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FaZe Clan, the boisterous gaming lifestyle brand, goes public

(Washington Post illustration; iStock)
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Esports and content creation collective FaZe Clan is now a publicly traded company, following a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The new company is listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker FAZE. The company opened at around $13 per share.

FaZe Clan first announced its intention to go public in October 2021, with the goal of expanding its revenue sources and international presence. In an interview, Lee Trink, the company’s CEO, said FaZe’s popularity with Gen Z audiences is why it will thrive as a publicly traded company.

“We’ve placed ourselves in the top echelon of a youth culture company,” Trink said. “And now, and not just this minute, we have started to shift our focus to monetizing that massive audience. I think that’s really critical for this moment of going public.”

FaZe began in 2010 as a collective of Call of Duty players who got famous for trickshotting — a style of flashy, difficult shooting that highlights a player’s skill. (For example: spinning 720 degrees in the air before sniping someone in the head without bothering to scope in.) Since then, the brand has burgeoned into a gaming media and esports company, fielding competitive rosters in a range of titles. FaZe’s “Counter-Strike” team is currently the best team on the planet, according to the Counter-Strike news and stats portal HLTV. On July 17, the team won first place at the Intel Extreme Masters tournament, netting the organization $400,000.

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FaZe is perhaps best known for its cachet as a lifestyle brand with a vast stable of content creators. The rapper Lil Yachty streams for FaZe (and even made a “Fortnite” song) under the tag FaZe Boat. So does LeBron James Jr. FaZe has done streetwear collaborations with Champion, Disney and famed artist Takashi Murakami. Its members have appeared in a Batman comic. Snoop Dogg rocked a FaZe Clan chain during his Super Bowl LVI halftime performance. He’s also on FaZe’s board of directors.

The company has been exploring a number of ventures beyond video games. Gambling, virtual dining and ghost kitchens, fan clubs and subscription models are some of the potential revenue generators Trink said the company is exploring.

FaZe is also eager to engage with its followers outside of the United States. Trink told The Post that while 50 percent of the brand’s audience is based outside of the United States, only 5 percent of its revenue is international.

Trink said FaZe has also discussed possible partnerships with Web3 companies to cut out the middleman of social media platforms. Web3 is a hypothetical concept for a decentralized internet utilizing blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. If this version of the internet comes to pass, Trink hopes it will also lead to FaZe-sponsored play-to-earn games (games where players can earn NFTs or cryptocurrency) and a way to deliver content that bypasses platforms such as YouTube or Instagram.

“Migrating our community to a Web3 community allows us to be directly connected,” Trink said. “It allows us to own the relationship. It allows us to create a bespoke set of engagement around what that relationship is. We can deliver content as we see fit, however we see fit. We can exchange information, we can converse in an environment we see fit and we think serves our community best. We’re enabled to monetize how we see fit, as well.”

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FaZe’s efforts to become a publicly traded company have not come without bumps. After announcing a valuation of $1 billion when it first sought to go public, the post-merger value of the company was appraised at $713 million in the initial acquisition filing, and in April, FaZe Clan was valued at $650 million in total equity, as reported by the Sports Business Journal. The company’s financial performance estimates were also revised down due “current market trends,” the company wrote in a filing.

FaZe has also endured some unflattering incidents as it has evolved into its current form. In the past few years, former FaZe member and influencer Alissa Violet sued the company claiming she was owed $300 million in shares. Streamer Turner “Tfue” Tenney also sued FaZe over what his lawyer described as an exploitative contract, a suit that was ultimately settled.

The company also kicked out Frazier “Kay” Khattri and suspended three other members for their apparent involvement in a crypto pump and dump scheme. Kay and several other former FaZe members promoted a cryptocurrency token called Save The Kids, transactions of which would include a small fee, a portion of which would go to charity. The value of the token skyrocketed at first, then nosedived. Kay has apologized for endorsing Save The Kids and maintained that he never set out to intentionally mislead people.

In 2021, former NBA player and FaZe investor Meyers Leonard, who streamed under the name FaZe Hammer, used an antisemitic slur on stream. Shortly after the incident, FaZe announced that it had ended its “public association” with Leonard while maintaining he was never a true member of FaZe.

Asked about how FaZe plans on avoiding future incidents like Leonard’s, Trink pointed to FaZe Academy, a streamer boot camp launched in 2020 for FaZe members.

“We now have a FaZe Academy, which is a precursor to being admitted onto the roster,” Trink said. “That’s done not only to educate our talent around a code of conduct but also to suss out the fit with FaZe.”

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In the past decade, the esports industry has grown at an astronomical rate, and FaZe has frequently boasted that it is the world’s most recognizable esports brand. Trink described FaZe as “the undisputed leader within gaming.”

But the brand goes public in an increasingly unstable landscape for the industry, marked by shrinking companies and skeptical investors. In July, both TSM and 100 Thieves, esports and lifestyle brands comparable to FaZe, laid off workers. Now, under the looming threat of another recession, FaZe must convince investors that it can transmute its popularity into profitability.

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