Oak invests $25M in gaming company

Thumb-thumpers of the world rejoice! Major League Gaming just scored $25 million in VC funding from Oak Investment Partners.

MLG is exactly what it sounds like: An organized league and sanctioning body for professional gamers that operates an interactive website for “amateurs.” It even has nationally-televised circuit events, and held a $100,000 championship last month in Las Vegas.

The New York-based company was founded in 2003, but didn’t take institutional funding until Ritchie Capital led a $10 million round earlier this year. At about the same time, MLG moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan and named Matthew Bromberg its president and COO.

Bromberg previously had been with Time Warner as general manager of Moviefone and then AOL Games. He also had been discussing various opportunities with Oak, which began following MLG’s progress once Bromberg signed on.

Oak General Partner Ifty Ahmed says that he was intrigued by what he saw as a service-oriented alternative to the crowded gaming space, which often is viewed by VCs as too hits-driven. “We looked at the entire gaming ecosystem, and tried to find areas where we could leverage the activity, but remain agnostic to the content, agnostic to the channel and agnostic to the platform,” Ahmed explains. “We think about MLG as a new form of media company, with elements of service, technology and merchandising. … The grand vision is to become the NASCAR of online gaming.”

A Boston-area VC who has passed on similar deals accepts Ahmed’s NASCAR comparison, but says a more apt analogy would be the conference business. “Outside of the online component, the business model is just like the conference market, with people paying to come and sponsors paying to advertise.”

Ahmed says that MLG does not need additional venture funding under its current business plan, although reserves the right to raise some if the right opportunity comes along. Ed Glassmeyer of Oak has joined the board, with Ritchie Capital’s Tom Crowley also continuing to serve.

The company declined to comment on the funding, which it originally disclosed in a regulatory filing with the SEC. —Dan Primack