PlayVS receives $30.5m investment, announces expansion

PlayVS has received $30.5 million (£23.7 million) in a Series B funding round led by Elysian Park Ventures, the investment arm of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The American high school esports tournament organiser has also partnered with Psyonix and Hi-Rez Studios to bring Rocket League and SMITE into its inaugural season alongside Riot Games’ League of Legends.

PlayVSTucker Kain, Managing Partner of Elysian Park Ventures discussed the funding round: “We strive to be at the forefront of innovation in sports, and have been carefully searching for the right investment in esports. 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.”

Five existing investors were involved in the funding round, alongside new investors: adidas, Samsung NEXT, Plexo Capital, Sean “Diddy” Combs, David Drummond, Rahul Mehta, Rich Dennis, Michael Dubin, Nat Turner, and Johnny Hou. In June, the company received $15 million (£11.66 million) in a Series A funding round.

Todd Harris, Co-Founder and COO of Hi-Rez Studios stated: “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. 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.”

In September, PlayVS partnered with Riot Games to make League of Legends the game of choice in Season Zero of its initiative. This included high schools in Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island all compete on the popular MOBA title. In its first season, Alabama, Mississippi, and parts of Texas will be involved as well as the five aforementioned stats.

Delane Parnell, Founder and CEO of PlayVS commented on the funding and expansion: “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. 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.”

The inaugural season of the initiative kicks off in February 2019. PlayVS is sanctioned and an exclusive partner of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NHFS), a governing body that state the regulations used by states.

Dr. Karissa Niehoff, executive director of NFHS added: “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. 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.”

Esports Insider says: Not only does this mark adidas’ first investment in the esports industry, the likes of Diddy and Founders & CEOs of prominent companies are now involved in supporting high school esports stateside. This is a great move for PlayVS – especially considering the recent Series A round – and the expansion in terms of games and states is definitely welcome news.

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