Financial terms of the overall deal were not publicly disclosed.
Under the terms of the deal, founders of both organizations will join OMiT’s executive team: ESG Founder Doug “Fresh” Wenz will join the organization as its new chief revenue officer, while Deviance owner Austin Will takes on the role of chief strategy officer.
OMiT Founder and CEO Rafi Huezo said in an announcement that these acquisitions will help his organization bolster its “capabilities in content production, extended network, and social production.”
If you are not familiar with Deviance Gaming, it is a Detroit-based esports organization founded in 2023 that focuses on competing in Call of Duty Challengers pro-am competitions. Likewise, ESG focuses on pro-am competitions in Call of Duty, and most recently fielded a Call of Duty Academy (under 18) team. Like the other organizations, OMiT competes in Call of Duty Academy, Challengers, and Warzone and is the 2023 World Series of Warzone Champion. It also fields a championship all-women Call of Duty roster in WxE.
Wenz posted the following video on X/Twitter explaining his decision to merge ESG into OMiT:
I truly love and appreciate everyone who supported and helped build @ElectrifySteel. What that being said, i am very excited to work with everyone at @OMiTGG. It’s time to build one powerhouse that can do so much more with the resources we have now. Let’s get to work 🤝 pic.twitter.com/palV8oSFMF
— Fresh (@ESG_Fresh) February 9, 2024
Deviance Gaming also released a statement on X/Twitter, announcing the acquisition:
Deviance Gaming 🔜 @OMiTGG
— Deviance Gaming (@ggDeviance) February 8, 2024
Inside the Deal
On Friday The Esports Advocate talked to Deviance Founder Austin Will, ESG Founder Doug “Fresh” Wenz, and OMiT Founder and CEO Rafi Huezo about the origins of this deal and what the expectations are about the benefits of bringing these three organizations under one unifying banner.
Meeting of the Minds
How did three of the best pro-am Call of Duty organizations ultimately end up under one virtual roof this week? While Will began by joking that Huezo had little choice but to talk to him after Deviance beat OMiT on Map 5 at last year’s Toronto Major (“He’s just like me—he hates losing more than he loves winning”), he also said that their mutual respect created a bond at the recent Boston Major:
“On a serious note, very recently we grew close during the Boston Major only a couple weekends ago.” Will said. “Rafi and I have always respected each other, and with Doug over at ESG being a part of the process, it was a no-brainer. We all have the same mission and it’s a big weight off everyone’s shoulders. We are ready to get to work and make a difference.”
Wenz attributes the early conversations about joining forces with OMiT to a joke he told someone who worked with Huezo (who previously worked for ESG). That joke was ultimately the catalyst for a real conversation about teaming up:
“It started out as kind of a joke. I was joking and I said something to one of the guys that works for him who used to be with ESG,” Wenz said. “I guess he took it back to Rafi, and even though I was joking, it’s always been something that’s been on my mind; why are we spinning our wheels against one another in such a challenging industry when we could just work together as one cohesive unit? So I guess he took it back to Rafi, and then we connected. We just kind of hit it off and started talking, and then the whole Deviance thing came in after. That was a surprise to me, but I also felt it was a good move, so I’m excited to get to work with them over there.”
Huezo began talking with Will at the beginning of the year and with Wenz after competing against one another at the Boston Major.
“To be honest, Doug and I started speaking at the top of the year, and then Austin and I really hit it off at the Boston Major,” Huezo told us. “He has an incredible roster that only got better after ReeaL somehow didn’t get his Visa worked out in the league. So he had to get dropped from his CDL spot and now he plays for OMiT EU, which used to be Deviance Gaming with Notorious. You know, my entire objective is to see OMiT Brooklyn versus OMiT EU, on the main stage at one of the Majors, or even Champs if I think we both will qualify regardless.
“We finished top six in Boston, which was not the best performance based on the caliber of the team that we had, especially with the winning culture that we built winning Champs last season. So Austin and I really hit it off in Boston and that’s when things started to click as far as who it was that I wanted to bring in-house.”
Challenges and Solutions
Despite building some of the best rosters in the Call of Duty pro-am scenes, Deviance and ESG faced a number of challenges in 2023 and into this year, including balancing full-time careers with operating esports organizations as owners, and trying to find ways to pay for everything.
Given the current landscape (layoffs, closures, and consolidation) and the cooler reception esports has received from brands over the last year or so, both Will and Wenz admit that they have struggled to secure meaningful sponsorships and partnerships. This was even more challenging due to their limited exposure—despite fielding some of the best-performing pro-am Call of Duty teams in the world. Ultimately, the hope is that this new combination of top-performing rosters and leadership talent will help OMiT compete, grow its brand, and ultimately create new revenue streams.
“So, for me personally, it’s about understanding our strengths, and figuring out what each individual’s strengths are,” Wenz said. “I’m in sales, I’m an insurance agent, and I do real estate as well, so it’s kind of where I thrive. So I’m gonna be working with brands and sponsors and to bring in more money, investors, and things like that. That’s where I want to put my focus and not have to worry about the day-to-day operations of esports teams because I’m not as knowledgeable as the other guys and girls are when it comes to specific titles and games and how they work. I’m just gonna focus on my strengths on the business side of things.”
“As you can imagine, managing this between two to three heads can become increasingly difficult—especially when balancing ownership responsibilities alongside conventional employment,” Will said. “Juggling a traditional 9-5 job with the demands of esports management requires meticulous planning and resource allocation. Joining forces with OMiT and ESG enables us to overcome these obstacles and execute initiatives that were previously constrained by limitations in time and capital.”
“I come from the world of brands,” Huezo added. “I worked with Adidas, Ciroc, Sony, Jordan—all these brands that have incredibly large marketing media mix dollars and budgets. I serviced those clients for years, so I know what it is that they’re looking for. My entire mantra is building that bridge between brand and esports, and if I’m surrounded by people and a board that is focusing on delivering in reverse engineering, giving the fans and the true gamer what it is that they’re looking for while connecting those dots to brand dollars, then it’s a concoction for success.”
OMiT will continue to operate its Warzone team, Challengers team (OMiT Brooklyn), and its all-women’s roster WxC (2X Champions) ; while Deviance brings the OMiT EU Challengers roster to the table.
“We would be foolish to let our European roster go elsewhere,” Will told us. “Vortex, Reeal, Weeman, and Mythix are the perfect balance we need to succeed. Between seasoned vets and young up-and-comers, we are ready to bring our new pace to the table to compete with powerhouse NA rosters. We look forward to the OMiT NA and OMiT EU rivalry.”
Deviance’s Apex Legends team will carry on through Split One, but Huezo says that they will be closely monitoring their performance to determine if they will stay on once current contractual obligations are met.
While specific numbers were not provided, some roles from Deviance and ESG were also eliminated as part of the consolidation. Despite this, Huezo says that the organization has a number of roles that it wants to fill:
“There’s been a lot of casualties across Tier One organizations within esports that OMiT is 100% going to be fishing for as we continue to grow to fill open roles. For now, we’re looking for a creative director and social media manager.”
ESG and FC Black
ESG had planned on bringing its Academy team into the OMiT fold, but at the beginning of February—after beating out OMiT to be crowned the U18 Call of Duty League champions (a competition for under 18)—players abruptly announced on Twitter that they would be joining FaZe Clan Black.
We’re investing in the future. 📈
Today marks the inception of FC Black Academy, shining a light on some of COD’s rising talents:
— FC Black (@FCBlackOfficial) February 6, 2024
Wenz expressed frustration with how the academy team that he poured his time, resources, and energy into, was suddenly picked up by FC Black, in the blink of an eye. Here’s how he claims that this situation unfolded:
I think what happened here is part of what’s wrong with the industry. We came up with the idea [for under 18] at the end of the Modern Warfare 2 season. One of the things that I wanted to do from the very beginning was come up with a way to grow talent and bring these kids that were 16-17 at the time up to the next level. So we put together this team last year in Modern Warfare 2, put them in some leagues, had them coached by the LAG coach, who was coaching them on the side, helping them out.
We kept them to a pretty strict scrim schedule, and they had to report it to us. We talked to them about making sure they were doing well in school—I talked to a couple of their parents, because we had sent them to Atlanta. We really ran a tight ship with them. They were scrimming Pro teams, competing with them, and they were getting their names out there.
About a week ago they won the U18 team cup, the championships for that league. I noticed right after that The Flank and Parasite were talking about how good these guys were…and they mentioned ESG as well.
And then the next day I am working with the players. We were going to send them to a LAN in March, so I was working with the players on the team on some things to prepare them for what was next. And Ryan, one of our guys, was turning 18 in March so we were figuring out replacements so they added two new players to the chat. At about 5:30 that night, I got this long message from one of the players basically saying, ‘Thank you for everything. You guys were great, blah, blah, blah, but we have an opportunity and we can’t pass it up. We’re leaving.’ Within five minutes, two of them tweeted out that they were gone thank you, and onto bigger and better things. And listen, I would never have said no, I would’ve never held them hostage.
They’re 17, so I didn’t have them contracted to the org—I probably should have contracted them through their parents—but that was a mistake I made. But with that being said, I would not have said no.
But I think the thing that most people are missing here is that we put a lot of time, effort, and money into them and they just said bye.’ and [gave us] the middle finger. I don’t blame the players, but I do blame the people that are running FaZe Black and people like Zuma and Parasite. I think that it’s wrong—and maybe they weren’t truly behind it, and I don’t necessarily have anything against them—but people should have more respect.
Somebody should have reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, we really like your team. We’d really love the opportunity to work with them.’ And I would’ve said, ‘Okay, I would love for them to go there. Let’s figure out a cool way to transition them in.’ I’d love to be part of this process because the whole goal for me was to get them to the next level—not to just have this stolen from me without a thank you.
A couple of the players did apologize to me. I don’t have any ill will towards them and I want to make that known. Really, I don’t have any ill will towards Parasite or Zoomaa—I think they’re phenomenal for this scene and obviously great players—but I just think everybody kind of misses the point here. We put so much into them and not to mention the U18 team scene alone—that league was gonna be a draft league. It always has been; I made them change it. I asked them to change it to academy teams, and now every single org out there has an academy team, right? I’m not trying to take credit for it all, but I think a little credit <laugh> is due for what we did for that scene and building that out.
TEA reached out to FC Black owner Los (real name unknown) to ask if the organization had poached ESG players. He told us the following:
“We (Zoomaa and I) wanted to give the boys a bigger platform to showcase their skills before they turn 18, head into the challengers scene, and we feel like we have been doing that. Nothing more to it.”
Editor’s note: To learn more about the formation of OMiT and how founder Rafi Huezo—a former Ciroc and Procter & Gamble ad executive–found his way into esports, check out this feature story.