Team Envy has been the recipient of two major investments over the last couple of years, and they've taken the organization in very different directions. This time last year, the organization was prepping to build an arena and training facility in Charlotte, North Carolina and now they're all-in on Dallas, Texas.
That's thanks, in part, to an eight-figure investment from Texas-based energy magnate Ken Hersh. Now, Envy is running the Dallas Overwatch League team, the Dallas Fuel, and are moving to Texas. According to Envy's owner, Mike "Hastr0" Rufail, that investment, for now, is primarily going towards the OWL.
"I think we have to start somewhere," he said. "I think Overwatch League is a great place for us to start and figure out if that's the model that is going to work for us in the long run, so for us it was just really about getting started with that in some way. We felt like that was the best opportunity for us right now, to localize."
Building a localized franchise is very important to Hastr0. For one, it's where this sizeable investment is taking the organization, but it also represents a homecoming. After all, Hastr0 was born and raised in Texas and he wants to put on a show for what he sees as his home crowd.
What that show looks like is still a little up in the air. Envy still needs to secure a venue and work on building a local brand for the Dallas Fuel, but Hastr0 is convinced that localizing esports teams is the future of the scene. To him, getting to put on a show for the same audience every few weeks represents an opportunity to grow a team in a way that esports has never had before.
"When you have an organization like ours, you want to be able to put on a show," he said. "And typically the way that show is being performed right now is at tournaments that are around the world that you might not necessarily have a big fan base in that location. So for us, it was just really about giving a consistent show to fans that were in a region that could grab hold of one team and become a fan of it and we would always be consistent in who we're putting on a show for.
"What I'm really attracted to is being able to do what traditional sports have done and basically localize a fan base and always know that they're going to be there for you and the team."
The issue is that Envy has picked up and left a city before. According to Hastr0, the organization has little-to-no ties to Charlotte anymore, aside from a few investors. Hastr0 says that working with the city became difficult, and when the opportunity to partner with the Hersh Interactive Group came up, it was a "no-brainer." At the end of the day, money talks.
"I mean, we were doing everything we could in the Charlotte market to provide a great esports team here in Charlotte," he said. "But unfortunately things just didn't progress here enough with the city or potential partners in the city of Charlotte and so just made a whole lot of sense for us to move to Dallas. So no hard feelings versus Charlotte, we really love the city and really enjoyed it here but we just ultimately had to make a choice and we really chose Dallas over Charlotte in that sense."
That means that Envy's work is going to be a little more difficult in Dallas. After all, their plans in Charlotte don't apply to a new city. Hastr0 says the organization is working with an architecture firm to build an arena, as well as talking to Dallas and surrounding cities to prep for the OWL team. But that's not all Hastr0 has on the mind.
The team has also applied for the other major franchised esports league, the new North American League of Legends Championship Series, which has enacted a "permanent partnership" program starting with the 2018 season. While Hastr0 couldn't say much about the status of Envy's application, he did say that Riot's plans for the NA LCS are different from Blizzard's approach to the OWL.
"The difference here is that I think Riot is looking for a select few partners to continue in that league and we'd love to be a part of it," he said. "However, we understand that Riot went a different direction. We understand that that's their right to do so and we'd obviously be happy to be involved, but we felt like we did a good job of supporting our players and our team throughout the past year and would like to remain a part of the league, but it's their decision at this point."
That aside, Hastr0 says that despite the investment from Hersh, fans shouldn't expect to see too much rapid growth from Envy over the next little bit. Now that the team has it's place in the OWL, it's going to be working on building out a better support structure for their current players and the existing organization.
"It's just about growing our organization internally," he said. "Making sure that we continue to provide a better platform for our players and just create a much bigger support staff and a much bigger infrastructure," he said. Really just putting a lot more support beams in, I guess you could say. We can build a much bigger foundation."
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.