It’s been said before, and it’ll be said again: Fortnite has taken over the gaming world. While it’s a free-to-play video game, it hit the $1 billion mark back in July, just based on in-game purchases. That figure doesn’t account for how gamers are making money outside of the service; one of the more surprising ways involves parents hiring Fortnite tutors to help their kids get competitive in the shoot-‘em-up game. The other, much more lucrative avenue, is the world of watching people play video games. Services like YouTube and Twitch have embraced this phenomenon, allowing highly skilled gamers to show off their skills (Fortnite racked up 2.4 billion views on YouTube in the month of February alone). One particular squad, known as the FaZe Clan, found a way to turn their trickshots into clicks and views, building a virtual gaming empire that’s been recognized on international levels—to the point that the group competed in the 20th edition of the Gumball 3000 in August.
So if you’re into gaming, watching YouTube, or watching gaming videos on YouTube, and say you haven’t heard of FaZe, we’d look at you sideways. The Clan includes some high-profile members, among them rappers Lil Yachty and Ugly God, as well as Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. According to recent stats, FaZe (combined) has 71.4 million YouTube subscribers (with almost 10 billion views on the service). They’ve also aligned themselves with the ultra-popular Clout Gang, whose members include people like RiceGum (almost 11 million YouTube subscribers), Sommer Ray (19 million Instagram followers), and others who joined FaZe during this year’s Gumball run. Add in 77.3 million views on Twitch, over 40 million Twitter followers, and almost 37 million Instagram followers, and you have a lot of people making a lot of noise.
FaZe didn’t start out as the eSports and entertainment behemoth it’s become, though. Founded in 2010 by members Resistance, Housecat (who would later change his name to Timid), and Clipz, the squad spent most of their time playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. They started out making trickshot videos of the popular first-person shooter, and over the years amassed an international squadron of trickshotters repping the U.K., Portugal, Sweden, and Australia, among other countries. It was in 2012 that FaZe decided to enter the competitive gaming arena. At present, they’ve not only competed in numerous Call of Duty events around the world, but they’ve branched out to owning teams that are competitive in a slew of other games, ranging from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and the FIFA series to some of today’s largest titles: Overwatch, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and, yes, Fortnite. FaZe also releases a line of hoodies, tees, and hats for their squad, much like how major league sports teams drop merch.
While they built their brand in gaming, FaZe has turned into a wider phenom. Their growth could be tied to the addition of YouTube personality Banks. Banks is also known as part of RiceGum’s Clout Gang, and was a member of the SoaR team before joining FaZe; he was a trickshotter back in the day, but for over a year has been better known for vlogging his life in the Clout House to his 4.6 million YouTube subscribers. It’s also through the vlogs that came out of the Clout House that fans got to see the likes of Ugly God interacting with FaZe Clan and Clout Gang members, further broadening FaZe’s audience. Since Banks joined, FaZe has continued to expand, adding a strong number of gamers and personalities, and turning itself into more than a gaming brand. They might still play games (and their gaming videos still do extremely well), but their lifestyle is what brings many back.
Not content to dominate the worlds of gaming and YouTube, the combined FaZe Clan and Clout Gang hit the 2018 Gumball 3000 rally, which found racers driving from London to Tokyo over the span of seven days early this month. The team features the aforementioned Banks, RiceGum, and Sommer Ray, as well as Temperrr, Adapt, and Alissa Violet. During that journey, their combined 100 million subscribers practically felt like a part of the team, being taken for a ride in their Gumball vehicles (a 2018 black Rolls-Royce Ghost and a 2016 red Ferrari 488 GTB sponsored by Lion Heart Lifestyle, with exteriors designed by streetwear vet Joshua Vides and Broslo Art) through exclusive video content. In true FaZe fashion (pun intended), there was even exclusive, Gumball-inspired merch available. FaZe and Clout also set up pop-up shops along the route, where items were available for fans.
Given all the squad has done, what’s next for FaZe? We imagine heads will stay glued to their channels because, just like JuJu said, the entire world seems to “want in” on what they have in store.