Panda Global Signs SFV, Smash, Dragonball Players Despite Coronavirus Pandemic
Unlike many teams across esports, Panda Global has taken the opportunity to expand further during the coronavirus pandemic. The team had big plans for 2020, as founder Alan Bunney made the switch to full-time running the team this year. And, these big plans have resulted in quite the hiring spree for the team, but most notably in the form of their latest signings.
Punk Is Back, iBDW and Kizzie Kay Get Signed
The team has re-added Victor “Punk” Wooley, who had been part of the team previously, and left to join Echo Fox (which, unfortunately, folded due to circumstances far outside the player’s control and drama among their own.) Now that Punk was once again a free agent, and many teams are not recruiting actively, he returned home to Panda Global to restart his reign of dominance in Street Fighter V. That is, whenever competitions for the Capcom Pro Tour start back up after being massively postponed by the coronavirus.
But that was far from the only signing that Panda Global made, as they also picked up Cody “iBDW” Schwab from the Super Smash Bros. Melee competitive circuit. While it’s far from ideal, that game has still been having massive online competitions, including Pound Online. Even with the issues presented by a Wi-Fi tournament, Melee continues to thrive at these sorts of tournaments.
IBDW has had one of the fastest rises to top 10 in Super Smash Bros Melee history, taking home several events in the past year, including Phantom 2019, The Scarlet Classic V, Papercut, the MIOM Memorial, the UCI Esports Conference, as well as top 8 appearances at Majors like The Big House 9 and others.
Rounding out Panda Global’s pickups is Keenan “Kizzie Kay” Kizzie, a multigame specialist mostly focusing on Arc System Works fighting games, but has been known to throw down in SNK’s Samurai Shodown as well. Many of ArcSys’ events have been delayed due to the Coronavirus, so he’ll be ready to represent Panda Global as soon as events resume. Some of his most impressive results include a 13th place finish at Evo 2019 in Samurai Shodown, top 8s at Anime Ascension 2020 and Frosty Fausting XII, and a 9-12th finish at ARCREVO America 2019.
Panda Global’s Importance in a Post-Coronavirus FGC
Panda Global is one of the few teams still focusing on fighting games alongside others like Evil Geniuses. These teams are going to be massively important in ensuring that players not only get through the coronavirus pandemic while being able to support themselves but also so they can return to the fighting game circuit in a quick fashion without having to worry about recovering financially from lack of work or sponsorship.
The teams that remain in the FGC during this period are going to benefit in the long run from their investment as fans are likely to remember the companies that supported their favorite players during this hard time. They will also remember the teams that have had to drop sponsorships of players due to a lack of events to travel to, or teams that even dropped their players before the pandemic due to a lack of ROI on fighting game players.
Teams like Panda Global have proven that if you build content around a group of players in the FGC and really engage with fans in that community, they will reward you with their loyalty, viewership, and social media engagement. These are all things that are the lifeblood of esports teams, and surely a lesson that the industry at large could stand to learn.