In a decisive vote of the International Racquetball Federation [IRF] Board of Directors, Virtual Reality racquet sport game Racket:Next [aka Racket: Nx] has become a fully sanctioned sports discipline of the IOC Recognized global sports federation, effective April 1, 2022. With this action, Racquet:Next becomes the first electronic game of any sort to become an official global sport.
IRF, Racket:Next developer One Hamsa, and the Metaverse Sports Association signed a Memorandum of Understanding in July 2021. At that time, the IRF endorsed Racket:Next and committed to progress toward full sanctioning of the game as a sport.
IRF Secretary General Luke St. Onge said at the time: “When we realized what this combination could mean not only for our federation but for all of racquet sport, we jumped all over it. This will be a game-changer both for us and for world sport. We look forward to sharing so much more as this exciting partnership unfolds.”
As St. Onge predicted, the partnership has unfolded and “the game” has changed. Dean Schear, IRF Chief Financial Officer and Chair of the IRF Virtual Sports Committee, added, “Bottom line, we have a great vision, a great team, and the sense of urgency and commitment to act now.”
The IRF has been asked to participate in the E-Gaming Pavilion at The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, in July. The IRF is also a candidate to participate in the Olympic Virtual Series later this year. Metaverse Sports Association CEO Victor Bond, who drove and facilitated the agreement, commented, “This is a marriage made in future-sport heaven: a world-class developer and a unique, successful, and wonderful game with a fully global international IOC-recognized sports federation that has the vision and the grit to not just look around the corner but to go there.” Bond added, “This is one big step in our collaboration and one gigantic leap for the new technology of sport.”
One Hamsa CEO Assaf “Usul” Ronen added: “This first-ever sanctioning act supports Racket:Next’s core design principles as a fully athletic and visceral game, allowing players of all racquet sports – not only racquetball – to make every racket sport move, except for those that would not work in the average living room (like a racquetball dive or a clay court tennis slide), immersed inside a lighted, responsive, audio-filled dome, in a game that is purely skill based.”
Ronen continued, “Racket:Next has already surpassed 300,000 players worldwide, led by the fastest-growing VR headset, the Meta Quest 2, in which it’s been a top-rated title since its launch in 2019. Since 2021 we also witness a surge of players on emerging China-based platforms. Racquet sports, all together, is the largest sports category in the world, eclipsing even world football.
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association, organised with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and over 100 countries will take part in The World Games.