OpTic's H3CZ on expanding into Dota: 'Until we step into the broader realm of PC games, we're not going to be considered a true esports organization'

by Daniel Rosen Oct 4 2017
Thumbnail image courtesy of Dennis Gonzales / theScore esports / OpTic Gaming

OpTic Gaming may be expanding faster than they ever have before, but CEO and owner Hector "H3CZ" Rodriguez says that their focus on personality-driven videos is going to ensure they're relevant no matter what game they enter.

According to H3CZ, OpTic's brand is built entirely on personalities, and even as they start to expand outside of first-person shooters, that isn't going to change. Whether it's their new Dota roster, or their Overwatch League team, H3CZ says it's going to be about personalities first, and everything else can fall into place afterwards.

"If you know a person and you get to know them and you know they're passionate about something, you're going to care about what they have to say," H3CZ told theScore esports. "You're not going to care if they play a particular sport, it's just something that you have in common, and that just adds onto that relationship. You watch TV shows and you get attached to a character. If you and that character happen to play the same video game, that just adds onto that relationship. I don't think that we'll need to reinvent the way that we create content, because we're working with human beings and personalities. We have the almost perfect recipe to continue to do what we've done, and I'm very confident that we will be able to do that."

OpTic's rapid expansion has seen them sign on to the Overwatch League and pick up a Dota 2 roster in the past month alone. OpTic COO Ryan Musselman told theScore esports that their move into Overwatch has been in the works since 2016, but according to H3CZ, OpTic has wanted to enter Dota 2 for even longer.

H3CZ says that OpTic has been interested in Dota and League of Legends for at least four years, but was held back by their relative inexperience and their inability to pay player salaries at the time. Since then, H3CZ has been watching the scene, waiting for a way in.

"Look, Call of Duty is my passion, it's been almost my life's work, it's my favorite sport," he said. "But it was a lot easier for me to navigate my way around that esport because I knew it, but it was also not the biggest esport in the world as, Dota could be considered, as League of Legends could be considered. So I always had that chip on my shoulder. We're a very good content organization and a good esports organization, but until we step into the broader realm of PC games, we're not going to be considered a true esports organization, in my opinion."

H3CZ says he's been floored by the Dota community's response to OpTic's entry into the scene, but the organization still has work to do in terms of settling in. Their roster, led by former Evil Geniuses CEO Peter "ppd" Dager is mostly unproven and while ppd knows the space and can help guide the organization through it, there could be some friction with OpTic's content plan.

Dota players tend to shuffle rosters very quickly after events, regardless of results, always looking to field a better and better roster for The International at the end of the season. It's difficult to create consistent content around rosters that change all the time, but H3CZ says that shouldn't be a problem for OpTic.

"Everybody likes things a certain way until something better comes along. It's all about the education of the culture that we garner here at OpTic and if it coincides with a player, then awesome. If not, there are plenty of other players that would love to work with an organization like ours," he said.

"For them to see that even if we have a hard time or [are] going through a rough patch, the other opportunities out there aren't as good as the one we have here, so let's work through these problems and then go from there. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't, that's life."

If Dota is the major esport OpTic is expanding into, then Overwatch is more of an unknown quantity. The last year of competitive Overwatch has been sparse while Blizzard gears up for the Overwatch League, a completely unproven format for esports. But again, H3CZ isn't concerned. He's hoping to grow Overwatch, and even if he can't, OpTic is bringing a lot of endemic fans into the scene with them.

"I have confidence that we're going to help grow the scene," he said. "Even if it's an unproven esport, I can tell you were are a proven organization to grow personalities and to grow storylines that will pique the interests of our already established fanbase. So for me, that's where the confidence lies. I know that, look, at first it may not be proven, but if we do our job the way that we've always done our job, I think we're going to raise the right level of interest to bring in the eyeballs that are going to be necessary for OpTic to establish itself as a brand in Overwatch, and in any other esport to be honest."

While there have been reports that OpTic is expanding further, including an ESPN report that alleges that OpTic has applied for a permanent partnership spot in the new NA LCS, H3CZ declined to comment specifically on what's next for the organization. Instead, he says OpTic is going to keep doing what they've always done: focus on personalities and pump out content about them.

"I'm going to get to know my players, I'm going to find out what drives them, I'm going to be a human being," he said. "I'm going to try to get to know the people I'm going to be working with and we're going to see the potential areas for growth, the pain point areas, and then work through them.

"It is a refreshing feeling to know that you get to apply everything that you learned over the last seven years in building teams and building personality in new esports. The ability to refresh and try out what we've learned on somebody new and see it work again, hopefully, it's what drives me. Proving time and time again that the model that we build works is what I work for."

Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Correction: This article initially stated that OpTic's Dota 2 roster is not qualified for a LAN tournament. They have qualified for DOTA Summit 8, though they did so before signing with OpTic, while they were known as The Dire. theScore esports regrets the error.