Delane Parnell’s PlayVS Expands From High School To College ESports With Fortnite Game Competitions

Written by Dana Sanchez
PlayVS, a startup that’s building infrastructure for high school esports, has partnered with Epic Games to operate Fortnite competitions in high schools and colleges. Delane Parnell image: Anita Martin/Moguldom

PlayVS, a venture-backed startup that’s building the online and offline infrastructure for high school esports, has partnered with Epic Games to operate Fortnite Game competitions in high school and college.

High school students began competing in esports leagues in October 2018 thanks to an exclusive contract between PlayVS and the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations).

This is PlayVS’s first entry into colleges and universities.

PlayVS (pronounced “Play Versus”) provides support in building the video gaming infrastructure for high school esports. This allows students to play esports on behalf of their school all the way to the state championship level.

“Yes, you heard it correct. We’re now building the proper infrastructure for college esports too,” PlayVS founder and CEO Delane Parnell tweeted on Wednesday.

Parnell’s mission has been to bring esports to high schools with a league where students could compete similar to traditional sports like football or basketball. For $64, a player can be placed in a league to compete with neighboring schools, just like any other sport.

One of the world’s most popular games, Fortnite will now be an official high school and college sport.

Responses to Parnell’s announcement on social media were mostly admiration and gratitude.

“This is really important for competitive gaming in general. Keep crushing it Delane,” Armin tweeted.

“Fortnite might not be the best game but I am Super happy that esports are being considered like real sports!” Spade Ouma tweeted

As of September 2019, PlayVS has raised a total of $96 million in venture capital. The Los Angeles-based startup launched in April, 2018 and announced in June that year that it had completed a $15 million Series-A funding round to bring esports infrastructure to high schools across the country. A $30 million Series-B funding round followed in November 2018. In September 2019, Parnell announced that PlayVS had raised $50 million for a total of $96 million.

There are 21,000 high schools in the U.S. and esports will be sanctioned just like any other sports — basketball or football, Parnell said in a Moguldom interview. “You can compete for state championships and have your statistical records recognized by the State Athletic Association,” Parnell said.

Since PlayVS launched, more than 13,000 high schools joined a waitlist to get a varsity esports team through PlayVS, Parnell said. By comparison, just over 14,000 U.S. high schools have a football program.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 24: Delane Parnell

Jamarlin talks to prodigy Delane Parnell, founder and CEO of high-school esports company PlayVS, which just raised a $15M series A round.

Other companies are setting up paid competitive leagues around video games, but few, if any, have partnerships at the publisher level, Techcrunch reported. PlayVS is the first to score such a partnership with Epic Games.

The college landscape is a new challenge for PlayVS. There is no official partnership with the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) so PlayVS has to pitch their technology directly to individual colleges. “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,” Jordan Crook reported for Techcrunch.

Fortnite’s — and PlayVS’s — push into the college level is significant “given the NCAA’s inability and/or unwillingness to integrate esports alongside its traditional sports competitions,” according to the Washington Post.