At the top of the brick building of what was once a Roubaisian upholstery factory, Anthony Roux et Camille Chafer have set up their office. The Covid made them migrate to this old meeting room to leave more room for employees. On the big table, a poster of Dragon princess, the feature film signed Ankama Animations released in December 2021. In an alcove, shelves of products derived from Krosmoz, the fantastic universe born from the company’s video games, films and comics.
And when the gaze is beyond the bay window, we can make out the school building site ArtFX, the Fresnoy studios or the Imaginarium
, image business incubator.
“We got there thirteen years ago. It was a bet; the Plain Images (in Tourcoing) did not exist. It was wasteland where everything had collapsed, squatted. We took risks… ”remembers Anthony Roux, one of the founders of Ankama. In the building, whose glass walls separate open spaces punctuated by decorative elements typical of Ankama’s graphic style, we meet the few 250 computer scientists, graphic designers or animators, employees of a company unlike any other which, for twenty years, has made people play and dream.[display-posts orderby="rand"]
Originally, in 2001, there were three geeks who were withering away in a web agency in Roubaix. “Our dream with Camille (Chafer), my partner – who became my brother-in-law – was to create our own video game», Continues Anthony Roux. This is how Ankama was born, a small box set up with 3000 € per head which made a living from creating websites but whose heart vibrated for “Duel”, the ancestor of the “Dofus” game. “The first three-four years have been very difficult. And Dofus was released in September 2004. It was not a immediate box but after six months, it exploded. We were very small, we did not have the infrastructure to manage all the servers. It was the first real online game, even before World of Warcraft», The benchmark in the field. But “it has become a phenomenon! ” Not necessarily financial, of course: it’s always € 5 per month to access an extended version of the game.
But how to maintain the attractiveness of the players, who today number nearly two million? “Either we bought advertising, but I consider it to be throwing money down the drain, or we created our own advertising through original creations,” says Anthony Roux, also known as ToT. And so in 2008 the first animated series of Wakfu: a TV audience card but, here too, a bet for the company which has not always had it easy to finance these projects.
The fourth season that Anthony Roux is writing, Ankama wanted to produce it with a crowdfunding. Risk? The fans paid 1.5million euros. A guarantee of confidence? “They are very critical and very demanding with us,” recalls Anthony Roux. At the moment, some are testing Ankama’s future game, Waven: “We don’t want to disappoint them. I don’t want to sell what I wouldn’t buy. ”
Zero debt last year, for 38million euros in turnover. Its animated series are broadcast all over the world, but Ankama has never really made it into the international market with its games. It could have been otherwise if the partners had given in to the sirens of large groups wanting to get their hands on the company. “The box is controlled by creatives. It’s a bit to the detriment of the numbers, ”explains ToT. But in keeping with the vision of those who shape Ankama’s future and want the company to keep its soul.