Cloud9 Esports, Inc.
TypePrivate
IndustryEsports
Founded2013
Founders
  • Jack Etienne
  • Paullie Etienne
HeadquartersSanta Monica, California,
U.S.
Key people
RevenueIncrease US$35 million[2] (2021)
Total equityIncrease US$380 million[2] (2022)
Divisions
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

Cloud9 Esports, Inc., or simply Cloud9 (C9), is an American professional esports company based in Santa Monica, California. The company was originally founded as a professional League of Legends team by Jack and Paullie Etienne in May 2013 and was incorporated into Cloud9 Esports, Inc. on September 6, 2016. Cloud9 has received US$78 million in total raised equity via venture capital funding and was ranked the world's fifth-most valuable esports organization in mid-2022.

Cloud9 has held divisions in numerous esports throughout its existence, establishing eight by 2014. In 2018, Cloud9 won three international championships: the Rocket League Championship Series Season 6 World Championship, the 2018 Overwatch League Grand Finals, and the ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018. The company currently operates two franchised teams: Cloud9 League of Legends of the League of Legends Championship Series and London Spitfire of the Overwatch League. They also operate non-franchised teams in Apex Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Fortnite, Halo, Hearthstone, League of Legends: Wild Rift, Super Smash Bros., Teamfight Tactics, Valorant, and World of Warcraft.

History

2013: Beginnings

The team that would become Cloud9 originated after esports organization Quantic Gaming released all of their League of Legends players. Afterwards, all five players formed their own team under the moniker Team NomNom, and later rebranded to Cloud9 in early 2013.[3][4] Cloud9 was then reacquired by Quantic Gaming on April 1, 2013, and later rebranded the team back to Cloud9.[4][5] The team then changed hands again in May 2013, as former Team SoloMid manager Jack Etienne and Paullie Etienne bought out the contracts of the players for less than $20,000, officially creating the Cloud9 organization.[6][5][7] Paullie Etienne was appointed the chief operating officer, and Jack Etienne's father eventually signed on as the organization's first legal counsel.[8]

2013–2018: Expansion and funding

After early success in the organization's League of Legends division, Cloud9 expanded their brand into other esport games. The organization entered Smite esports in December 2013.[9] In 2014, Cloud9 created divisions for Dota 2,[10] Super Smash Bros. Melee,[11] Hearthstone,[12] Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,[13] Heroes of the Storm,[14] and Halo.[15] The organization disbanded their Smite division the same year due to internal issues, just prior to the start of the Smite Pro League,[16] but it was reopened in January 2015.[17] Throughout 2015 and 2016, Cloud9 established several more divisions, including Call of Duty,[18] Overwatch,[19] and their first touchscreen esport Vainglory.[20] On September 6, 2016, the organization incorporated into Cloud9 Esports, Inc.[21][22]

Although several of their divisions would dissolve, by March 2017, the company had ten teams across multiple titles and over one million fans spending a collective 15 million hours following Cloud9 players.[8] That month, Cloud9 received a total of US$28 million from series A funding in a round led by Founders Fund, along with other investors Craft Ventures, former Facebook, Inc. executive Chamath Palihapitiya, Reddit Inc. cofounder Alexis Ohanian, and Major League Baseball player Hunter Pence.[8][23] In July 2017, Cloud9 created their Rocket League division.[24] The following month, Activision Blizzard announced that Cloud9 had purchased a London-based franchise slot for the upcoming Overwatch League (OWL); with the requirement that all organizations in the OWL create separate business entities and branding,[25] Cloud9 created the subsidiary under the name London Spitfire.[26] In November 2017, Riot Games announced that Cloud9 had secured a League of Legends Championship Series franchise slot for a reported US$10 million, marking the second owned franchised team by the company.[27]

In June 2018, Cloud9 announced a major sponsorship deal with Red Bull, which included a deal that would place the Red Bull logo on the Cloud9 jerseys.[28] In the middle of that deal, Jack Etienne invited 30 investors to a London Spitfire match at Blizzard Arena; four months later, Cloud9 announced that it had received US$50 million in series B funding in a round led by Valor Equity Partners, along with other investors TrueBridge Capital Partners, Reimagined Ventures, and Glassdoor founder Robert Hohman. Additionally, Valor Equity Partners founder and managing partner Antonio Gracias joined Cloud9's board of directors as a part of the deal.[8][23] Funding from the round was to be used to establish a 20,000–30,000 square foot (1,900–2,800 m2) headquarters and training facility in Los Angeles, which was expected to be completed by the end of 2019.[29] After the investment, Forbes ranked Cloud9 as the world's most valuable esports company at US$310 million.[30]

2018–present: Success, controversy, and league owners

In 2018, at a time when many esports teams were significantly downscaling their operations and only focusing on a select few games, Cloud9 reached top-level international success in Counter-Strike, Rocket League, Overwatch, and League of Legends. The success of the organization led to Jack Etienne being named Game Shakers' Shaker of the Year in December 2018, an award honoring people who have made a long-lasting impact in the esports industry and helped raise esports awareness around the world.[8][31] In the following months, Cloud9 entered sponsorship deals with apparel brand Puma, telecommunications company AT&T, and automotive company BMW, in what were all of the companies' first team sponsorships in esports.[32][33] In that time, Cloud9 has established an Apex Legends division.[34]

In November 2019, Cloud9 was fined by Riot Games for violating League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) rules. Dating back to July 2018, Cloud9 had issued equity to seven of its LCS players through restricted stock units; Riot had created a rule in November 2017 that prohibited any team owner from being on the team's roster. Cloud9 was fined $25,000 for each player violation, totaling $175,000, and had to pay additional money to its players. Riot estimated the total fine to be $330,000 to $605,000.[35] Cloud9 was again ranked by Forbes as the world's most valuable esports company in 2019, along with Team SoloMid; the company was valued at $400 million, a $90 million increase over the previous year.[36]

In February 2020, it was announced that Cloud9, along with esports organizations Immortals Gaming Club, Dignitas' parent company New Meta Entertainment, Gen.G Esports, c0ntact Gaming, and OverActive Media, had established Counter-Strike: Global Offensive league Flashpoint, the first professional esports league owned and operated by team organizations.[37][38] The following month, Cloud9 reentered Dota 2 esports after a hiatus of almost three years.[39] Cloud9 created its Valorant division in April 2020,[40] and in October, they created their first all-female esports team for Valorant.[41] Forbes ranked Cloud9 was the world's second-most valuable esports company at $350 million in 2020, a 13% decrease from 2019.[42] In May 2022, Forbes ranked them the fifth-most valuable, with a value of $380 million.[2]

Divisions

League of Legends

Main article: Cloud9 League of Legends

History

Cloud9 was officially created in 2013 after Jack Etienne purchased the contracts of all of Quantic Gaming's League of Legends players.[5][7]

Cloud9 won back-to-back NA LCS championships in 2013 and 2014.
Cloud9 won back-to-back NA LCS championships in 2013 and 2014.

With a starting roster of Balls, Meteos, Hai, Sneaky, and LemonNation, Cloud9 went on a 13-game winning streak in the 2013 NA LCS Summer Split regular season, marking the longest winning streak in LCS history at the time.[43][44] After claiming the top seed in the Summer Split Playoffs, the team went on to sweep the defending champions Team SoloMid, 3 games to 0, in the finals on September 1 to claim their first-ever LCS title.[45][46] With the win, Cloud9 finished the season with a 30–3 game record and the highest winning-percentage in LCS history at 90.9%.[44] In the 2014 NA LCS Spring Split, Cloud9 closed out the final five weeks on a 13-game winning streak, equaling their LCS record 13-game winning streak in 2013, and once again claimed the top seed in the playoffs.[47] Cloud9 won their second consecutive LCS title after a 3–0 sweep over Team SoloMid in the finals on April 20.[3] After going 5–0 in the playoffs, Cloud9 extended their record winning streak to 18 games and had gone undefeated in back-to-back playoffs.[47][48][49] Cloud9 made it to the LCS finals in the 2014 NA LCS Summer Split and 2015 NA LCS Spring Split, but fell to Team SoloMid each time.[50][51] In May 2015, Hai retired, ending Cloud9's nearly 750-day record of having the longest standing lineup in professional League of Legends history.[52]

The team finished 2015 NA LCS Summer Split with a 6–12 record, their lowest regular season finish ever, and missed the LCS playoffs for the first time in their organization's history.[53][54] In the 2016 NA LCS Spring Split, the team faced Team SoloMid in the quarterfinals but fell by a score of 1–3.[55] In the quarterfinals match of the 2016 NA LCS Summer Split against Team EnVyUs, Cloud9's Jensen set an LCS record 20 kills in a single game.[56] The team later fell to Team SoloMid in the finals.[57] In the 2017 NA LCS Spring Split, for the sixth, and second consecutive, time, Cloud9 faced Team SoloMid in the NA LCS finals, but the team fell, 2–3.[58][59] Cloud9 lost to Team Dignitas in the quarterfinals of the 2017 NA LCS Summer Split.[60] In the 2018 NA LCS Spring Split playoffs, Cloud9 was swept by Team Liquid in the quarterfinals by a score of 0–3.[61] The team again reached the finals in the 2018 NA LCS Summer Split, but they were swept by Team Liquid, 0–3.[62]

After the 2018 NA LCS season, Cloud9 had their most successful League of Legends World Championship run. After advancing past the 2018 League of Legends World Championship group stage, Cloud9 swept Korea's Afreeca Freecs, 3–0, in the quarterfinals; The win marked the first time in seven years that a North American team had qualified for the World Championship semifinals.[63] In the semifinals match. Cloud9 was swept by Fnatic, 0–3, ending their World Championship run.[64]

In the 2019 LCS Spring Split, Cloud9 fell to Team SoloMid in the semifinals.[65] After reaching the finals in the 2019 LCS Summer Split, the team fell to Team Liquid, 2–3.[66] In the 2020 LCS Spring Split, Cloud9 finished the regular season with a 17–1 record – tied for the best game record in LCS history.[67] The team secured their third LCS title on April 19, 2020, after they swept FlyQuest, 3–0, in the finals.[68] The win gave the team their first LCS title since 2014; with an overall 26–2 game win–loss record, including playoffs, Cloud9 set a LCS record for the highest winning percentage ever in a single split by a North American team at 92.9%, breaking their own previous record of 90.9% from the 2013 Summer Split.[69][70] Losses to Flyquest and Team SoloMid in the Summer Split playoffs not only eliminated the team from the LCS playoffs, but also eliminated Cloud9's ability to qualify for the 2020 World Championship, marking the first time in the organization's history that they would not attend the World Championship.[71][72][73]

On September 14, 2020, Cloud9 parted ways with head coach Bok "Reapered" Hangyu, who had been the head coach of the team for the past four years.[74] The organization promoted Cloud9's academy team coach Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin as their new head coach.[75]

In the 2021 LCS season, Cloud9 entered the Spring Split playoffs as the top seed, with a 13–5 record. C9 defeated Team Liquid in the finals, 3–2, and earned their 4th LCS title.[76] At the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational, they failed to advance to the knockout stage.[77] In the Summer playoffs, Cloud9 defeated Team SoloMid 3–2 to claim a spot at the 2021 League of Legends World Championship;[78] however, they lost their next match to 100 Thieves.[79] At Worlds, Cloud9 advanced to the quarterfinals, becoming the first North American team to make it past the group stage since the previous Cloud9 team reached semifinals in 2018. They lost in the quarterfinals to Gen.G, 0–3.[80]

Roster