Movie studio Warner Bros. is getting serious about online games and digital distribution. The company announced today it has hired video game industry veteran Greg Ballard as senior vice president of digital games for two of its divisions.

Ballard is a long time veteran of games who has worked in top executive positions, most recently as chief executive at Transpera, a mobile video ad network. Before that, he was CEO at Glu Mobile, a publicly traded mobile games company. He was also chief executive of SonicBlue, which made digital video recorders and music players; and 3Dfx, a graphics chip maker that was acquired by Nvidia. He was also CEO of Warner Custom Music and president of Capcom Entertainment.

Hiring an executive of Ballard’s caliber shows that the digital side of the business is getting so big that big game companies such as Warner Bros. — which has a couple  of thousand people working on games from Batman to Lord of the Rings Online (pictured above) — have to hire top talent to attack it. Warner is one among many traditional media companies getting serious about digital games.

He will report to Thomas Gewecke, president of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, and Martin Tremblay, president of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Ballard will oversee the business and strategy of the company’s digital games business worldwide. That includes games that are distributed online to the PC, console, and handheld game devices. It includes social network games, TV-based games, mobile games, and massively multiplayer online games (MMOs).

Ballard will oversee games such as Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online and other MMOs. He will recruit a general manager to run the Turbine MMO division. Ballard will evaluate new opportunities such as in-game ads, product placement in games, and virtual goods sales. The company added Ballard to manage the digital business because mobile and online games are becoming a bigger part of the overall industry, Tremblay said. And Ballard has expertise in these markets.