PlayVS raises $30.5 million for high school esports platform
Elysian Park Ventures, the private investment arm of the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group, led the round. Other existing investors who also participated are New Enterprise Associates, Science Inc., Crosscut Ventures, Coatue Management, and WndrCo. New investors include Adidas (marking the company’s first esports investment), Samsung Next, Plexo Capital, along with angels Sean “Diddy” Combs, David Drummond (senior vice president at Alphabet), Rahul Mehta (partner at DST Global), Rich Dennis (founder of Shea Moisture), Michael Dubin (CEO of Dollar Shave Club), Nat Turner (CEO of Flatiron Health) and Johnny Hou (CEO of NZXT).
“We strive to be at the forefront of innovation in sports, and have been carefully searching for the right investment in esports,” said Tucker Kain, chief financial officer of the LA Dodgers and managing partner of Elysian Park Ventures, in a statement. “With PlayVS, we have found a model that works, built on a powerful platform that delivers an unparalleled player experience and will have a profound impact on the future of youth sports across the country.”
PlayVS has also announced new game partnerships with Psyonix and Hi-Rez Studios, publishers of Rocket League and Smite respectively. It is also partnering with Riot Games’ League of Legends to start an inaugural season in February 2019.
“We’re honored to have the support of the LA Dodgers, which has one of the best ownership groups in major league sports and are one of the earliest investors in esports. They collectively share our vision for what the future athlete looks like,” said PlayVS CEO Delane Parnell, in a statement. “One of the reasons we’re most excited about esports is accessibility. With this new round of funding and the addition of Rocket League and Smite, we’re able to take another huge step forward as we open the pathway for more students to compete and be recognized in the burgeoning esports industry.”
PlayVS continues to focus on enhancing students’ experiences by adding popular game titles and more state associations in order to grow high school esports’ audience and attract players interested in other game genres.
Through these partnerships, students will have access to these games as part of their PlayVS league participation fee. For example, with free-to-play games, students will receive in-game perks like Champion Unlocked for League of Legends and for paid games. Publishers will provide copies of their game to every school competing in their league on the PlayVS platform. This gives students a level playing field.
Students participating in the PlayVS League’s Rocket League competition will be competing in the three-versus-three mode on PC, where teams of three players compete to score as many goals as they can in a five-minute match. Since Rocket League’s launch in 2015, it has amassed a community of over 51 million players.
In Hi-Rez Studios’ Smite, teams of five players must work together to level up their characters and secure map objectives on a mission to siege the enemy’s base and defeat the opposing Titan. Smite established itself as one of the top three multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games with over 25 million players across around the world since its launch in March of 2014.
“PlayVS is in a position to truly transform the high school esports landscape, and we’re excited they have selected Smite to be included in its inaugural competitive season”, said Hi-Rez Studios chief operating officer Todd Harris, in a statement. “Hi-Rez aspires to build a sustainable, community-driven ecosystem from structured youth play through professional leagues, and this PlayVS partnership is a key part of realizing that vision for Smite.”
PlayVS is also expanding its markets past the five early access states (Connecticut (CIAC), Georgia (GHSA and GISA), Kentucky (KHSAA), Massachusetts (MIAA) and Rhode Island (RIIL) to high schools within Alabama (AHSAA), Mississippi (MISSHSAA), and parts of Texas (TCSAAL).
“We have an opportunity to engage students in the life of the school with an activity that they might already be participating in on their own,” said Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director, in a statement. “Now, we bring that interest and activity together to combine it with all of the elements of sport that are so special: teamwork, camaraderie, collaboration, storylines, excitement and connection to a group.”
PlayVS is also launching new Club Leagues in five states including Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Each Club League will have full access to the robust PlayVS platform and will be able to compete on behalf of their school within their respective states. Each Club League will have full access to the robust PlayVS platform, compete in a similar season structure, with the only difference being that the final event will be played online.
PlayVS said all of these games require critical thinking and teamwork, which are valuable skills students can gain through participation in esports. Unlike traditional sports, joining a PlayVS team does not involve tryouts, cuts, or any experience – just the desire to play. Students can sign up on the PlayVS website for the inaugural season now.
Schools in participating states can now sign up to compete in the league by visiting PlayVS.com/schools. School officials and teachers located outside of these states are also encouraged to create a PlayVS account and will be notified once additional states are announced for PlayVS’ inaugural season.
The inaugural season will begin the week of February 25th and end in April, with playoffs taking place in May 2019. The last day for schools to register for the inaugural season is February 8th.
Each state will host an end-of-season state live-event championship in May, crowning champions through a postseason single-elimination bracket. States will be divided into multiple conferences, conference champions will then advance to the semi-finals, with the top two competing for the state title.
Unlike traditional sports, PlayVS teams can be comprised of any students, without tryouts and regardless of experience, gender or age. There will be no limit to how many unique teams each school can have, which creates a “no-cut” environment and allows all students the chance to compete in esports at the varsity level.
The season participation fee for each student is $64 and can be paid by a parent, school or sponsor. Students will play the majority of matches through PlayVS’ online platform which will help schools save money on rising travel costs. Championship games will be played in front of a live spectator audience.