On March 4, The Esports Advocate reported that two of the games selected for the Olympic Esports Series—Virtual Taekwondo and Tic Tac Bow—were developed by Refract Technologies, a Singapore-based development studio with direct ties to the Global Esports Federation. Tic Tac Bow, a “pay-to-win” mobile game was only recently released, but somehow managed to be the official game to represent the real world sport.
Even after being made aware of TEA’s report on the connections between Refract Technologies, Global Esports Federation, and other entities, GEF Director of Communications Gabriel Q. Chan insisted in two statements emailed to TEA earlier this week that it had no involvement in the selection process:
“I reiterate that the Global Esports Federation is not involved in any capacity in the planning and operations of the Olympic Esports Series. Perhaps you would consider contacting the International Olympic Committee regarding your fundamental question on the titles’ selection process.”
TEA did just that. International Olympic Committee Head of Virtual Sport & Gaming Vincent Pereira (who has been traveling over the last week), issued a statement to TEA on Saturday. In it he highlights how games were selected for Olympic Esports Series 2023, and what entities were involved in the process. We have put emphasis on some of those facts within the statement below:
A primary goal of the Olympic Agenda 2020 + 5 is to support and promote the development of virtual sports throughout the Olympic Movement. This is why we have focused first on virtual and simulated sports games in the competition series. The Olympic Games has always offered a diverse programme. In order to build a similarly diverse programme for the Olympic Esports Series 2023, we have partnered with International Federations (IFs), who in turn propose game developer partnerships.
When considering these proposals, it is important to the IOC that the featured games in the Olympic Esports Series align with the Olympic Values. This includes participation inclusivity, such as technical barriers to entry, the gender split of player base and avoiding any personal violence, in line with the IOC’s mission to unite the world in peaceful competition.
In addition to this, as is the case with the Olympic Games host cities, the local organising committee (LOC) of Singapore, were invited to propose events on the programme. They have selected Taekwondo and Archery. Following the same process outlined above, World Taekwondo and World Archery proposed a collaborator to deliver their corresponding games. In this case, they have partnered with a local games studio, which was approved by the IOC.
Only in its second edition, the number of events in the Olympic Esports Series has already doubled. We have had interesting and encouraging conversations with a number of other IFs and game publishers, and expect additional titles to be added to the Olympic Esports Series line up in the coming weeks.
Now knowing—according to the IOC’s own statement above about how games were selected—let’s look at the relationships that could have had a strong influence on why these particular games were selected:
Singapore-based Refract Technologies’ CEO and Co-founder Michael Chng, Executive Director and Co-Founder Chong Geng Ng, and Co-Founder Eugene Koh have ties to either the Global Esports Federation, Singapore Esports Association, or both. Chong Geng Ng is a co-founder and board member of the Global Esports Federation and president of the Singapore Esports Association (SGEA). Michael Chng is a member of the “Digital, Technology & Innovation Commission” of the Global Esports Federation. Eugene Koh is a founding member of both the Singapore Cybersports & Gaming Association (SCOGA) and Singapore Esports Association (SGEA).
Chris Chan, the current president of the Global Esports Federation, is also the secretary general of the Singapore National Olympic Council, which had decision making power on the selection of games that were chosen for the Olympic Esports Series.
On July 13, 2021, Global Esports Federation announced a partnership with Refract (a company that several of its members co-founded) as a “global partner for interactive technology.”
As Pereira notes in his statement, World Taekwondo and World Archery (having direct financial ties to a single developer) both partnered with Refract (a company owned by Global Esports Federation founding members and executives) and had an important amount of influence in putting forward Tic Tac Bow and Virtual Taekwondo for inclusion in the Olympic Esports Series. Further, Chris Chan—the current president of the Global Esports Federation and the secretary general of the Singapore National Olympic Council—had a direct hand in deciding what games and local developers to support.
The Global Esports Federation’s statement that it did not have a seat at the table as an officially recognized organization when Virtual Taekwondo and Tic Tac Bow were selected is true, but its current president and two of Refract’s partners did. World Archery and World Taekwondo (partners with financial ties to Refract) pushed both games when the Singapore National Olympic Council was making selections and Global Esports Federation President Chris Chan—serving in his capacity as secretary general of the Singapore National Olympic Council—certainly had a strong influence on what games received final approval.
The only organization that doesn’t appear to have any entanglements is the International Olympic Committee, which relies heavily on the local committee in the region (Singapore) making the selections and then approving it.
On a related note, South Korean hardware manufacturer Samsung Electronics announced a partnership with Refract related to Virtual Taekwondo earlier this month.