The release of Valorant has already created significant progress for women in esports. Last month, Spectacor Gaming’s FTW initiative became the first tournament organizer to receive official professional-level tournament status from Riot Games for a female-only tournament. Now esports organization Cloud9 is looking to take that progression even further with the signing of this tournament’s champion, MAJKL, as a sister team to their existing Valorant roster. The team will now compete as “Cloud9 White” with the rebranding of the (currently) all-male team to “Cloud9 Blue”. Additionally, AT&T has expanded its agreement with the organization to become Cloud9 White’s presentation partner. While several teams, including Dignitas and Counter Logic Gaming, currently field women in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and / or Valorant, these teams most often participate in all-female events. According to Gaylen Malone, Senior Managing Director of Cloud9, the organization is committed to transforming Cloud9 White into a true sister team that competes in Valorant’s male-dominated professional scene. She told The Esports Observer that the company’s strategy was inspired by the early days of the Korean League of Legends. In the early 2010s, many Korean LoL organizations signed 10 players on two lists with similar names (Azubu Frost / Blaze, Najin Black Shield / White Sword, etc.). These rosters frequently played practice matches against each other and sometimes swapped players back and forth. “I don’t expect us to be swapping players week by week,” said Malone, “but I do expect the coaches and players at Cloud9 Blue to look to bring some of the women from Cloud9 White into the game. their list. Like these old Korean teams, the teams will have scheduled training time to compete and will have coaches “sharing systems between the two teams”. In addition to training like sister teams, Cloud9 intends to have their two rosters compete in the same tournaments. Both teams will both aim to qualify for the game’s first official championship, First Strike, which takes place later this year. For Malone, the decision to sign MAJKL roster was not only due to their status as the best women’s team in the match, but also their approach to the competition. “What struck me about this team is that they were already playing together and arguing together. They weren’t a team that were all friends before Valorant and played for fun. This is a group of talented women who came together because they all wanted to be the best at the game and were determined to improve as a team. They were already working like a C9 team should, that’s what interested me so much! This team was already clearly the best female team and they are ready to work to become the best Valorant talent, not just the best Valorant female talent. Shizuka Suzuki, Head of Sponsorship and Experiential Marketing at AT&T, also expressed his excitement about signing and expanding the partnership with TEO. She explained that C9 and AT&T are committed to raising women in gaming. AT&T recently announced a gender equality initiative for game developers called Unlocked Games. “We have a huge passion for gender equality in sponsorship in general,” said Suzuki. “Whether it’s with the WNBA, whether it’s women’s football – many different areas that we are intentionally investing in to help provide a platform for women to be seen by the younger generation or by others. In addition to its traditional sports activities, AT&T has been active in esports for several years sponsoring mobile gaming initiatives for ESL. Suzuki noted that despite the smaller scale of many women’s esports programs, brands should take note of the opportunities that exist in the space. “It’s almost a best kept secret. In general, these rights are a little cheaper than in men’s sport. This allows companies of all marketing budget sizes to be able to invest in world-class athletes. She cautioned, however, that brands must ensure that these initiatives align with their values before entering the space. While it remains to be seen whether Cloud9 White can consistently compete with the best teams at Valorant, the organization is setting itself up to make meaningful progress for women in esports, moving closer to the ultimate goal of women. mixed teams becoming the norm. in the space. “It’s going to take everyone,” Suzuki said. “If we all share this same passion to give women a better opportunity, more opportunities to be seen, and certainly more content around them… we are going to have to all be part of this ecosystem to make it happen. ‘needle. In part, Cloud9 is able to potentially help move that needle forward due to the groundwork previously laid by the CS: GO Women’s Ecosystem. The gameplay similarity between him and Valorant has made it easier for women’s teams to migrate from what is currently the most professionalized women’s esports infrastructure in the industry. Malone echoed the feeling that it required a collaborative effort: “I think CS: GO has been able to make such great strides because of the community and the TOs pushing to make this happen. It is evident that Valorant is making similar progress through a concerted effort between the community and the developer. Riot Games are making decisions early on to include women in the competition and to ensure these women are supported on the scene. I think other titles could experience similar success if they invested resources to the same degree while making conscious decisions to be more inclusive and provide stepping stones for women. This commitment from Riot Games is also part of the reasons Cloud9 made the decision to sign a list of women. “We’ve seen opportunities to jump into women’s CS: GO in the past, but I think our relationship with Riot Games has really made it a unique opportunity. Having an open line of communication with the developer and being able to talk about long term goals really made us want to jump in and start developing talent for Valorant.