After much speculation, OpTic Gaming and Envy — two of the biggest esports organizations in North America — have officially merged operations and rebranded their Call of Duty League franchise to OpTic Texas.
The merger between two of the most storied teams in Call of Duty esports seemed as if it would materialize as OpTic Dallas, as per trademarks submitted by Envy Gaming, but Dallas Empire will indeed be rebranded as OpTic Texas instead as they’ve acquired the territorial rights to more of the state.
The OpTic Chicago franchise will soon no longer exist, with Envy Gaming acquiring the slot in hopes of selling it off. This means that NRG Esports are no longer involved in the Call of Duty League. Up until recently it appeared as if the owners of Overwatch franchise Washington Justice would acquire the slot, though the deal fell through at the last minute. A new buyer has to be found before the league commences with its third season, which will kick off in early 2022.
Hector ‘H3CZ’ Rodriguez is now a shareholder in Envy Gaming — the parent company of OpTic Texas, OpTic Gaming, Team Envy, and Dallas Fuel — and will also serve as the president of OpTic Gaming. He’ll continue to spearhead the brand’s operations in content and competition.
The making of OpTic Texas
To give more insight into the new arrangement between OpTic Gaming and Envy and the future of the OpTic Texas franchise, Dexerto spoke with both H3CZ and Mike ‘Hastr0’ Rufail.
“We both took separate approaches getting to where we are today,” H3CZ told Dexerto. “Infrastructure and the investor group have a lot to do with this merger personally. I’ve known Mike a long time and we tried to make it work in 2013 with EON Interactive and we attempted to make it happen two years ago when we tried to bid together to buy OpTic back from Infinite.
“He’s really good at what he does, I’m really good at what I do, so I think it’s a match made in heaven.”
“It’s a plug-and-play, we both have something that works together,” added Hastr0. “They’ve been juggernauts in content, we haven’t, and we’ve both been juggernauts in competition — but we’ve built this infrastructure at Envy to set us up to run a great business in the future so plugging OpTic into that is like plugging in a massive, bright lightbulb. We want to create an amazing experience for the fans.”
It seemed as if the merged franchise was destined to be named OpTic Dallas, and there were even the trademarks to back it up. As the duo went on to explain, these submissions were partly to play it safe and partly playing fans and the media alike — generating even more attention for a team that was yet to even be confirmed.
“We knew the number one way for brands to leak is for journalists to check trademarks,” H3CZ said. “Anticipating that, we decided to register OpTic Dallas, which might have been the name, while we tried to get something that we really wanted. We put something out there, hoped for the best, and it went exactly as we planned.”
“We don’t own the whole Texas market,” Hastr0 revealed. “Right now, because there’s no other CDL team in Texas, we can market all over the state. We did get Austin, though, so we own Dallas, Austin, and Oklahoma City. We’re OpTic Texas because we think incorporating Austin in that way makes a ton of sense — we were both born here in Texas — and OpTic is bigger than Dallas so let’s spread our footprint as wide as we can.”
While H3CZ will retain control over the OpTic Gaming brand, it’s now part of a larger entity that it can now class its sister teams. The Envy brand is still alive and kicking, and they will still represent Dallas in the Overwatch League with the Dallas Fuel franchise. This merger can also be seen as a partnership between H3CZ and Hastr0 as they’ll both work together to get the most out of each of the brands under the ownership of Envy Gaming.
“More often than not, I used to hit Hastr0 up on his thoughts regarding OpTic Gaming before this just as I do all of my people, like Nadeshot and Fwiz,” H3CZ revealed. “I’m going to try and help as much as I can across all of the teams and Hastr0 will too.”
“We’re doing this together,” his partner Hastr0 added. “Hector owns part of everything we’re doing here, as do I, so I’m now on the Greenwall’s side and I’m going to help them win championships.”
It’s not exaggerating to claim that both OpTic and Envy are among the small handful of teams that have truly helped to get Call of Duty esports to where it is today. Along with the likes of FaZe Clan, they’ve been pillars of competitive CoD for well over a decade and have collectively housed most of the best players to touch the game.
Fans, owners, and everyone in between have every right to wonder how their union may affect the Call of Duty League going forward. An apt analogy may be the uncertainty, loss of legacy, and conflicted feelings if Manchester City and Manchester United, two powerhouses in the English Premier League, were to come together as one.
“There’s plenty of opportunity now for other teams in the league to build fan bases,” Hastr0 told Dexerto. “It’s a good thing. There aren’t two juggernaut teams in the league now, there’s one. There’s one less brand in Call of Duty for them to compete against now but we’re going to soak up every fan we can.”
“Envy will be missed, absolutely,” admitted H3CZ. “Even through Dallas Empire winning how they did, this is an organization that has history and has been pivotal in building what Call of Duty is today. If this was 100 years into the history of the sport then this deal would be harder to swallow but this is the first 5% of what esports will be in the future so we jumped at the opportunity.”
With the amalgamation of the two, the Call of Duty League is left with an uncertain slot available. As of publication, Envy Gaming need to find a buyer that is willing to become the proud owner of the 12th franchise slot. Early reports and rumors pointed towards Washington Esports Ventures, but now it’s confirmed that was not meant to be.
“I’m not sure it’ll happen by next season but we’re working hard on finding a new ownership group that can enter the league as quickly as possible,” revealed Hastr0. “Those discussions are going really well. I’m optimistic but we’re pretty tight against the deadline so we’ll see — it’s up to how fast things can come together. We have some interesting groups, that’s for sure. But even if we have 11 teams the league will still be great.”
OpTic’s fan base, the Greenwall, are undoubtedly among one of the more tribal, loyal collection of supporters in esports. They’ve gone through a lot over the past few years though, with the OpTic brand changing hands and locations several times to limited success. Both H3CZ and Hastr0 are aware how yet another change may make them feel but they’re confident it’ll all come together sooner rather than later.
“At first it’s going to feel a little weird,” admitted H3CZ. “This is going to be a blip in the history of esports, everything we’ve built so far in the history of esports is just one brick in the actual foundation of the industry. In 50 years this will just be something that happened. The good thing about Hastr0 is he’s always looking 10, 20 years down the line. We know that we have the ability to shape this into whatever we want it to look like with the help of everybody else in the industry.
“It will be weird at first but it’s on us to integrate and show the fans why we’ve made this decision,” Hastr0 said. “I’m looking forward to showing the OpTic fans why this is a good decision for them, the brand, and the players. I’ve done it for Envy and I can do it for them too.
“For fans questioning why we didn’t announce the merger earlier, the reality is a lot of CoD fans don’t know business. We absolutely would have announced it the second we agreed to do it but there are massive amounts of paperwork to get done, legal work that needed doing. To get all of these things in line, they were lots of hurdles we had to jump over. We had to go through the entire process to get here and hopefully the fans understand we did it as fast as we could.”
While OpTic Texas is finally out in the open and an official franchise, and OpTic Gaming as a whole has found a new home under Envy Gaming, it’s yet to be seen just how the Greenwall and Envy fans will react to their favorite franchises coming together. While competitive success in the CDL will no doubt help, transparency and storytelling — two aspects of brand-building that are second nature to H3CZ — may be the key to winning everybody over.