ZeRo returns to Smash, signs with Tempo Storm

Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios is returning to competitive Smash. Courtesy of Tempo Storm

Tempo Storm have signed Gonzalo "ZeRo" Barrios, the most accomplished player in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, ahead of the release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Dec. 7, the team told ESPN.

ZeRo is expected to return to competitive Super Smash Bros. after a hiatus that began in January, where the 23-year-old cited tournament burnout, motivational issues and dwindling passion for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the latest edition of the popular Nintendo-developed fighting game, will see its first supermajor competition at Genesis 6 beginning on Feb. 1 in Oakland, California. ZeRo became the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2018 Smash Ultimate Invitational champion in June.

The news comes after ZeRo quietly departed from Team SoloMid in June. During his time with Team SoloMid, he continued on what ended as a 56 consecutive tournament win streak in Smash for Wii U. ZeRo dominated in tournaments across the world, including an Evolution Championship Series title, for the greater portion of one year between 2014 to 2015. That streak was ended by Nairoby "Nairo" Quezada, the consensus second-best in the world at that time, in Oct. 2015.

"When I go back to competing, I'm going to be doing it differently than I did last time," ZeRo told ESPN. "The main thing that burned me out in Smash 4 and Brawl was, to keep up in the rankings, you had to go to a tournament every weekend of the month. That means, realistically, you have no life. If you do that for years and years, it becomes impossible to do anything else.

"The different thing I'm going to be doing once I compete again is that I'm not chasing the rankings anymore. What I mean, is that I'm not not trying to be the best. But it means I don't want the ranking grind, because I don't think it's good."

In his absence, the Smash for Wii U scene has seen a plethora of new and younger players arise as the best. In August, 17-year-old Bharat "Lima" Chintapall won the 2018 Evo Smash for Wii U title, with other younger competitors finishing just behind him. ZeRo believes that with Ultimate, in part due to its forecasted popularity on release, that more players will rise up within the scene to compete with him.

ZeRo has also been among many Super Smash Bros. players who have called on Nintendo to both better financially and infrastructurally support its competitive esports ecosystem. Many hope that will improve with the release of Ultimate in December.

"I feel like Ultimate has had more support than Smash 4 had already," ZeRo said. "[Nintendo] clearly invited a bunch of people they knew who were good at the game [to E3] to try the game early, back in the back room to play. They invited pretty much everyone I knew from the community."

ZeRo will become the third Super Smash Bros. player in the Tempo Storm organization. The long-tenured esports team features the likes of Jeffrey "Axe" Williamson and Johnny "S2J" Kim, both who compete in Super Smash Bros. Melee.