A screen shot from THQ's 2008 video game adaption of Conan. ((Courtesty THQ))

Video game giant THQ is opening a new design studio in Montreal, further strengthening Canada's position as a global industry leader.

The Los Angeles-based company, which develops sports, wrestling and other games, on Thursday said it expects the new studio to become its largest operation globally, with 400 employees to be hired over the next five years. THQ said the studio will open in the first half of 2010, with 60 employees hired in the first year.

"Montreal's outstanding pool of creative digital media talent and its highly regarded university system makes this the ideal location to support our future product and technology development needs," said Steve DeCosta, senior vice-president of THQ's core games, operations and finance, in a statement.

The studio will be responsible for all aspects of game development, including design, research, creation of artistic content, quality assurance and adaptation into different languages. The first games to come out of the studio are scheduled for release in the company's 2013 fiscal year.

THQ, which is known for the Saints Row, UFC and World Wrestling Entertainment video game franchises, has about 1,200 employees worldwide. The Montreal studio will receive assistance from the government of Quebec in the form of tax credits.

The company is the fourth major game developer to set up shop in the city, following Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Eidos. Canada, and Montreal in particular, is a hotbed of video game production, trailing only the United States and Japan in the total number of employees working in the industry.

"THQ's presence in Montreal confirms more than ever the place that our city is taking as a world leader in the field of video games," said Mayor Gérald Tremblay in a statement.

Canadian studios have produced some of the industry's biggest-selling games, including Ubisoft's Tom Clancy and Assassin's Creed series, and Edmonton-based Bioware's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect.

Rival developer Ubisoft in July announced it was setting up a new studio in Toronto, with plans to hire 800 people.