Oomba hopes to take esports national. The software startup, which includes Atari founder Nolan Bushnell as a co-founder, has purchased the chain of nine GameWorks arcade locations with esports in mind. Oomba CEO Michael Williams told AListDaily the plan is to open nine new locations in 2018 and nine more in 2019 with the goal of getting to 32 locations in two-and-a-half years.

“Many existing LAN centers in America are just PCs on a table,” Williams said. “For GameWorks, it has to be nicer than that. Inspired by Asian esports arenas, we want to make it as fun as possible and enjoyable for people to play games as well as watch others play.”

Williams said Oomba is upgrading the existing 30,000 square feet GameWorks locations in Cincinnati, Ohio, Las Vegas, Nevada, Newport, Kentucky, Laguna Hills, California, Schaumburg, Illinois, Seattle, Washington, Chesapeake, Virginia and Denver, Colorado to establish a level playing field for the brand. Only three locations have LAN centers right now, and those need to have the wiring upgraded. Eventually, LAN centers will be added across all current locations.

“As we build new GameWorks, we’ll design these with esports in mind,” Williams explained. “We’ll have esports sections and the stadiums will be larger with seating for 1,000 to 1,500 people.”

All current and future locations will serve food, which is one of the reasons GameWorks has been a profitable business. Williams is approaching the business of esports like traditional sports.

“Esports must monetize the way sports do,” said Williams. “The single largest source of revenue in the sports stadium is concessions, and we see GameWorks as the stadiums for esports.”

Oomba will begin signing pro esports teams when it has eight GameWorks locations retrofitted, and the company is already in early talks with Team Liquid.

“We’re going to go nuts when we get to 16 locations,” Williams added. “We’re already trying to attract events. We’re going to get there as fast as we can.”

Williams said Oomba isn’t trying to compete with MSG or Staples Center, since those major stadiums will be used for world championship events. He envisions GameWorks as the practice field for teams or minor league esports.

“We may be better suited for Rocket League or Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and we’ll host competitions that are more local or more frequent,” Williams said. “GameWorks will be a place to rub elbows with celebrity players. For example, when DreamHack is in Denver, there’s a good chance they’ll do some kind of GameWorks party and gather before the tournament.”

Williams believes GameWorks’ new esports business will open up sponsorship opportunities for brands like HP and Dell, which are active in the space.

“We can talk to these brands about what they want to do and use GameWorks as a showcase for new technology,” Williams said. “We can become a really good place to announce the next big game before it comes out.”

GameWorks is marketing to gamers with a new slogan: “Every night is game night at GameWorks.” In addition to esports, some locations feature bowling alleys and most offer tabletop gaming. The company is adding Magic: The Gathering tournaments. Moving forward, Williams wants to add more virtual reality gaming.

“I can’t think of a better place for VR,” Williams explained. “We’ve been talking to HTC and different VR providers, and very quickly we’ll be getting into that space with player vs. player VR. We always love tournaments. There are some amazing VR games out there and we have the space for people to come in and compete in VR tournaments and competitions. We’re also looking at getting drone racing inside GameWorks.”

Oomba launched five years ago as a cloud-based software company, which built out the infrastructure to run any type of tournament from the cloud. The company has been serving the board game space since 2014, replacing pen and paper with cloud-based tournaments. Now it’s moving into video game competitions and esports.

“Our software solves the problems of managing live events by handling registration, knowing where players are and tracking leaderboards,” Williams said. “Tournament organizer can run and manage an event and we get access to the information, so we can become a repository for people’s rankings and ratings. We want to be the home for stats. Overwatch and League of Legends don’t need us, but we can become a place where players can brag about their rankings, and our software is free to the public.”