M80 is a newly launched esports organization created by former XSET founder Marco Mereu that has found success in Valorant, among other esports, as its roster remains undefeated in the NA Challengers League.
When Mereu left XSET in 2022, his first order of business was jumping back into Valorant with his new esports organization, M80.
“I had a lot of unfinished business, in Valorant and VCT, and I really wanted to get back to it,” Mereu told Dexerto in an interview. “I always looked at Valorant as kind of like the future game that we would build an organization and a brand around because I’m a big believer in where the title is going over the next 10-15 years.”
The founder said he started looking for players who were available as the dust settled after Riot Games had chosen which organizations to partner with for its international leagues, and reached out to Marc-Andre ‘NiSMO’ Tayar. The former Ghost Gaming player was trialing with various teams, including G2 Esports and TSM, but chose M80 as his next stop along with two of his former teammates, Gianfranco ‘koalanoob’ Potestio and Mohamed ‘johnqt’ Ouarid.
“I kind of thought it was the perfect idea to go with him,” NiSMO told Dexerto. “He just had a perfect reputation. It was only good things I was hearing about Marco so it was basically between TSM, G2 and M80 and the final decision was M80 for me.”
koalanoob and johnqt were also adamant about sticking together with NiSMO as a core going into the next year.
“The whole Ghost core kind of said to me, almost in unison, ‘wherever NiSMO goes, we’re going,'” Mereu said.
From there Mereu said he wanted to fill out the squad with the best players for each role. He signed former Version1 player Alexander ‘zander’ Dituri and ex-NRG member Daniel ‘eeiu’ Vucenovic without trialing any players or testing the waters with potential roster combinations.
“He’s the only org that actually did not trial any players. I feel like every other org trialed players. Marco had the confidence to come in, pick up a core, and then pick up two extra players. He knew they were going to have success,” NiSMO said.
The only position that involved a trial was that of head coach, which was filled by French CS:GO legend Vincent ‘Happy’ Schopenhauer. Mereu said his players told him after only a day that Happy, a two-time Major champion with LDLC and Envy, was the best fit.
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M80 will be expanding into more areas soon
For Mereu, just being in esports is not the goal for M80. The Valorant roster, along with M80’s Rocket League and Rainbow Six squads, was signed with the intention of winning trophies. The R6 team was brought over from XSET and represented M80 at Six Invitational 2023, placing in the top eight. The M80 Rocket League squad was 10 points shy of qualifying for the RLCS Winter LAN Major.
“A lot of people don’t think winning matters in esports, it’s just enough to be in esports so you can sell sponsorships, or you can say you are in esports,” Mereu said. “But to me, I look at the long-term success of orgs like G2 and Cloud9. Winning matters, it really does, like winning just brings a different level, I think, to your brand, to your organization, and to what you’re about. If you’re not trying to win in esports you should probably do something else.”
M80’s website teases future announcements in 2023, such as entering other esports titles along with “redefining the relationship between an organization and our fans in unique and exciting ways.”
“I think we’re trying to be a lot more like Mr. Beast than like, a traditional esports organization, right?” Mereu said. “So for us, I think understanding and looking at this industry and like, how do you make it work from a business perspective? I think you have to look at the different business models that are performing for people out there and understand how can you apply the value adds of, you know, a popular, well-liked and successful esports team.”
Continuing their Valorant success
Valorant is at the forefront of M80’s business and brand strategy, with the team gunning for a shot to play in the VCT Americas league next year in Los Angeles. Heading into the final week of the NA Challengers group stage, M80 are the only team to still have a perfect record.
“The goal is basically to keep playing our game,” NiSMO said. “I think if we keep playing the way we’re playing, the way we play in practice, keep the game plan we bring in and keep winning. That’s the goal for now.”
Mereu said that he has no bad blood with other orgs in the Valorant scene at the moment but that it would feel good to beat certain teams in the Challengers League, and eventually in the VCT Americas League.
“I just want to beat G2,” Mereu said. “I know, that sounds terrible, but they’re all really wonderful people over there, and their teams are insane. I love playing those guys at the Six Invitational and they’re a measuring stick for us. So I want to beat G2 and really anybody else. Once we’re in VCT, I think we have some work to do with some of these other orgs that are already there.”