Interview: PlayVS removes scholastic platform fees in business model change

14 November 2023


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Image credit: PlayVS

Scholastic esports tournament platform PlayVS has removed enrolment fees for its state and regional leagues, making it free to use for high schools in the US and Canada.

In an interview with Esports Insider, PlayVS said the change would better allow it to scale by opening up access to a wider range of schools.

PlayVS offers scholastic and amateur esports leagues for young people in North America.

PlayVS CEO Jon Chapman, who joined the company in June, told Esports Insider that PlayVS will transition to a sponsorship and partnership funding model going forward. 

He said PlayVS would look to build an ‘ecosystem of organisations’ that want to support young people competing in esports, listing private-sector companies, non-profits, youth-based initiatives and commercial brand sponsors as examples.

“It’s about removing barriers and creating more participation in the space,” Chapman said. “One of the things I’ve observed in my first few months as CEO is that the participation market here in the US is still relatively small.

“We have many thousands more schools, hundreds of thousands more students we could potentially impact, and we want to create conditions to do that.”

PlayVS Chief Marketing Officer Brian Cooley told Esports Insider in a separate interview that the company, which operates in all 50 states, currently has up to about 4000 schools competing on its platforms depending on the season.

The news comes after high-profile executive changes at PlayVS in recent months, including Jon Chapman as CEO, Brian Cooley as CMO, Veronica Sander as Head of Sponsorship, amongst others. Many of these new appointments previously worked together at EVERFI, an ed-tech company that drives social impact goals through digital education. 

Chapman, who was previously President and a co-founder of EVERFI, told Esports Insider that PlayVS’ new business model is in large part inspired by the success he saw at the company. “We’re really taking a lot of pages out of the EVERFI playbook,” Chapman added. “It is very much in line with my experience at EVERFI where we always gave access to our digital learning platform for teachers and administrators at schools. We want to run that same tactic here at PlayVS.”

PlayVS previously charged schools $64 per student to compete in its leagues. In an investigation in 2022, Esports Insider found that some poorer schools were shut out from accessing scholastic esports due to a combination of PlayVS’ exclusivity deals with game publishers at the time and high buy-in prices.

The wide-ranging investigation also drew attention to widespread community criticism at the time over the company’s use of and alleged overstatement of exclusive partnerships with game publishers, which shut out other companies, including non-profits, from leveraging scholastic esports.

Chapman told Esports Insider the company no longer has exclusivity deals with publishers, arguing PlayVS is now focused on widening reach and access to scholastic esports for as many people as possible.

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The change in tactic for PlayVS allows the company to continue to scale at a much quicker pace — but the change may also alleviate community concerns regarding access to its product, which is one of the leading platforms for scholastic esports in North America.

PlayVS additionally plans to lean into amateur competitions outside of just scholastic tournaments in an attempt to widen participation and reach youth in more places, Chapman said.

PlayVS has raised over $107m (~£84m) in funding since its founding from major investors including the likes of Softbank Innovation Fund, Samsung NEXT, Adidas and others.

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.