Millions of high school kids play online multiplayer games, but in Fortnite or Valorant there are rarely rivals nearby. PlayVS wants to do that with its school sponsored sports platform, and it’s growing like crazy, doubling its staff last year, and putting thousands of schools on its platform.
PlayVS combines online games with the official school administration and branding and increases the sport from a hobby to a school-sponsored activity.
“I think we are building the largest company in gaming,” said founder and CEO Delane Parnell said in an interview with Disrupt 2020 this week. With around 20,000 high schools enrolled now and nearly a hundred million dollar growth in the bank, that̵
The company raises $ 64 per player per semi-annual season, which adds up very quickly when you have Counter-Strike teams of a dozen people with alternates or competing league teams at the same school – multiplied by 20,000, of course. A bit of napkin math suggests that existing customers’ incomes are easily in the tens of millions.
Parnell offered the following metaphor to explain what the company was aiming for.
“Imagine there was a basketball court and every kid who ever wanted to play basketball, be it on behalf of their school, at the pickup or at some kind of tournament. This is the field they had to play on, ”he said. “We’ll build that.”
Sure, it sounds a bit like a monopoly on tires, but the problem right now is that there really is no common court at all. Esports is completely disorganized at this level, if it is organized at all (and let’s face it, even at the pro level, it’s a bit of a mess). PlayVS wants to provide the connective tissue so there is a place that both players and administrators turn to when it comes to competitive inter-school gaming.
Parnell explained that the last year was about learning the ropes and building a presence in the equally confusing world of government school systems.
“We’ve certainly built the foundation of the business on our partnership with the NFHS – essentially the high schools NCAA, who set and write the rules for our high school sports,” he said. But then individual relationships have to be established with districts, financial programs, heads of state and of course the game publishers themselves, who understandably seek to get in touch with the younger generation of gamers.
So far, schools in 23 states have enrolled, and Parnell said they are on track to get each state of the union on board by 2022.
“These are partnerships that take some time to form. It also takes extra time to develop the technology that enables online esports that most people believe exists today but actually doesn’t, ”he said. “So we started investing very deeply in hiring a team to develop our product. We have a lot of capital in the bank and we intend to use it very wisely. “
Product construction is more than buying servers – it tries to establish parity with the tools available related to sports such as soccer and basketball.
“There are products and services we can bake, things like recruiting, scouting, proven technology, highlights … these are things that would normally exist from independent companies in traditional sports,” he said. “One company does one thing, a thousand companies do additional things that improve the sports experience for each stakeholder, parent, coach, player, and so on. We will be able to do all of these things within the PlayVS ecosystem because we are the league operator and the sole owner of this data. We will effectively have complete control over what that experience looks like and what revenue models are associated with it. “
For comparison, he suggested fantasy sports, which are a huge industry today but are not dominated by a single entity. “If there was a group like CBS that could have summed up all of this behavior, it would be a company with annual sales of $ 40 billion to $ 50 billion. But they couldn’t get in touch with the NFL, the NBA, to give them the exclusive right to be the only fantasy provider on the market, ”said Parnell. “Game makers are ready to do this with us. They are ready to integrate with our product because they know we can do it. I think this is a great opportunity. And it could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. “
PlayVS won’t expand into pro leagues, he confirmed, saying that the high school and college level work is as much as it can currently handle. But they are perfectly overwhelmed.
“It’s almost like the NBA existed for four years and then they went back and said, hey, we have to build high school basketball, college basketball, etc,” he said. “Obviously there is a lot of catching up to do.”