Wizards of the Coast hires games industry vet James Ohlen to open new studio in Austin

James Ohlen. (Wizards of the Coast Photo)

Gaming veteran James Ohlen has been lured back to the industry he took a break from last year with an opportunity that was too good to refuse — he’ll be running a new studio based in Austin, Texas, for Wizards of the Coast, the Renton, Wash.-based creators of “Dungeons Dragons” and “Magic: The Gathering.”

Ohlen, a 23-year veteran of the games industry, previously worked on “Baldur’s Gate,” “Baldur’s Gate 2,” and “Neverwinter Nights,” all based on the “DD” universe. The former BioWare creative director will be charged with creative development of a brand new IP at Wizards.

“I didn’t think that I would be coming back to the game industry so soon but working with Wizards is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Ohlen said in a news release Wednesday. “Our mutual love of RPGs, world-building, and interactive storytelling is a perfect match.”

In an interview this week with GamesIndustry.biz, Ohlen, who is already living in Austin, said he had been turning down most offers to get back to work, but a call from Wizards President Chris Cocks sounded intriguing.

“DD has been a huge part of my life since I was eight years old,” Ohlen told GamesIndustry.biz. “The Baldur’s Gate games were very personal to me, and Star Wars is another thing I love. … This is just an opportunity to work on projects as personal to me as the good ol’ days of the ’90s and early ’00s. It was the most fun. I was a little bit of a workaholic, because I loved it. And Wizards is giving me an opportunity to return to those personal projects.”

Cocks said that Ohlen is joining Wizards art a critical time in the evolution of the company, which is a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc.

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“James brings experience in creative direction and studio leadership that will prove important as we look to develop compelling new experiences that engage gamers all over the world,” Cocks said in the news release.

With a successful history in tabletop games and trading cards, Cocks added in the GamesIndustry.biz interview that the first step will be to “build a franchise that will endure, like Magic and DD” and then figure out the right platforms for the new world to express itself.

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