French videogame titan Ubisoft said Monday it plans to open a studio in Toronto, ramping up Canadian operations that have delivered blockbuster titles including "Assassin's Creed."
The Toronto videogame studio will be the fourth in Canada for Ubisoft, which has facilities in Montreal, Quebec City and Vancouver that employ more than 2,300 people.
"Today's announcement marks a strategic move for Ubisoft as we continue to expand our internal development force," said Ubisoft chief executive Yves Guillemot.
"We're excited to be able to count on the exceptional local talent, who will contribute to our accelerated growth and will have a profound impact on the video game industry with the excellence of their creativity."
Yannis Mallat, head of Ubisoft's Montreal studio, will oversee the new Toronto facility, which is to begin operating by year's end and eventually grow to approximately 800 employees.
Ubisoft expects to invest approximately 430 million US dollars in the Toronto studio in the coming decade. The government of the Canadian province of Ontario is to invest 226 million US dollars in the studio.
"Videogames, this isn't kid stuff," Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said of the multi-billion-dollar industry during a press conference with Ubisoft executives.
The Toronto studio will also be part of Ubisoft's efforts to increasingly entwine the worlds of film and videogames.
Ubisoft is a believer in the convergence of films and videogames, and last year bought Canadian special effects firm Hybride, which worked on animated action films "300" and "Sin City."
Ubisoft said it plans to collaborate with members of Toronto's vibrant film industry.
"We are incredibly excited to finally tap into the remarkable talent that Ontario has been developing over the years," Mallat said.
"Toronto's unique pool of experienced video game and film industry talent will allow us to develop a team with exceptional ability to help us realize our goals for creating brands with universal appeal that extend beyond the world of video games."
Ubisoft will be releasing this year short films based on its blockbuster "Assassin's Creed" videogame, a sequel to which will be released in November.
Ubisoft has also acquired the rights to make a videogame tied to a "Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn" film being directed by Steven Spielberg and scheduled for release in 2011.
"Ubisoft is going from a simple developer and game publisher company to a full 360-degree content provider," Mallat told AFP last month at an Electronic Entertainment Expo in California.
"We are excited about our future. The aim is to bring together videogames and Hollywood."
While pairing films with videogames is a long-running trend, Ubisoft is rising to a new level by collaborating with famed director James Cameron on a title crafted as an extension of his highly-anticipated 3D movie "Avatar."
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