On April 25, 2019, G2 Esports opened their new headquarters on a festive tone. The co-owners, Carlos "ocelote" Rodriguez Santiago and Jens Hilgers, spoke to an audience that included employees, curious reporters, and players from their Rainbow Six: Siege and Counter Strike: Global Offensive squads. In the meantime, Thijs "Thijs" Molendijk was streaming Hearthstone from his brand new office setup, which overlooked the event.
The office opening marked a turning point in G2's existence -- one that started when ocelote and Hilgers met at a Barcelona cafe and brainstormed its first iteration, Gamers2. At the time, ocelote was a few months removed from his time competing at the top of the European League of Legends circuit, and Hilgers was part of Electronic Sports League's (ESL) leadership.
From there, an intriguing alliance was born from the player's desire to see what's next, and from the businessman's wish to further understand the challenges and benefits of operating an esports organization.
"I looked at the management running other esports teams, and I felt that those guys weren't operating really well," said Hilgers, regarding the underlying reasons behind the creation of G2. "I thought we could step it up, to build it on a higher professional level with much more sophistication."
Hilgers sought a professional player whose skills and inner drive -- which were sharpened through competition -- could translate into a successful management career. In ocelote, he found a diamond in the rough. In fact, the now former professional player's demeanor greatly helped. He may not have been the most knowledgeable about key aspects of the business, but he was not shy to admit it -- and to promptly surround himself with people who had that knowledge. And for him, one of them was Hilgers himself.
"[Hilgers] has become my mentor ever since then," ocelote remarked. "He was very straightforward with his criticism, and I was, as a player, very used to people dancing around me in the sense of not telling me the full truth all the time, just because I was ocelote. They would just tell me what I wanted to hear. He wasn't like that; I actually enjoy that a lot, the harsh criticism and feedback, because I can grow from it."
G2 was up and running in 2014, and they focused primarily on League of Legends, where they fielded a Challenger-level squad (equivalent to a regional league squad). Eventually, ocelote stepped down from playing and entrusted the reins of the LoL team to Luka "PerkZ" Perkovic. Since then, he has focused on building the organization one foundation stone at a time.
Between then and now, the company transitioned from a remote-working company to a physical office in Berlin, which he called 'start-up like.' In addition, before their brand had reached this size, they were an upstart company - and a hard sell to investors. But from failures stemmed long-term success.
"One of the things that we're very known for, and people can recognize, is our relentlessness," ocelote said. "I myself failed to qualify to the LCS three times. Then, we qualified on our fourth time, and we went on to win the LCS four times in a row."
Since then, G2 have hosted the best Rainbow Six: Siege squad in the world. The league of Legends squad has also sent a strong message with the LEC spring crown and Mid-Season Invitational victory for Europe. If that was not enough, their US-based Rocket League squad is set to attend the RLCS Season 7 finals in June. Their CS:GO roster also qualified to the ESL Pro League Season 9 finals.
But G2 aspire to be more than a regular esports organization.
"[Our next step is to] elevate the way we entertain, from what is considered normal, like videos and competitive success, to comic books, movies, music -- just overall entertainment," ocelote said. "And utilise video game competition as a means for that. G2 Esports is a media compound around competitive video games."
To that effect, G2 Esports have disclosed that they will be opening an esports arena, in partnership with VERITAS, near the heavily frequented Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin -- an area with about 20,000 daily visitors. The site is set to host a catering site, a stage allowing two teams of up to six players to face off in front of an audience, and a PC bang (among other facilities).
For that step, they needed the contributions of Peter Mucha, G2 Esports' Chief Operations Officer and a sports and entertainment industry veteran with prior involvements in Adidas, Universal Music, Activision before their merger with Blizzard Entertainment, and Microsoft.
Mucha has seen G2's growth first hand since his arrival in July 2018. He pointed out how potential sponsors and partners were approaching the organization for opportunities, recognizing the potential in esports and the bridge that G2 represented. In a way, the arena may serve as an accelerator on that front.
"[The arena] will be a combination of a technology centre, a place for people to use some of the catering opportunities that are given there," Mucha said. "We will have our teams there frequently to play; there will be events; we will offer that to our partners to use that location as well."
The COO also revealed that the arena is set to host 24 events per year as well as fan meetings and potentially signing sessions, beyond partner activations. However, he also noted that G2's expansion plans are not limited solely to the arena.
"We don't need to be part of all leagues in this world, but we have strategic elements that we want to achieve," he added on G2's expectations in terms of growth. "In the US, it's very important for us to strengthen our positioning there. It's important for us to maintain the leader [position] in Europe, [and to] start being engaged in Asia, particularly in the Chinese environment because that's where the big communities are."
And all the while, G2 Esports continue to make a mark wherever they have established themselves, in and out of esports. The LEC and MSI have been the theatre of their rise following their monumental off-season hire in Rasmus "Caps" Winther; and the Rainbow Six: Siege squad established itself as the best in the world. Leave it to them to break new grounds with a fully-fledged arena project, a clothing line, and more to come.