Envy Gaming was Mike Rufail’s passion project that became one of the most established esports organizations in the world. Envy propelled talented Call of Duty players to stardom and hoisted trophies across a variety of esports at a high clip.
Playing for Envy Gaming, which was founded in 2007, was the dream job. That was mostly because of Rufail, often referred to by his gamertag “Hastr0.” The brand was founded in 2007 and Rufail joined in 2009 as a manager. The company would kickstart his career, and Rufail would lift others with him.
Things continue to evolve.
Rufail and OpTic Gaming President Hector Rodriguez announced Envy would sunset that brand Monday. Now it’s all OpTic Gaming.
Bittersweet wasn’t the right word to Rufail. It wasn’t accurate.
“It’s still alive. It’s still very much alive and will live forever,” Rufail told The Dallas Morning News in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “That’s not bittersweet to me. For me, it’s a crowning moment. Anybody who wants to go look at the stats, you can go look at the stats, and look at our team’s performance and multiple video games, and see how many Grand Finals we’ve played, how many trophies we’ve won, and how far around the world we’ve traveled.”
No more Envy? 😢— NYSL Clayster (@Clayster) June 27, 2022
That will always be in esports history. It can’t be changed. If it weren’t for Rufail and Envy, Call of Duty esports may not be positioned for the future the same way it is now. Rufail gave pros their first shot. He provided a legitimate career in an new industry of professional gaming.
Change was always part of the plan, as Rufail saw the bigger picture over a decade ago. OpTic Gaming can take what Envy built and run with it. Rufail said he thought about this before Envy and OpTic officially merged in November 2021. He knew this could be the better decision to make and he was comfortable with that.
At least in his head, Rufail made the decision in March. OpTic Texas’ Call of Duty League Major at Esports Stadium Arlington had the venue shaking. The smoke-filled covered a crowd that was glittered in the OpTic green.
“It was a really powerful moment for us. I though this was a brand and a fan base that was really strong,” Rufail said. “I felt the fans are mature enough to accept a decision like this and can follow us.”
This was a hard pill to swallow because of what Envy meant, especially to former pros who made a name for themselves. Call of Duty pros, past and present, shared some of their favorite memories on Twitter Monday.
Martin “Cheen” Chino called it a “childhood dream” to play for Envy on the main stage. Joseph “MerK” DeLuca shared a memory he’d keep.
Some good times, will always remember nV. pic.twitter.com/OdAFzg30fV— MerK (@JoeDeLuca) June 27, 2022
Esports is everchanging, and this moved was made to keep OpTic Gaming’s foot on the gas pedal. Rufail said he was unsure what all would come down the pipeline from the move, but things already had a different look.
Justin “Wizzrobe” Hallett, one of the top Super Smash Bros. competitors in the world, announced he was looking for a new org Monday after three years with Envy. Magic The Gathering player Seth Manfield did the same.
Rufail was still excited about the future of OpTic Gaming. There wasn’t any sort of handbook on how to merge two esports brands. The industry is still so new that OpTic is now trailblazing in that regard.
“It’s a lot of healthy discussion and compromise,” Rufail said. “That gets a lot of things done.”