PlayVS expands by locking in deal with Tencent-owned Riot Games

The growth of esports led to a broader discussion about creating a path for young gamers to become esports athletes. And the expansion of one startup at the heart of it all speaks to an increasing demand for this “path to pro” to emerge.

This week, PlayVS —an esports competition platform that primarily focuses on bringing esports to high schools —announced an multi-year partnership with Tencent-owned Riot Games to be the exclusive provider of competitive high school League of Legends in the United States.

The partnership comes less than a month after PlayVS inked a partnership with Fortnite publisher Epic Games to bring Fortnite competitions to high schools and colleges across the country as well.

Both partnerships basically give young players a taste of competition in two of the biggest and most-watched games in the esports industry, which research firm Newzoo had predicted would generate more than $1 billion in revenue in 2019.

G2 Esports fans during Quarter Finals League of Legends World Championship match between G2 Esports and Damwon Gaming on October 27, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.

Borja B. Hojas | Getty Images

Since its launch in 2018, PlayVS has raised over $96 million in funding and now offers a competitive infrastructure for four games, including Smite and Rocket League as well as League of Legends and Fortnite. It has also been a partner of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which officially recognizes esports, since April 2018.

But despite the enthusiasm that has grown around gaming and esports over time, not everyone is on board with the hype. In January, Kentucky’s high school athletic association banned Fortnite from varsity esports, with the association leader saying that “there is no place for shooter games” in their schools.

In response, PlayVS CEO Delane Parnell, 27, emphasized on CNBC’s “Squawk Alley” that his company aims to create a healthy structured environment for young players to enjoy the games they love.

“What we’re able to do is put them in an environment with adults who act as their coaches, and really help them participate in something that they enjoy with a community of friends and peers,” he said. “It’s certainly a safer [than having them play] in an unstructured, unsupervised environment.”

“We think that the impact we’re able to have by building this structured environment for kids who want to participate in esports is no different than the impact [structured play environments have on] kids who play football,” added Parnell.

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