The idea that future generations of squash players could be introduced to the game via a virtual reality headset in their living room may be met with deep scepticism – and even dread – by squash purists.
But embracing the Esports market could in fact be key to the growth of the sport.
At least that’s according to the World Squash Federation (WSF), which today unveiled a new partnership with the Virtual Sports Association and games design studio One Hamsa.
One Hamsa makes Racket:NX, a virtual reality racket game with 250,000 players worldwide.
Billed as “fully athletic and visceral”, the game allows players to compete with opponents all over the world.
The WSF said the partnership will ensure it is well-placed in the exploding Esports market.
The prospect of budding squash players swapping the leisure centre for their living room may represent a dystopian nightmare for squash die-hards.
The WSF, however, feels that co-opting eSports will provide it with a new route to growing the game.
“We have seen an explosion in the growth of Esports over the last decade and there is no doubt that is set to continue. It is vital for the long-term growth of the game that squash is properly represented in the world of Esports,” WSF CEO William Louis-Marie said.
“By working together, we will no doubt introduce more potential squash players to our sport and reconnect with plenty who may not have picked up a racket in some time.”
The WSF said that it will even begin “exploring the feasibility of an official VR Squash discipline”.
A ‘fully athletic and visceral game’
Racket: NX has been the top-selling VR racket sport game for over five years.
But how close does it come to recreating the conditions of a traditional game of squash?
The VR Health Institute claims Racket: NX should burn between 4-6 calories per minute, which is roughly the same as riding an elliptical.
“This endorsement supports Racket:Next’s core design principles as a fully athletic and visceral game, allowing players of all racquet sports – not only squash – to make every racquet sport move, except for those that would not work in the average living room, immersed inside a lighted, responsive, audio-filled dome, in a game that is purely skill based,” said One Hamsa CEO Assaf “Usul” Ronen.