“Our 300 staff are extremely artistic and creative, and they are all passionate computer game players,” says Vice President of Business Development Isabelle Vandamme. “This means that our people are not only employees. They are also customers whose feedback is invaluable in the development of our products. The founder and President of the company is also heavily involved in the creative process and, outside of the firm, is also an author.”
Ankama is the creator of the MMORPG Dofus, a freemium game located in ‘The World of Twelve’ involving legendary dragons’ eggs. Players control an avatar to progress through the levels by gaining experience through defeating monsters and completing challenges.
The huge variety of activities within the game keeps players engrossed. The game was premiered at the Flash Festival in France and was launched on the market in 2004. “The sustained success of the game was incredible. It quickly became a phenomenon in France, and we used this opportunity to create further merchandise relating to the universe of Dofus,” explains Ms. Vandamme. This resulted in comics, books, art, a second game called Dofus Touch and even a big screen movie which was released in 2016.
A second MMORPG, Wakfu, was launched in 2012 following almost six years of development. Wakfu is a sequel of Dofus and takes place 1,000 years later. This too was incredibly successful, and Ankama also launched comics, board and card games, and a TV series based on Wakfu.
Although video game development is Ankama’s most prominent activity, the firm also has an animation team which works on films and TV series, a publishing department which focuses on print materials such as books and comics, and a team which develops board games, including Krosmaster, which is based on Dofus and Wakfu.
Although Dofus and Wakfu quickly became well renowned in France, their popularity did not stop there. There are currently 90 million accounts for the game worldwide in over 100 countries, with 3.5 million active players each month.
The game has a huge presence in Europe and in North and South America through platforms such as Steam, Google Play and the App Store, and the animes are available worldwide through Netflix. Ankama was established in 2001 as a website agency and designer.
The name was derived by combining letters taken from the first names of the three founders: Anthony Roux, who is today the Chairman and Creative Director; Camille Chafer, who is CEO and Technical Director, and Emmanuel Darras.
The three business leaders began developing the idea for Dofus, which would ultimately reposition the firm as a trans media group. Today, Ankama is still owned by Mr. Roux and Mr. Chafer.
“I believe our success is due to several factors,” underlines Ms. Vandamme. “Firstly the creativity and commitment of our founders and staff is unrivalled. We are able to attract the best people in the sector. There are many who are incredibly impressed by what we do and would love to work for us. The creativity involved in our work makes us a very attractive employer. So we have the best staff, and we look after them, with additional benefits such as kindergarten facilities. Our premises in Roubaix are a former textile factory, which offers a very creative environment. In addition, we have long and extensive experience in the market – over 13 years – and we have a talent for creating merchandising to complement the stories which Ankama develops.”
Despite the company’s success, it is not standing still, and international development and expansion are high on the agenda. “Today, we are very France focused and still rely on a very large French community,” notes Ms. Vandamme, who has worked for Ankama for two years and is herself a passionate computer game player. “We see huge development potential in other European communities. We also want to look at how we can expand into the Asian market.”
Although this would give Ankama a true global presence, is there a possible clash of cultures that would mean changing Ankama’s products to suit different communities? “I think you have to adapt sometimes,” says Ms. Vandamme. “In particular, we may have to do this for the Chinese market, perhaps around the look and communication. The mechanics will remain the same. Computer games are international. Internally we have a range of language skills, but we also work together with local partners.”
Historically, there is another group from which Ankama derives inspiration. “We increasingly work very closely on our projects with the end users,” Ms. Vandamme reveals. “Their feedback heavily influences what we create. Bloggers in particular play a huge role and are very welcome.”