Following their acquisition of Esports Stadium Arlington, OpTic Texas hosted the CDL Optic Major 1 with a sold-out arena as fans came to cheer on OpTic’s home team alongside the rest of the Call of Duty League.
When they acquired Esports Stadium Arlington, OpTic Texas became the first major esports team to own a venue for live events. Previously, they had been renting the space from the city of Arlington, hosting the Battle for Texas for Dallas Fuel and the Kickoff Classic for the CDL in January; with the new acquisition, Optic Major 1 became the first event fully run and operated by the team. VP of Events and UTD alum Justin Rojas said that it was a necessity to pick up the stadium, a long-term investment for the organization in a world where esports teams are commonly unprofitable.
“Not only is it really satisfying the need to host our teams for our home matches, but [the acquisition] did create opportunities to work with different companies, with different publishers, with different events in general to grow the knowledge base of our internal event staff,” Rojas said. “No one really has this. What we’re doing is brand-new for a lot of the industry. And so we’re using this space as a training ground for our team, as a developmental area for new types of esports events.”
The events team at OpTic has a large variety of experience, with Rojas himself coming from running events at Funimation, alongside other members such as director of ticketing Colby Carter, who has experience ticketing for the Dallas Stars and TCU, and ATEC sophomore Justin Tun, who provides another perspective on a team with more experience in traditional sports and events. This varied team brings all of its experience to bear when putting together esports LAN events like Major 1, tackling unique challenges not present in traditional sporting events.
“Whereas a lot of traditional sports, the physical aspect of the sport, anybody could play football. You don’t need the NFL to throw a ball in a field. For ‘Overwatch’ and ‘Call of Duty’, you do need Activision-Blizzard to let you play the game because that is their game. And so that is a challenge, but they’ve been great partners for us as well,” Rojas said.
One of those challenges comes from technical issues, which stretch beyond internet connectivity. To borrow Rojas’ analogy, a football is not likely to glitch out of existence, nor a player to teleport ten yards down the field. In this Major alone, there have been multiple technical issues, from the game lobby closing and causing a round restart for LA Thieves vs. Toronto Ultra, to multiple technical time outs delaying the London Royal Ravens vs. Toronto Ultra match almost an hour. And the internet presents a different financial issue altogether.
“Esports requires a lot of internet. Seems like it’s not a huge deal, but when it comes to doing LAN events, the majority of traditional venues don’t have those similar capabilities that you would find in a residential home. Like, they don’t have fiber in every space, or if they do, they might have a certain company that controls it that’s going to charge you $100,000 for your one GB line for a weekend,” Rojas said. “That’s a huge challenge that literally makes events impossible for people. So what are you gonna do? You can’t play esports without some form of internet nowadays… very few games can even be played offline anymore.”
Another aspect that makes Major 1 unique is the integration of the events sponsors and marketing. Sponsors Mountain Dew, Aimlabs and Scuf are all integrated to some degree inside the venue so as to be easily accessible when the ads roll in between games. A Mountain Dew “Spark Zone” provides front row seats on a first-come-first-serve basis, with free Mountain Dew to drink throughout the whole event (it is more easily accessible than water). Scuf controllers not only have a stand where attendees can chat with representatives, but are connected to every free play computer in the lobby, meaning that players can test out the Scuf controllers in “Call of Duty” to see how they like it. Those details are a result of planning from the events team in the short time before the event began.
“We’re legitimately just making that up as we go along…we wish we had six months, we wish we had a year to plan like a lot of traditional events, but we don’t,” Rojas said. “You got to think quickly, you got to innovate, and you’ve got to utilize the resources you have.”
Regardless of OpTic Texas’ actual performance in the major, its parent company has found success with the event as a whole, selling out the stadium and providing DFW with a unique, in-person esports experience. That achievement was made not just by the players, but the staff and planners behind the scenes, and Rojas makes clear that the esports field is open to anyone that can apply their skills to the space.
“I think it’s a really good point to iterate that esports and working in esports is not necessarily just being a player. In fact, it’s probably more not being a player than anything,” Rojas said. “Even our CFO [didn’t] go to school for esports. He went to school for finance and investment. And now he’s our CFO and controls all of our dollars… that’s how you get into esports. When people say, how do I get into it? It’s like, well, do a good job doing something, and then bring it in.”