EDIT: During the time of this publication, Team Envy released this cryptic Tweet that may hint at Wizzrobe being signed as a sponsored player. While it isn't confirmed yet, there is no other player so infamously synonymous with Captain Falcon. Fingers crossed!
Justin "Wizzrobe" Hallett has something no Melee player sans Mew2king can lay claim to. He’s fluent across multiple Super Smash Bros. titles and considered a top competitor among each of them. He’s a top player at Super Smash Bros. 64, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and recently placed in the top eight at a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate supermajor.
A Winning Streak
The run he has been on as of late has put even the 5 Gods and gatekeepers on notice. First was his Melee supermajor win at Smash N’ Splash 5 playing only as Captain Falcon, followed by a second place finish at Smash Summit 8, again with a solo Captain Falcon. In addition, he placed top-eight in Ultimate during the S-tier Smash N’ Splash 5.
And yet, Wizzrobe has been a top 15 player for a very long time without being sponsored. What’s the hold up?
There is a distinct difference right now with regard to the two Super Smash Bros. scenes. You have the older one, Melee that has been built and based on grassroots tournaments and has maintained itself for years. It’s grown exponentially and continues to have a giant fan base and support.
Then, there is the newer Super Smash Bros. Ultimate scene that, despite only being around for less than a year, enjoys more sponsorships and partnerships. The fundamental difference between these games starts with a change in point of view.
The Sponsorship Difference
If you’re a professional team/organization what is a good reason for sponsoring the Melee scene or a player? The esports industry is seeing a change in why it chooses to sign certain players. We have learned that it takes more than just talent and results to warrant a corporate investment.
Players are posed with common questions that have nothing to do with their in-game performance. What’s their social media presence like? What about their personality? How do they bring more exposure or engagement to a brand?
Results and sheer talent just don’t cut it anymore and Wizzrobe has those things in spades.
We have seen an unprecedented amount of players across esports realize this reality. Many are now becoming regular streamers and content creators. Their bottom line is secure through YouTube videos, Twitch highlights, and in some cases personal Patreon accounts that allow fans to support them directly.
Just look at Mew2King, the veteran Smasher sponsored by Echo Fox. He now streams on Twitch, post videos on YouTube, acts as an embassador for the not-for-profit autism group nonPareil, appears on esports panels at IGEC 2019 and is currently writing a book about his Smash career.
The modern Smash pro must be multifaceted by building a personal brand and fanbase. Mew2King has had 14 years competing at the top to achieve this. Compare this to Wizzrobe, who only began to really make a dent in competitive Melee back in 2015.
Being sponsored has become more than just wearing a brand or representing a company. A player becomes that brands complete ambassador. Everything the organization is partnered with, that player must be able to integrate into their and endorse. This creates a subtle but real problem for Melee players.
Melee's biggest hurdle.
Melee is such an old game it can’t reliably be used to showcase the most common type of esports sponsorship: high-end gaming gear and peripherals. It must be played on a CRT and preferably on a Nintendo Gamecube. As a result, the most reliable esports sponsors (hardware manufacturers) aren't inherently synergistic with Melee and the scene usually relies on esports organizations looking for big-name players to grow their brand and cultivate fans with.
And, while Wizzrobe has legions of fans, his naturally stoic personality and pre-match preparation tendencies that consistently create awkward moments of stagnant-air is a hard sell for any esport brand trying to compete in an industry where the likes of Ninja and Dr.Disrespect represent the most popular gamers in the world.
In many ways, Wizzrobe represents many of the reasons why fans continue to love Melee as a top-tier esport. It is a game where the only thing that matters is results and their independence from corporate sponsors allows a player like Wizzrobe despite not necessarily fitting the modern Twitch-inspired image of a brand safe gamer.
However, regardless of how romantic the notion is, Wizzrobe not being signed yet represents an obstacle the Melee community must overcome. When the hottest rising start in an esport can't find sponsorship, something has to change.
Wizzrobe is the Last Step
Wizzrobe is the last step in Melee’s recent 2019 progression. If he can get sponsored, despite not necessarily having the strongest personal branding or presence outside of Smash Bros., it will represent one of two things:
1. Wizzrobe has managed to create a personal brand strong enough to entice a sponsor, meaning that Super Smash Bros. excellence is valuable and future players can emulate his path.
2. Certain brands and sponsors have figured out a way to support no-nonsense players like Wizzrobe and experience real returns on that investment.
Either result will be a positive milestone for the Melee scene. Everyone in the Smash Bros. scene knows that Wizzrobe deserves to be sponsored, but every month that goes by without it happening hints at Melee's inability to reward the players that make all of the record-breaking events possible.
Why hasn’t Wizzrobe been picked up yet? As long as the question remains, what are the odds of any other Super Smash Bros. player attracting a new sponsor to the scene?
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