OpTic Gaming’s CEO speaks on Turtle Beach, the Call of Duty World League and his team’s future

OpTic Gaming is one of the biggest names in console eSports.

The OpTic Call of Duty team has always been one of the best in the world, and recent expansions into games such as CS:GO are starting to bear fruit for the green wall. Of course, being one of the best teams in the world, in the largest console game in the world, brings a lot of attention from companies wanting to sponsor the team, and the latest company to do that is Turtle Beach. From now on all OpTic players will use the new Turtle Beach Elite Pro headset and Elite Pro T.A.C. audio controller.

In order to get the low down on this new partnership, and find out what the future holds for the OpTic organisation, we spoke with Hector Rodriguez, owner and CEO of OpTic Gaming.

How did the partnership with Turtle Beach come about?

Turtle Beach pitched us and our previous sponsorship was coming to fruition, so we had to make the choice of renewing or seeing what was out there. I told my players: we have got to try out every single headset that’s out there. So we went out and bought the headsets, we didn’t even want to reach out to certain companies to send us free stuff, so we went out and bought some stuff. We were using them and word got around. Turtle Beach is very savvy at knowing what their competitors are doing, so they said hey, just to let you guys know we have a new line of headsets coming out.

When they said we have a new headset, I was like: well let us try it out! And they said: no we’re going to come out and show it to you personally, and then a team of seven or so people came to our gaming house in Chicago and they just presented the headset. It wasn’t traditionally what a regular Turtle Beach headset looked like, so it was something brand new that we hadn’t seen from them. Once we started trying it out, once we saw the technology behind it, the comfort level, the cooling gel in the foam; everything, we were just like, this is a top competitor.

How important is it for your guys to have a headset that is comfortable?

For OpTic in particular I think it’s a little bit different from other eSports, because my athletes are pretty much entertainers as well, so they’re not just wearing headsets to practice or compete in. They’re wearing them from the time they get up, for the three hours that they play a video game to create a YouTube video, and then on top of that they put it on for eight hours that they do streaming, whether it’s for scrims or streaming for streamings sake. And on top of that you have to go into post production of all the videos you’ve created that day, so for us it’s like a twelve hour long session. So for OpTic specifically, since we’re so heavily focused on content, it’s a little bit different, so comfort and quality is at the top of the list.

Are you guys going to be using the new Elite Pro T.A.C. audio controller as well?

Absolutely, the mix-amp gives us a little more of a personalized feel. Everyone has different ears, everyone listens to things differently, some people are more heavily focused on something specific, so the fact it’s customizable for your own liking is definitely something we’re happy utilizing.

Moving away from the Turtle Beach partnership, how have you guys been finding the CoD World League so far?

You know what, with the emergence of the Call of Duty world league, for us it’s been a little bit of a blessing and it’s also been a little bit of a tough time. Now this is obviously year one, year two is going to be a little bit better, and I predict that year two is going to be one of the best competitive years that we have. For us, we appreciate the fact that Activision and Call of Duty as a whole are stepping into a space and taking a little bit more care of our eSports baby, because Activision as a company is a very successful company: they don’t need to participate in eSports in order for their game to be the success that it is. But the fact that they’re taking the approach that they are: getting a little bit more hands on, getting more involved, is better. The only thing that we’re suffering at the moment is the lack of actual live events, so when we come to things like ESWC it’s a welcome change, because the lack of LAN tournaments has been something the players have been missing.

So what are your hopes for the rest of the year in CoD? Are you expecting to win worlds, or would you be happy with top eight?

I’ll tell you one thing: if you’re a competitor, you don’t hope for anything else but first place, and that’s what the boys are after. They’ve been working very, very hard throughout the season. We came in first place in season one, we plan on winning season two, and absolutely look forward to winning season three.

What are your thoughts on the new Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Modern Warfare remastered?

I think everybody is super hyped about it, every time there’s a new Call of Duty for us it’s a refreshed game. Traditionally if you look at other eSports you see something that’s very stable when it comes to what’s played, how it’s played, and for us every year changes, so it keeps it fresh, it keeps everybody on their toes, and it’s like a revolving door of skill for the player and the knowledge of the game. This year, with the announcement that they’re doing a remaster of Call of Duty 4, that’s just like the cherry on top, everybody has always been in love with Call of Duty 4, everybody has always called it their favourite game. So for us, me specifically, because that’s the game I think I made my breakthrough, and that’s what put OpTic Gaming on the map, I think that it’s obviously something we’re very passionate about, so we’re very excited about that.

Can we expect OpTic to move into any other games, any time soon?

I don’t have a specific timeframe, but it’s always on the horizon. We are growing OpTic the way the industry is growing, we’re pretty much trying to mould ourselves to whatever the industry shapes out to be. I don’t have a particular eSport that I plan on moving into next, but you know, working in the shooter world is really close to home, so that’s why I decided to go with Counter Strike.

Your Counter Strike team has been at a few international events recently, such as the CEVO Gfinity Season 9 Finals, how happy are you with their performance so far?

It’s not that I’m happy or sad about it, I’m neither. I think the team change from Shahzeeb "ShahZam" Khan to Oscar "mixwell" Caellas was one of the things we needed to make happen in order for us to continue to evolve as a Counter Strike team. The North American scene, it’s not at the top, and for me that was one of the main focuses I had when I came into Counter Strike, I had a clear mind that I was going to help the North American scene develop and grow. So for us it’s not just a thing where I step in and out, it’s a long term thing with long term plans to make this happen. I think that since mixwell was a brand new pickup, the players didn’t have enough time to practice together and gel the way they’re going gel in a couple of months, so for me CEVO was a trial contest as much as it was an actual competition.

Where do you see the OpTic organisation in general being in five years?

I think we are a top five organisation in the world right now, so in five years I’d like to be in the top three, definitely. The social media following that we have is unrivalled by any other eSports organisation out there, and that’s because we put a very, very heavy focus on fan interaction and being able to provide something to our fans that no other eSports organisation is. At the moment we have a weekly show, it’s sort of like a reality show, it’s a weekly recap called "Vision" that’s something we’ve been working on for a very long time, and finally we’re able to bring it to fruition. So as far as content goes I don’t think there’s another eSports organisation out there that has what we are putting out.

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