It’s official. Fortnite is now a real sport at the high school and college level.
Thanks to the Los Angeles-based startup, PlayVS, Fortnite leagues will be available to students who want to compete with others in their local areas. PlayVS aims to put esports on a similar standing with traditional sports, like basketball and baseball. Parents or students only need to pay $64 per player to join a competitive league.
PlayVS convinced the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to get on board, as well as the game publishers themselves, which is a critical piece of the puzzle. The startup differentiates itself from the competition by partnering directly with the IP owners, like Epic Games, who could otherwise shut down activity at any time.
PlayVS Pioneering Varsity Gaming
PlayVS launched in April 2018 and has grown quickly. The startup has raised $96 million in under two years and is available in all 50 states.
With permission from publishers and the NFHS, PlayVS is free to productize the competitive gaming experience in a burden-free way for schools. When institutions sign up for PlayVS, they get an online platform through which they can easily create and manage teams, schedules, and stats.
Teams participate in two seasons, one in the fall and one in the spring. Before adding Fortnite, teams were able to sign up for League of Legends, Rocket League, and SMITE. Regular season matches occur weekly on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Every season ends with a two-week postseason and championship.
The first Fortnite season will begin March 2. Schools can sign up as many teams of two as they would like. The first season of Fortnite will be free for registered PlayVS users.
On PlayVS’s website, the company lays out a compelling case for why esports leagues have an advantage over traditional sports programs. They don’t require any travel or pose physical harm to students at a fraction of the cost of other sports programs. Additionally, students gain exposure to a rapidly growing industry with many career paths.
Esports Set to Dominate in the 2020s
Thirteen thousand high schools (68 percent of the country) have already joined PlayVS’s waitlist to create a varsity esports program. For comparison’s sake, fourteen thousand schools in the U.S. have football programs today.
On the college side, PlayVS has to work with individual schools as no official partnership exists yet with the NCAA. However, competitive gaming already has momentum as universities are investing in esports programs and scholarships.
At the professional level, esports are blowing up all over the world. China is investing heavily in esports athletes who partake in grueling training schedules for a chance at gaming glory. Major sports brands, like Puma and Adidas, are designing sports apparel specifically to enhance the online gaming experience.
Fortnite has played a huge role in esports’ climb into the mainstream. Now, it’s making its way into schools and giving young gamers a chance to participate in an entirely new type of organized sport.