Fortnite, one of the world’s most popular games, will now be an official high school sport and college sport, thanks to an LA-based startup called PlayVS.
PlayVS launched in April of 2018 with a mission of bringing esports to high school, with a league akin to traditional sports like basketball or football. Through a partnership with the NFHS, high schools (or parents, or the students themselves) can pay $64/player to be placed in a league to compete with neighboring schools, just like any other sport.
But PlayVS partnerships go deeper than the NFHS (the NCAA of high school sports), as the company is also partnering with the publishers themselves. This is the part that puts PlayVS a step ahead of its competition, according to founder Delane Parnell .
While other companies are setting up paid competitive leagues around video games, very few if any have partnerships at the publisher level. This means that those startups could be shut down on a whim by the publishers themselves, which own the IP of the game.
PlayVS is the first to score such a partnership with Epic Games, the maker of the world’s most popular video game.
These publisher partnerships also allow PlayVS to productize the experience in a way that requires almost no lift for schools and organizations. Players simply sign into PlayVS and get dropped into their scheduled match. At the end, PlayVS pulls stats and insights directly from the match, which can be made available to the players, coaches, fans and even recruiters.
For PlayVS, the college landscape presents a new challenge. With high school expansion, the NFHS fueled fast and expansive growth. Since launch, more than 13,000 high schools have joined the waitlist to get a varsity esports team through PlayVS, which represents 68% of the country. PlayVS says that just over 14,000 high schools in the United States have a football program, to give you a comparison.
The NFHS has a relationship with the NCAA, but no such official partnership has been signed, meaning that PlayVS has to go directly to individual colleges to pitch their technology. Luckily, they’re going in armed with the most popular game in the world, and at a time when many colleges are looking to incorporate esports scholarships and programs.
And it doesn’t hurt that PlayVS has quite a bit of cash in the bank — the company has raised $96 million since launch.
Unlike the rest of the PlayVS titles, the first season of Fortnite competition will be free to registered users, courtesy of the partnership with Epic Games. Registration for the first seasons closes on February 17 for high schools, and February 24 for colleges and universities. The season officially kicks off on March 2.
The format for competition will be Duos, and organizations can submit as many teams of two as they like. The top teams will be invited to the playoffs with a chance to win a spot in the championship in May.