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High School Esports Competitions to Begin in U.S. This Year

Varsity esports programs are coming to high schools across the U.S. for the first time ever later in 2018.

PlayVS, a startup building online and offline infrastructure for high school esports, announced Thursday that it’s partnering with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the NFHS Network. The NFHS organizes education-based athletic activities around the country, while the NFHS Network is the national leader in streaming high school sports online.

PlayVS’ inaugural season begins in October 2018 with an initial rollout in at least 15 states. Competitions will focus on three genres: multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games, fighting games, and sports games. Students can select their own teams regardless of experience, gender, or age, and there will be no limit on how many teams each school can have. This gives all students a chance to compete at the varsity level. There will be two seasons each school year. Matches will be played online via PlayVS’ platform, which eliminates travel costs. But, some playoff and championship games will be played in front of a live audience.

Esports is becoming a massive global industry. Market intelligence firm Newzoo estimates revenues will grow 38 percent this year to reach $906 million. The global fan base will also reportedly increase 13.5 percent to an estimated 380 million. On its current trajectory, Newzoo estimates the industry will reach $1.4 billion by 2020.

Varsity collegiate esports began in 2014 when Robert Morris University in Illinois created a scholarship-sponsored “League of Legends” team. Nearly 200 colleges in the U.S. and Canada are now actively recruiting and offering scholarships to players. PlayVS CEO and founder Delane Parnell said his company is excited to introduce esports to high schools nationwide.

“This partnership combined with our technology and publisher relationships will help us create the first scalable competition for high school students,” said Parnell. “Esports is about more than just playing games — it can be used to help students grow their STEM interests and develop valuable life skills and since there are more high school gamers than athletes, it’s about time we foster this pastime in an educational setting.”

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