There was an unfamiliar sight today on Twitch:
— Knighty Knight (@KnightyK_HCS) February 7, 2016
You’re seeing it right; that’s Halo 5 occupying a top spot on the Twitch most watched list. The game has seen a downturn in popularity over the past few years, with CS:Go and Call of Duty pulling in higher viewing figures, larger organizations, and more competitors. Today, Halo rose to the top once again thanks to an event that wouldn’t normally bring in the big numbers: the last chance Halo World Championship qualifier for the North American region. The teams were fighting for the 16th seed in the region, and a chance to compete for the massive 2 million dollar prize at the Halo World Championship in March.
There were many familiar names on the teams competing in today’s event, but one team brought in the big spectator numbers: OpTic Gaming. The anticipation surrounding their matches was thanks to the massive fanbase OpTic commands, and also the well documented struggles of the team to retain focus, retain players, and reclaim their place among the better teams in competitive Halo. On recent episodes of Vision, OpTic’s YouTube-based reality/documentary series, the focus has centered on the OpTic Halo team featuring Michael “Flamesword” Chaves and Nick “Maniac” Kershner. The players admitted they didn’t practice Halo 5 when it came out, and thus had a poor start to the season. Finding themselves floundering and out of the running to attend the X Games, the misery piled on for Flamesword and Maniac, as former teammates Assault and Stellur left the team just before the roster lock. Last minute pickups Lifestyle and Chaser joined the team for this event, and through it all- Flamesword kept his stream up.
The stream pulled in over 24,000 viewers thanks to OpTic Call of Duty pro team members tweeting out the stream, a number of already-qualified Halo pros frequenting the chat, and the drama surrounding OpTic’s situation. If they don’t qualify for regionals, will team owner Hector Rodriguez disband his team? Will OpTic Halo cease to exist? Will Flamesword and Maniac be forced into semi-retirement and become solely entertainers for the OpTic brand?
Those are questions left unanswered for now because OpTic Halo won a grueling day’s worth of single elimination matches to qualify for the NA Regional Finals in Columbus, Ohio on February 19th. One of the most memorable parts from the celebrations after the win was Lifestyle’s reaction to the power of the #GREENWALL (OpTic fans) on social media: “My phone is not responding. I can’t keep up with these tweets? How do you guys do this??”
The Halo North American Regional Finals run from February 19th through the 21st. The competition will determine which 8 teams make it to the Halo World Championship competition. The Halo World Championship preliminary matches run from March 15-17th to determine seeding for the Finals. The big competition runs from March 19th-20th, and is single elimination best of 5 series for Round One, and best of 7 series for Rounds 2 and 3.