RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Merscom, a Chapel Hill firm focused on so-called casual games, has made a major move across several fronts by landing internationally known Reiner Knizia to develop a series of titles.

Knizia is so popular as a board game developer that there are gaming conventions put on in his name and his games only.

After working with Merscom to launch one title for PCs earlier this year, Knizia has signed on with the rapidly growing Triangle firm to create titles for the online Xbox LIVE Arcade site, the portable Nintendo DS system and PC games.

These interactive games, the first of which will be available early next year, will be exclusive for Merscom. Financial details weren’t disclosed.

“Reiner was just so pleased with the way that we worked with him that he wants to do many more games for us,” Merscom’s Wendy Beasley said.

If gaming awards were medals, Knizia could wear a chest full.

While Merscom is focused on easy-to-play titles rather than complicated action titles such as those produced by Epic Games and Red Storm Entertainment, the Knizia titles will offer challenges, Beasley said. True to Knizia’s board game heritage, strategic challenges will be incorporated into the interactive titles.

“I am delighted about this new co-operation,” Knizia said in a statement. “Merscom is the right partner in size and spirit, and I am convinced that this will bring a number of very exciting new games to the computer and video game market.”

Merscom and Knizia already have collaborated on the release of “Ingenious.” Knizia has created some 400 games.

The agreement with Knizia is part of Merscom’s strategy to offer more traditional board game titles in an interactive form. Merscom’s Chief Customer Officer Lloyd Melnick describes Knizia as “the best living board game designer in the world.”