Thunder Gaming began its new professional esports team by signing Jestise “MVD” Negron and Victoria “VikkiKitty” Perez on Thursday. MVD joins the organization as its first professional Super Smash Bros. Ultimate player, while VikkiKitty joins as a commentator.
The announcements came via Thunder Gaming’s Twitter page. Reveal videos showed clips of MVD’s gameplay and VikkiKitty’s commentary from the first two Thunder Smash events. The organization is also giving away a Nintendo Switch and a copy of Smash Ultimate to celebrate the news. Interestingly, MVD and VikkiKitty were both members of World Best Gaming before its dissolution on Aug. 4.
More news at 6PM PST. pic.twitter.com/kjBNZOwgAt
— Thunder Gaming (@ThunderGamingLA) August 8, 2019
— Thunder Gaming (@ThunderGamingLA) August 9, 2019
Thunder Gaming has a reputation for throwing money at the Smash community without knowing the best way to do so. The first Thunder Smash tournament featured a $20,000 first prize payout, as well as high payouts for casters. However, the production quality was notoriously lackluster. In addition, the lopsided payout structure only attracted a small number of players, with only 82 players in attendance.
In a similar manner, Thunder Gaming’s endorsement plan unfolded in a rather unorthodox way. First, the organization went to Twitter to ask its followers about potential candidates for endorsement. The organization then conducted a Twitter poll of free agents, allowing fans to vote on who should join Thunder Gaming.
Along with MVD, the free agent poll included Ishiguro “Raito” Tetsuya, James “Rivers” Wade, and Eric “Pandarian” Lund. Though MVD ultimately joined the team, Raito actually received the most votes on the Twitter poll. It is unclear if Thunder Gaming also plans to patron Raito. The organization did reference more news that it “can’t reveal JUST yet.”
MVD will represent Thunder Gaming for the first time this weekend at Super Smash Con 2019. He was recently ranked No. 17 in the world on the Spring 2019 PGRU. In fact, MVD was the highest-ranked American free agent on the PGRU, making him an easy pick for Thunder Gaming. He was also the second highest-ranked free agent overall, behind Japan’s Takuma “Tea” Hirooka.
Thunder Gaming will continue hosting major Super Smash Bros. tournaments with Thunder Smash 3 this October. Thunder Smash 3 will be an open-bracket tournament, unlike Thunder Smash 2, which included an invitational and an Arcadian exclusive to unranked players. The event will take place in Long Beach, California and will be put on with the help of Panda Global.
Thunder Smash 3 will include a $10,000 pot bonus for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It will also feature a $5,000 pot bonus for Super Smash Bros. Melee. On top of this, Thunder Gaming will fly out an international player to the event for every 100 registrants. It seems the organization is hoping to encourage greater turnout than it has had for its first two events.
Dylan Tate is a student in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, including Smash Bros., Splatoon, ARMS, and Pokémon. Dylan also writes Nintendo news articles for Nintendo Enthusiast.