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A screen grab from the latest Splinter Cell game, Conviction, released in April. ((Courtesy Ubisoft))

Ubisoft's new Toronto video game development studio has been handed the keys to the kingdom with the company announcing that the next iteration of its hit Splinter Cell franchise will be designed there. 

The Paris-based video game giant on Tuesday said the new studio, which opened in central Toronto at the beginning of this year and currently employs 40 people, will lead development on the next Splinter Cell, the Tom Clancy-branded franchise that has sold more than 19 million units worldwide.

Ubisoft's acclaimed Montreal studio has done the lion's share of the work on Splinter Cell  thus far and will continue to work on new games in the series, company spokesman Cédric Orvoine said. Tuesday's announcement was intended to spur interest in the Toronto studio and to help it launch with a bang, but there is no intention to permanently move the franchise from Montreal.

"The idea is to give Ubisoft Toronto a very strong project to build around," he said. "In no way does it mean there will be no more Splinter Cell in Montreal."

The series is centred on Sam Fisher, a military operative voiced by tough guy actor and Toronto native Michael Ironside. The games have won acclaim for their graphics and stealth gameplay. The latest iteration, Splinter Cell: Conviction — released in April for the Xbox 360 — scored a rating of 85 out of 100 on review aggregator site Metacritic, with praise for its smoother gameplay and exciting pace.

Orvoine said deadlines on the next game have not yet been set. "We're far away from nailing down a release date."

'The idea is to accelerate the development at Ubisoft Toronto by having access to expertise and know-how we've been developing in Montreal for the past 13 years.'—Ubisoft spokesman Cédric Orvoine

The core of the Toronto studio includes Montreal veterans Jade Raymond, who is serving as its managing director, creative director Maxime Béland and senior producer Alexandre Parizeau. The studio is currently hiring and hopes to get its total staffing up to 125 to 150 by the end of the year, Orvoine said.

The Toronto studio's mandate includes the generation of new "triple-A" titles and intellectual property, he added, although doing so "isn't easy." Until new games are developed in Toronto, the studio will share work with Ubisoft's other operations, including Montreal.

"The idea is to accelerate the development at Ubisoft Toronto by having access to expertise and know-how we've been developing in Montreal for the past 13 years," Orvoine said.

Ubisoft Montreal has about 2,000 employees, with 300 more elsewhere in Quebec.

The Ontario government announced last year it would chip in $263 million over 10 years, mainly through tax credits, to help Ubisoft set up the Toronto studio. The government said the company would contribute $500 million and the studio would create 800 jobs.