OpTic Gaming, one of the largest eSports organizations in the world, is making its way into the FGC this June

We spoke with NGAGE's Jonathon Oudthone (a.k.a. Panda X Gaming) about the upcoming OpTic Arena event

Posted by Steven 'Dreamking23' Chavez • March 2, 2018 at 6:53 p.m. PST

OpTic Gaming has a large presence in the eSports world. Founded in 2006 by Hector "H3CZ" Rodriguez, the eSports media and entertainment organization is widely renowned with competitive teams in Call of Duty, Halo, Gears of War, Overwatch, Counter-strike Global Offensive, League Of Legends Championship Series and Dota 2.

This June, OpTic is delving into the world of competitive fighting games.

The OpTiC Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, takes place on June 8 through the 10th and will feature Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. Each game's tournament will have a $5,000 pot bonus up for grabs.

When a large eSports entity steps into the fighting game ring for the first time, it always turns heads. So, in order to get into the minds of the folks running the OpTic Arena, we spoke with Jonathon Oudthone of NGAGE Esports -- the creative broadcast and events management company working alongside OpTic Gaming to produce the event.

FGC members probably know Oudthone by his Panda x Gaming moniker. Having organized and broadcast many fighting game events over the years, Oudthone is directly involved in assisting OpTic Gaming in their venture into competitive fighting games.

DreamKing: What brings OpTic Gaming into the world of competitive fighting games and the FGC?

Oudthone: I think OpTic has always had its eyes on the FGC. When speaking with "OpTicJ" and "H3CZ" a few months back some pretty interesting conversations came up. J once asked me "how do we best position ourselves in this community?"

My answer was that "you have to first understand the rich history and culture. The FGC is different and unique in its own way." When I brought up the potential idea of doing fighting game tournaments at OpTic Arena, H3CZ was fast to jump on board. He mentioned that the #GreenWall has always wanted to see OpTic dip its toes into Melee.

He immediately threw out the idea of doing a high prize pool based tournament. Putting those ideas together with an OpTic themed event we were planning plus my history and experience in the FGC crafted an opportunity for OpTic Gaming to jump into the fighting games event space.

DreamKing: What can viewers and attendees expect from this event?

Oudthone: We have a number of things planned. Players can compete for over $15,000 in pot bonuses across Dragon Ball Fighters Z, Super Smash Bros. Melee and Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition.

If you’re an OpTic fan, plan to engage in meet-and- greet sessions with some of the biggest players and content creators in the organization or play with them in an unannounced activation that’s sure to add a lot of hype. We’ll also have a content stage for influencers as well as a 24/7 gaming lounge where side tournaments and casual setups will be available for attendees to play.

We’ve also partnered with A-kon, one of the largest anime conventions in the US, to enhance the experience. All OpTic Arena attendees will have access to A-kon which is concurrently taking place in the Fort Worth Convention Center, which connects directly to the arena.

DreamKing: How did NGAGE and OpTic Gaming come to work together?

Oudthone: It all started when Infinite Esports & Entertainment was formed by Chris Chaney and received investments from Neil Leibman, co-owner of the Texas Rangers, and others. Infinite Esports acts as a parent and holdings company to NGAGE, OpTic Gaming, GGEA and various other organizations under the umbrella.

Each company has its own specialized purpose in this ever-evolving space. For instance, NGAGE is an events management and production firm, GGEA is a developmental academy, OpTic specializes in professional eSports teams and creative content. Infinite Esports even houses a performance institute, media agency and sales arm. The structure that Infinite Esports has created is pretty remarkable and makes way for a more matured and advanced ecosystem in eSports.

DreamKing: When it comes to the FGC and eSports, it is not uncommon for a concern about the preservation of grass roots to spring up. Is this something that has been considered, and does OpTic Gaming and/or NGAGE Esports have something in mind to make hardcore FGC members feel at ease on this front?

"[The FGC] is a very unique community that operates completely differently from any other eSports genre. You don’t simply come in from the top and expect to be successful."
— Jonathon Oudthone, NGAGE Esports.

Oudthone: This was a heavy topic when discussing a fighting game event at OpTic Arena. I’ve seen plenty of organizations jump into this space without fully understanding the grass roots nature of it.

It’s a very unique community that operates completely differently from any other eSports genre. You don’t simply come in from the top and expect to be successful. Luckily, I’ve been a part of this community since the introduction of Street Fighter 4 (proud 09’er over here).

I’ve organized events and streams many times throughout my career. I’ve even proven to be a decent competitor back in the SF4 days, so I’ve experienced first hand almost every aspect of what makes the FGC so unique. The guys over at OpTic have been pretty great about learning as much as they can about the community which allows my team and I to plan a pretty amazing FGC experience at OpTic Arena in June. We are also in talks to work with endemic TO’s and streamers to ensure no detail is left out.

DreamKing: What plans does NGAGE Esports have for engaging fans (pardon the pun) of other eSports who are tuning into the fighting game portions of the event?

Oudthone: Our current arena layout consist of 3 major areas which are all unique to their own core audiences. One of those areas is our fighting game pit. We don’t want to shy away from creating that "grass roots" feel of a fighting game tournament so we plan to run it very similarly to how we’ve always done in the past.

Give them dedicated stages and streams with space to watch and compete. We want to ensure we feature some of the highest level of play so attendees who aren’t familiar with the hype levels the FGC can create can witness it first hand. Ultimately the plan is to provide the platform and foundation, the way it needs to be, and then let the FGC do what it does best.

DreamKing: Through Panda x Gaming, you have had a ton of experience organizing and streaming FGC events over the years. With series such as the PxG Online Championships and Ultra Fight Night, it is no secret that you are well versed in the world of fighting game tournaments. How has this helped you with your role at NGAGE, and what do you hope to accomplish with the organization?

Oudthone: I wouldn’t be where I am today without my involvement in the FGC. The people who have supported me through thick and thin and the organizations who have given me opportunities to prove myself have all played a huge role in the development of my career.

Even though my new company has a much wider focus in the eSports industry, I still plan to give as much as I possibly can to continue contributing to the FGC. I want to be able to take my broad understanding of the communities' expectations to create more sustainable, better produced opportunities in the content and events space. I’m super excited to be able to continue working on the FGC with more resources at hand.

DreamKing: Does this partnership between OpTic and NGAGE signify a potential future for more large-scale fighting game eSports events similar to OpTic Arena?

Oudthone: I think it’s natural to say that if all goes well this June then there’s no reason we shouldn’t expect more of this. The FGC is an amazing community and a well known and respected organization like OpTic Gaming getting involved could present some interesting opportunities.

I think it’s going to be a pleasant surprise for die-hard OpTic fans and attendees of A-kon. We may have to do it a few times more in 2019!

DreamKing: Could we potentially see OpTic add a team of fighting game players to their organization?

Oudthone: I’m not able to answer any questions relating to this, but the way Infinite Esports is structured is pretty neat.

OpTic Gaming isn’t the only professional eSports team under the Infinite Esports umbrella. You also have Team Allegiance, who already has a fighting game roster and has plans to do big things in the near future. This ensures that each team is unique and diverse in the titles they compete in. It’s really thought out and even goes as far as ensuring the teams don’t cross compete in the same games.

DreamKing: Any shout outs you'd like to make?

Oudthone: Probably way too many to directly name out, but I definitely want to give a huge shout out to the entire fighting game community for supporting me throughout the years. I wouldn’t be able to maintain a stable career in eSports and way of living for my family if it weren’t for the tremendous support.

I also want to thank my staff under NGAGE Esports for all of the work they’ve put in since coming on board late last year. Those guys are working hard and I can’t wait for everyone to experience what they’re creating! Special thanks to Infinite Esports & Entertainment for trusting me with such an important vertical within their organization.

Also, shout outs to the everyone here at Eventhubs! You guys have been around for a long time and have provided a lot of great content for the entire FGC.

A big thank you to Jonathon for taking the time to speak with us.

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