U.S.-based scholastic esports company PlayVS announced this week that longtime founder and CEO Delane Parnell has stepped down from the role. PlayVS VP of Finance Joe Gibson will take on the role of CEO in the interim as the company searches for a replacement for Parnell—Gibson joined the company July of 2019 as comptroller. The company said that Parnell will remain on the board of directors and will continue to influence the company as a senior advisor during and after the search for his replacement.
According to several tweets from Jacob Wolf, Parnell began negotiating an exit from the company and the role with the board beginning in December because he wanted to work on a new project.
While Parnell is credited with much of the company’s growth over the last several years, his tenure as CEO is fraught with controversy; several local and state high school associations/non-profits (as detailed in Esports Insider, Upcomer, Jacob Wolf, and Washington Post reports from last year) have publicly accused the company of using the licenses it had obtained from publishers (Riot Games, Nintendo, as examples) to attempt to strong arm them into working with the company.
Most recently, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) chose to exclude NBA 2K from its list of approved games for the state-wide 2023 State Series esports competition because it would require PlayVS to administer tournaments. The IHSA said in March that it chose to remove the game after publisher 2K Games told them that, because PlayVS held the license, it would have to work with the company in order to continue competing in 2023. Instead, the organization decided to remove it from the lineup.
“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve achieved at PlayVS in only a few years,” Parnell said in a release. “Leading such a talented team has been an honor, and developing an innovative product that has created so many opportunities for an underserved audience has been a dream come true. It has been humbling to serve as a role model for Black tech founders in gaming, and I hope that my example inspires others to break down barriers in the industry. I’m excited to see PlayVS continue to grow and make a positive impact on the world of gaming and education.”
Parnell was named a member of “Forbes 30 Under 30” in 2019.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include the in-depth reporting from Esports Insider on PlayVS. We knew we had forgotten someone!