors and used innovative marketing tactics to attract players. A slew of technological innovations kept the company in the spotlight and always one step ahead of its rivals. After their 3D graphics morphed into virtual reality and also pioneered avatars allowing players to personalise their profiles.
How did PKR Poker change online poker?
Using a player avatar and character animation during gameplay, PKR made poker playing more realistic by allowing characters to incorporate body language, facial expression, and chip tricks into the game, essentially allowing punters to add digital versions of themselves into the poker game. These innovations allowed the PKR.com to grow their user base to over 5 million players with up to 15,000 players online simultaneously.
How did US regulations affect PKR?
In 2006, lawmakers in the United States signed off the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, thereby forcing PKR to ban US-based punters from their site, thereby losing a large portion of their player base. There was some form of recovery the following year when PKR signed a licensing agreement with online gambling software provider powerhouse Playtech as their exclusive casino software provider.
The success years
PKR.cm hosted their first in-person poker tournament in London, UK in November 2008 in which over 150 players from across the globe took part. Another scoop for the company was a partnership with Nuts and Loaded men’s magazines in 2009, which saw branded poker rooms within the 3D poker client being launched. Players could also wear Nuts and Loaded avatar items at the poker tables.
Eventually, PKR was starting to face an increasing number of ambitious and deep-pocketed competitors. These rivals side-stepped the complex graphic-heavy approach of PKR but instead focused on simpler and faster gameplay. PKR tried to get more complex with its offering and missed a warning sign, the fact that players were tired of the 3D novelty and wanted less fancy and simpler poker gameplay.
The nail in the coffin
PKR’s early success has rendered it blind towards players’ changing preferences. Rivals lured their players with cleaner and mobile-friendly game clients. PKR.com’s response was always to add complexity to their poker rooms. PKR eventually gave up the independent monicker and in February 2016 became a mere skin on the already mediocre Microgaming Poker Network, which had already been declining itself since 2011. PKR closed in May 2017.
The tale of PKR is much the same as that of the Finnish tech giant, Nokia. While PKR differentiated themselves based on innovation and technology, they lost sight of a key customer aspect: what do our players want and how can we change to satisfy their needs? Technology is always great but the ability to listen to customers and satisfy their needs is greater.