On the surface, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona returning to the Halo Championship Series after a year competing in Apex Legends may have seemed like a no-brainer.
Snip3down was a multitime champion across a decade in Halo esports and in September was voted the sixth-greatest player of all time. However, Snip3down admitted in an exclusive interview with Nerd Street ahead of the North American Regionals in Anaheim beginning Feb. 11, that he wasn’t quite certain he would return to competitive Halo.
Read more: All teams qualified for HCS Anaheim
“When the game [Infinite] was delayed, I got an opportunity to play with TSM on Apex, and that's when I really started to question if I was gonna ever participate in Halo again,” he said.
Snip3down was involved in Apex esports for about two-and-half years. He picked up a second-place finish with Team Reciprocity at the EXP Invitational at the X Games in 2019 and a third-place finish with TSM in the 2021 ALGS Championship for North America.
With the release of Halo Infinite late last year, interest in the franchise’s competitive scene has skyrocketed, as evidenced by viewership for the first big HCS event of the season -- the Raleigh Kickoff Major in December. – rocket-jumping beyond any of its predecessors. With a peak viewership of over 267,000, according to Esports Charts, it was more than twice as many peak viewers as any previous Halo tournament.
Snip3down likens what he’s seen over the first four months of the game’s life to the migration of talent away from Halo 4 over to Call of Duty, only, this time, in reverse.
Yet, it wasn’t an anticipated rise in Halo’s popularity nor his familiarity with the franchise that ultimately lured Snip3down back.
It was an opportunity to be a leader, and to chase the world championship that eluded him in Halo 5.
It’s an opportunity he now has with FaZe.
Why Snip3down joined FaZe
Photo credit: HCS
Although he didn’t come right out and say it, one gets the sense that FaZe made choosing Halo a lot easier than it might’ve been otherwise.
Snip3down, who has previously been a member of eight other teams, shared that he was in discussion with a number of orgs about a return to Halo. However, it was the commitment level from FaZe that really stood out.
“They were like, ‘We want to build a team with you and around you, help build this team around what you’re looking for, help build your brand,’” he said. “Even talked about if I really missed Apex or wanted to pursue that later down the road, they're totally open to it.
“It felt right away like I was welcome. Anything I needed, anything I needed help with, they were willing to put those resources into it. It felt really nice to be instantly treated as a priority, and I very much respect that. It just feels like a very mutually beneficial relationship.”
He also was excited about taking on the added challenge of stepping into a leadership role and mentoring a young group of players.
“You have that little bit of extra weight on your shoulders,” Snip3down said. “Your teammates can rely on you, they can look to you when things aren’t going well, and you can be the one to lift your team up.
“I‘ve had a lot of other leaders on the team with me in the past, and I think for this team specifically I am the guy who needs to be the one to step up with the communication.”
How high can FaZe go?
Photo credit: HCS
Unsurprisingly, signing Snip3down has lended instant credibility to FaZe in the HCS.
Although the squad has yet to win a tournament this season, they’ve fared no worse than third in five events, including the Raleigh Kickoff Major, with one runner-up finish in the Pro Series.
Not bad considering the relative youth around Snip3down -- Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller and Michael “Falcated” Garcia, who first made names for themselves in Halo 5, and Adam “Bound” Gray, a newcomer on the scene.
“[Bound] is definitely a star in the making, for sure,” Snip3down said. “I felt like I fit perfectly in with this group of guys and believe we can do something special.”
Still, the relative inexperience of that group compared to some of the other heavy hitters such as OpTic and Sentinels is undeniable.
“We’re growing right now and just trying to figure out our team’s identity and what we excel at,” Snip3down said. “One of the biggest things that we lack is communication in-game, but when we are on point, I don't think there’s a team that can really stop us.”
FaZe finished in the top eight in Raleigh to pre-qualify for a spot in Anaheim this weekend, where Snip3down already has his eyes trained on a rival.
“I want to take down C9 in the finals and beat some of the other top teams along the way,” he said. “That’s the goal. I think it would be a hell of an accomplishment. We’ve played them very close in a lot of these online tournaments.”
Halo vs. Apex
Despite being given the opportunities to quarterback a promising supporting cast and continue building a legacy that includes 24 LAN victories and multiple championships dating all the way back to Halo 2, Snip3down described his comeback as a “last-second decision.”
It sounds like he might actually derive more enjoyment from Apex Legends as a video game, but competing in Halo is a whole other level of adrenaline.
“At heart, I am a competitor, and it’s a different type of fire that the competitions in Halo really do provide being an arena shooter in comparison to what I participated in with Apex,” Snip3down said.
“It's a lot more intense just due to it being your team versus one other team instead of your team versus like 19 other teams, and it's very satisfying when you've reached the top of that.”
Snip3down also cited the quality of the competitive roadmap the HCS has laid out, complimenting the league’s structure and format.
“I enjoy Apex more on a casual level,” he said. “It’s a more relaxing game to just play and mess around with your friends because … it's not all on you. You can just die once and you start up the next game. Whereas Halo is on a casual level much more stressful because of the respawn system. It’s more frustrating to die and respawn, die and respawn.
“But on a competitive level I absolutely enjoy Halo more. It's more rewarding when you do succeed.”
Striking a balance
If Snip3down harbors any regrets at all about returning to Halo, he’s hiding it well.
“It’s definitely a blast from the past being back in the Halo scene, competing against some of the people that I've grown up with, honestly,” he said.
More likely, at 30 years old, he’s becoming more introspective and possesses a deeper understanding of what it is he hopes to accomplish in both esports and his personal life. In this hyper-specific example, that means learning how to juggle enjoying a few rounds of Apex with his friends while still pushing the limits in Halo.
We all have our day jobs.
Heck, in many esports, age 30 would be considered over the hill or long past due to retire, something Snip3down admits has crossed his mind.
Another way of looking at it, though, is all that experience simply gives him an advantage.
“I definitely have thoughts of what's to come afterwards,” Snip3down said, adding he intends to stay in esports whether he’s competing or not, mentioning content creation as one potential route.
“I also want to be able to break that stereotype. Age I feel like is a mindset. A lot of people get to a certain age and think, ‘I can't keep up with these young players,’ he said. “But I have no doubt that I'm still capable of that and feel the knowledge that I've gained throughout the years has kept me ahead of a lot of these newer players that might have that extra hand-eye coordination.”
One almost gets the sense that there’s a feeling of unfinished business in Halo that was tugging at Snip3down, too.
“The right decision was to compete in Halo,” he said. “I am still a competitor and would love to get those accomplishments that I was unable to achieve in Halo 5 and keep building that resume as one of if not the best Halo player of all-time.”
Lead photo credit: HCS