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G2 Esports announces new North American VALORANT team

The Berlin-based G2 Esports has announced a new North American VALORANT team after working on the expansion for months.

According to G2, the roster will participate in North America’s VALORANT Challengers in 2023. In addition to North America, VALORANT holds the event in the Pacific, Europe and the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). In 2024, the top two VALORANT Challengers teams will head to the global league.

G2 managing director Alban Dechelotte said the team had always loved VALORANT because of the first EMEA Ignition Series Tournament. The German team’s G2 Gozen, an all-female squad, also won the Game Changers tournament in 2021.

“We’re coming to North America with the ambition to take the opportunity that Riot Games offers us to earn our spot in the International League through the Ascension Tournament.”

Alban Dechelotte, G2 Esports Managing Director

Dechelotte added that the team’s decision to establish the North American team was to take an opportunity given by Riot Games, the developer of VALORANT, to participate in the International League via the Ascension Tournament.

VALORANT has introduced a new structure to its competitive scene. Currently, Riot only allows 30 partnered teams, ten from each region, to participate in VALORANT’s highest-tier competition. Because of that, non-partner teams only qualify for the Challengers stage.

Last year, G2 failed to acquire the agreement with Riot, which would have secured the team a spot in the international league. The failure was caused by a scandal involving G2 co-founder and former CEO Carlos “ocelote’” Rodríguez, who shared a video of him partying with controversial influencer Andrew Tate.

The new system creates stability in VALORANT’s competitive scene, which increases its attractiveness to sponsors. However, it has caused many esports teams to drop VALORANT. G2, on the other hand, still wants to join the Challengers to expand its influence in North America.

“In the last six years, we have seen how supportive G2 fans are of our successes and also of our memes in North America,” Dechelotte said.

G2’s new VALORANT team consists of five members — Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan (in-game leader), Erik “penny” Penny, Maxim “wippie” Shepelev, Michael “dapr” Gulino and Francis “OXY” Hoang. G2 has also announced that the team will be under British coach Ian “Immi” Harding’s guidance.

ShahZam and dapr are veteran American players who joined professional esports in 2012 and 2016, respectively. Both of them were Sentinels players who dabbled in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The two players, however, were excluded from Sentinels’ 2023 roster as the team was looking for a rebuild.

Unlike ShahZam and dapr, the three other players are relatively less known. The Canadian player penny also used to play CS:GO and participated in several VALORANT tournaments in the past. He was a part of the American esports team Version1 along with his G2 teammate, wippie, who hailed from Russia. OXY used to play for the VALORANT esports team Dark Ratio.

Coach Immi was a professional CS:GO player who changed gear to Riot’s FPS in 2020. This year, the coach participated in the VCT 2022: North America Stage 1 Challengers but did not proceed to the next stage.

Brand partnerships

In addition to forming a North American VALORANT team, G2 recently signed a commercial partnership with American sportswear company Oakley. This partnership is related to the development of Oakley’s gaming glasses, NXTLVL. G2 players will test the glasses, and they eventually will release co-branded eyewear. G2 had previously partnered with major brands, including Ralph Lauren, Logitech and Mastercard.

The team remains influential in Europe despite its leadership scandal. G2’s Twitch account has amassed more than 12.2 million subscribers while its Twitter account has more than seven million followers.

G2 is scheduled to attend the Esports Awards in Las Vegas on December 13. It has been nominated in several categories, including Esports Creative Team of the Year and Esports Organization of the Year.