Illinois High School Association drops NBA 2K after PlayVS exclusivity

Illinois High School Association logo
Image credit: Illinois High School Association

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA), the governing body for sports and esports in Illinois, has dropped NBA 2K from its state high school esports league.

The decision comes after IHSA failed to reach an agreement with high school esports platform PlayVS, which obtained exclusive rights to run high school competitions in NBA 2K through a partnership with developer 2K Games in March 2022. The news was first reported by The Esports Advocate.

The decision was announced after a Board of Directors meeting that took place on March 11th. In the meeting, IHSA’s Board approved a recommendation from its Esports Advisory Committee to discontinue NBA 2K as a game offering in its IHSA State Series.

IHSA is the official governing body for sports, esports and other after school activities in the US state of Illinois. The IHSA Esports State Series is the association’s official esports league.

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson commented on the decision to drop NBA 2K in a statement following the meeting: “NBA 2K is popular with our competing esports students, so this is a disappointing course of events to say the least.”

“PlayVS currently has exclusive rights to the NBA2K usage at the high school level. We have had numerous discussions with PlayVS to try and navigate a path to allow NBA2K to continue to be played in the IHSA State Series, but to no avail. We hope that PlayVS will reconsider their stance in the future so we can offer this game again.”

Alongside NBA 2K, the 22/23 season of the Esports State Series offered competitions in Rocket League, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and FIFA, per a guidebook on IHSA’s website.

According to The Esports Advocate’s report, IHSA’s decision was guided by an internal policy of not working with third party scholastic esports programmes.

In response to the news, esports directors at US colleges Illinois State University and Bois State publicly stated on Twitter that their institutions would drop support for NBA 2K.

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PlayVS is a high school esports platform that runs esports championships for high school students in North America. It is partnered with numerous high school state associations, some of which require schools part of that association to use the PlayVS platform. The company has raised over $107m (~£89m) to date.

However, PlayVS has come under widespread criticism from the scholastic esports community for its company conduct and encompassing claims to have exclusive rights to run esports competitions at the high school level.

As Esports Insider reported in August 2022, PlayVS has acted to stop competitors — including non-profit institutions, high schools, associations and teachers — from letting students participate in esports via exclusivity deals, the authenticity of some of which has been questioned.

Further criticism has also centred around the platform’s fees and alleged product flaws, amongst other things.

“Saddened to receive the news that NBA 2K will no longer be offered as an esports title for [Illinois High School Association] students to compete in due to exclusivity and 3rd party involvement concerns,” Elgin High School Esports, the esports club of Illinois-based school Elgin High School, said on Twitter in response to the news.

Jake Nordland
Jake has worked at Esports Insider as a journalist and editor since early 2021. Now ESI's Media Manager, he continues to act as lead editor of print magazine The Esports Journal, and contributes his words to the website from time to time.