Wizards of the Coast sets up games studio, eyes sci-fi

An early piece of artwork for Archetype Entertainment's untitled first project. — AFP Relaxnews

After years at acclaimed Mass Effect and Dragon Age studio BioWare, two senior staffers lead a new team for Dungeons & Dragons' parent company.

Instead of licensing out a new Dungeons & Dragons video game, the role-playing and card game company Wizards of the Coast is taking things in-house for a new sci-fi game.

The untitled project will be "a story-driven epic" that's "set within an all-new science fiction universe", per Wizards' announcement, in which the choices players make "will have real consequences on how their story unfolds".

Little else is known about the game's scope, save for its intended launch on multiple platforms.

Leading Archetype Entertainment are two industry veterans: its studio head is James Ohlen, whose time at BioWare extends back 20 years; he's held design director positions on Jade Empire and several entries to the Baldur's Gate series, critically acclaimed as they were.

Chad Robertson comes in as VP and general manager, having notched technical director credits on sci-fi MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic and, outside of BioWare, golf game Rory McIlroy PGA Tour.

Both served as leads on two of BioWare's most recent releases, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem, two games which, notoriously, endured difficult launches and were much less well received than usual for BioWare projects.

Now as part of the Wizards of the Coast family, the pair get another run at making a high-quality sci-fi game.

Perhaps with a nod to the fate of Anthem and Andromeda, one of Archetype's three stated core values is humility: "We understand that we can always improve and learn from other team members and other studios."

As for Wizards of the Coast, the company is much better known in video gaming for its fantasy licenses – Baldur's Gate is part of the Dungeons & Dragons empire, for example, while digital Magic: The Gathering card games are also Wizards of the Coast properties.

Wizards' current president, Chris Cocks, arrived in 2016 having racked up experience within Microsoft's video game division Xbox; Ohlen then joined in 2019.

The studio announcement is part of Wizards' renewed enthusiasm for video game projects. Concurrently, Dungeons & Dragons has been experiencing a resurgence aided by the popularity of actual play podcasts and livestreamed gaming sessions.

Late in 2019, and after announcing that acclaimed Divinity studio Larian would be making Baldur's Gate III, the company announced a slate of of seven or eight titles, one of which would be a late 2020 fantasy action game called Dark Alliance; it had bought the Dark Alliance studio a few months earlier. – AFP Relaxnews

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