PlayVS raises $30.5 million to invest in inclusive high school esports

PlayVS has raised $30.5 million for its platform for high school esports. It has also partnered up with Psyonix and Hi-Rez Studios, publishers of Rocket League and Smite respectively, and a subsequent partnership with Riot’s League of Legends will also launch in February next year.

According to VentureBeat, new investors include Adidas – marking the company’s first investment in esports – Samsung Next, Plexo Capital, and "angels" Sean "Diddy" Combs, David Drummond, Rahul Mehta, Rich Dennis, Michael Dubin, Nat Turner, and Johnny Hou.

The partnerships enable students will have access to partner games as part of their $64 PlayVS league participation fee, and in the event of the titles being free-to-play, students will be granted in-game perks. Unlike traditional sports teams, PlayVS members can get involved without tryouts "regardless of experience, gender or age", and there’s no maximum limit on the number of members or teams each school can have. Benefits of the scheme are said to include "valuable skills" such as critical thinking and teamwork.

PlayVS is also launching new Club Leagues in five US states – Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas – to join the existing roster of Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as expanding to high schools within Alabama, Mississippi, and parts of Texas. Each league will be able to compete on behalf of their school in their respective states, with the final being played out online. Schools have until February 8th to register for the inaugural 2019 season.

To participate, parents/guardians, schools, or sponsors must pay a $64 membership fee. Given the majority of matches are played via PlayVS’ online platform, it’s hoped there’ll be minimal costs beyond the membership fee, although championship games are played in front of a live audience in May. The season kicks off on February 25th and will end in April, with playoffs expected to take place in May 2019.

"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."

"One of the reasons we’re most excited about esports is accessibility," added PlayVS CEO Delane Parnell. "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."

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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