That old GameWorks arcade center in the mall in your town will host esports soon. Oomba, an online tournament-management system, has acquired GameWorks from the group of investors that bought the company in 2011. The new ownership plans to refocus the existing GameWorks locations into local miniature esports arenas.

Competitive gaming has grown into a massive force on livestreaming platforms like Twitch, but it hasn’t established itself as a local or regional attraction quite yet. Oomba wants to change that by using the existing GameWorks facilities in cities like Seattle and Denver. As of today, seven GameWorks locations are still in operation, and they are all in the United States. Michael Williams, Oomba chief executive, says that the large arcade venues are ideal for not just esports but VR experiences and “game nights” as well. The Las Vegas location has even already introduced a massive LAN room with connected PC computers for esports tournaments.

“We plan to transform GameWorks into the experiential anchor for triple-A locations all across America and beyond,” said Williams.

Oomba is making this move on a wave of growth for esports. That market is on the cusp of generating $696 million in revenue this year, according to industry-intelligence firm Newzoo. That’s up 41 percent from 2016, and that trend could see competitive gaming hit as high as $1.5 billion by 2020. As of today, most of that money comes from sponsorships and advertising during tournaments, but fans are also spending money to attend live events. Oomba is betting that the enthusiasm for esports could filter down to the local level for fans who want to participate in tournaments in their home towns. 

And Oomba is planning to introduce GameWorks into new regions.

“The financial strength and vision of Oomba combined with the operating strength and team at GameWorks will revolutionize location based entertainment,” Oomba chief financial officer Edmund Har said. “We will continue to build on the positive historical performance of these stores while aggressively expanding into markets we are excited to enter”.

This is the biggest pivot for GameWorks since its inception in the ’90s. Game publisher Sega and Steve Spielberg’s DreamWorks movie studio started the venture as a series of entertainment venues focused on arcade games. DreamWorks sold its half of the company in 2001 before GameWorks filed for bankruptcy in 2004 and then again in 2010. Sega eventually sold off the company in full in 2011 to a group of investors. With the sale to Oomba, the investment group has now made its exit for an undisclosed amount.

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