In my time as an intern with Panda Global I’ve slowly learned what this team stands for and what it all means. PG had probably one of the humblest of beginnings for an esports team, yet now has one of the most talented 1v1 rosters in the world and still growing.
The owners had a vision of creating a team -- not a sponsor-- to treat players with the respect they deserve, and this still stands true three years later. “We provide a team environment for our roster, it's a family here. We help invest in their scenes, build their brands, and provide emotional support,” says Co-founder and general manager David Wu.
My first glimpse of PG happened only a little over a year ago at EVO 2017. I had just learned about competitive Street Fighter from a friend and watched the live stream of Street Fighter V Top 8. At the time I remember rooting for Punk (a member of Panda Global at the time) out of patriotism through the end where he ultimately fell to Echo Fox’s Tokido, who had a stellar Loser’s bracket run. During the awards I saw the Panda taking it all in.
However what I didn’t see until this year was the Vice mini doc that showed owners Alan and David literally with Punk every step of the way -- supporting their player and putting what PG is about into practice. “It was an emotional roller coaster for both of us and will be one of the most memorable times in my life,” David said about the experience.
The camaraderie aspect to PG is another key component to all of our team‘s success. One of the original Pandas, Eric “ESAM” Lew, speaks on his teammates and the environment: “It's really cool to see Panda as big as it is now because the crazy thing about Panda is we have I think it's like 15 to 16 fighting players, we have three Hearthstone players, we've had Heroes of the Storm before...And literally any time I hang out with any single person on the team they're just awesome. There's not a single person on Panda I don't like.”
Now for this past year, PG has grown even more with new fighting game and Smash players --Cosmos, Zain, Nakkiel and Infiltration -- to Hearthstone and Shadowverse with Korextron, Zerofyne and Akumared. We even ventured into Pokemon VGC with Wolfey and Cybertron, which is insane for the growth and exposure the Pokemon scene. With all of these new players from new and existing teams, we’re going to hopefully see the growing bond across teams that PG is known for. “I don't isolate the teams, they matter, they intermingle... when you put the jersey on you're not a number… you're a Panda” Co-Founder Alan Bunney, MD says.
The past year has also seen new success for the team: with Plup winning Genesis 5, Infiltration coming 1st Final Round, SKD taking Dreamhack Austin and Defend the North, along with countless Top 8 placements from all our teammates.
Yet again, Panda Global welcomed a new sponsor to esports, Zippo, with the release of their new Hand Warmers to help keep our players primed for the fight. The team and brand collaborated on our (arguably snazziest) fire red alt jersey, revealed at this year’s CEO. The PG family continues to grow closer to all the brands that support us, and if you’re ever at an event sponsored by GEICO you can be sure to find the Pandas at their booth.
This year also marked a special milestone for Panda Global, as we saw the addition of a third equity owner: YouTuber and media aficionado Jacob “Alpharad” Rabon IV. Alpha’s unique expertise is helping to guide our new media division to bring you guys more amazing content. Speaking of content, the team also made waves in June when we introduced Pan-chan -- the first ever esports waifu, and new manager of the Panda Global Instagram.
Now, with EVO on the horizon, I not only get to cover one of the largest fighting game tournaments in the world for the first time, I’ll finally get to see first hand Panda Global in full force, and what it means to be a team. We will not only have our players giving it all they’ve got to get a spot on that grand stage at the Mandalay Bay, but behind the scenes our staff will be working just as hard to support the players and to provide content for all of the fans around the globe rooting for that team that started in Smash three years ago with white T-shirts with the wrong team name printed on them.
“We’re the people’s brand, the people’s team,” Alan Bunney says. Now to celebrate YOUR team’s third anniversary, we’re releasing our new limited edition merch that you can get and represent!
- Zackary Potter