More news dropped today about high school esports as the PlayVS website launched and the NFHS officially announced their partnership with the platform. We learned a little more about season structure and players, faculty and college recruiters can now sign up on the PlayVS website – PlayVS.com – to get a head start.
Also, the AHSAA currently has a form up that you can complete if you are interested in participating in the initial esports program next school year. You can fill that out here.
One of the things we learned right off the bat is what a typical season will look like. Loose dates for the inaugural season were listed on the PlayVS website:
“Students will test their skill and solidify their team in a series of exhibition matches. These low-stakes matches will only affect each team’s seeds at the beginning of the Regular Season.”
It seems like the preseason will be mandatory to help sort out the teams. I imagined esports would get away from the classification system and use more of a skill based system, and that seems to be the case. For instance – if one team from Hoover performs well in the preseason, but another performs poorly, then you could see Hoover represented among many skill groups.
Regular Season (October through December)
“The fight for the State Championship begins! Each state is split into four conferences. During the Regular Season students compete in at least eight weekly matches against opponents with similar win ratios.”
Still some questions here. First off, the AHSAA said they aren’t going to be “crowning state champions”, so I assume that means no blue maps for the winners. Some other states may reward the winners as state champs, this is all off a national site.
I saw some articles mention eight (8) regular season matches, but this says “at least” eight. So there could be more. If there are only four conferences, I imagine there could be a lot of teams within a conference. It also says against opponents with similar win ratios, so you’ll be playing against teams that are more around your skill level. I don’t know if the conferences will be skill based, or there will be skill-based rankings within a conference.
The matches will all be online. The only LAN/offline competition will be in the final tournaments.
“Top teams from each conference will compete against each other in the playoffs to secure their spot at the State Championship. Championships will take place at high schools or other venues within each state.”
Once again, I’m not sure what constitutes a “conference” and if there will be multiple competitions within a game. For instance, if a team goes undefeated in the preseason, is placed in a high skill group and wins that – are they placed in the same tournament with a team who lost every game in the preseason, but won their lower skill group?
I also hope that the AHSAA does right by the gamers and does have some neutral venue where they can compete, like there is for other state championships. Renting out somewhere that could really work with a good stage to make it a spectator friendly event. Even if they did choose high schools, choose one that has a good theater setup. I’m curious if there will be any outside help to set up LAN events.
PlayVS also gave some specifics on their competitions:
Compete at School – All matches leading up to the postseason will be played at school and online against the other schools.
Coed – Esports will be an all-inclusive program and students of all genders can equally participate within the same teams.
No Cuts – PlayVS says there is no limit to how many teams can form at the varsity level so that everyone can participate. Schools can have as many teams as they can field.
Live Audiences – I don’t know how many live fans there will be at normal matches, but hopefully the postseason draws a decent crowd. While the NFHS Network will stream the postseason matches just like they do with every sport, and many schools have a deal with the NFHS Network as well – I just hope they utilize it and other schools aren’t afraid to use Twitch.
Games – This isn’t listed on their site, but ESPN and multiple outlets had quotes describing the games they want to use (see the articles below). PlayVS CEO Delane Parnell said they are looking to focus less on game and more on genre. They will have no shooting games at all. That means no first-person shooters like CS:GO or Halo, no battle royale games like Fortnite or PUBG. They feel those games aren’t friendly in a high school environment. (Personally, I feel like it depends on the game. I think Overwatch is fine, where as I understand about a game like Counter-Strike).
They said they are focused on MOBAs, fighting games and sports games. I listed out the games they mentioned in their initial presentation before, so I imagine we’ll see something close to that roster of games to start with. They said that as new games come out in those genres, they will just plug those games in.
Other Tournaments – The article on ESPN also said that PlayVS will run tournaments throughout the summer in the “offseason” that students can participate in, but they won’t contribute to a state title race.
College Recruiters – I didn’t make an account because there was no media access, just an email to contact, but I did notice that on top of students and faculty members, there was a sign up spot for college recruiters. Many programs give scholarships now for esports, so they are definitely treating this like a collegiate feeder program just like any other sport would.
Here is some additional reading to find out more about what PlayVS and the NFHS are planning to do: