Ankama has been a hive of busy expansion since 2007 as it seeks to build an interntaional, cross-media empire encompassing animation and comics as well as its beloved games, and founded on the strong appeal of its art style. It has five new games in development. One of them - Dofus' sequel Wakfu, currently in beta - already has a spin-off animated TV series with two seasons under its belt and a mind-boggling million viewers per episode on French national TV. The animation is all done in-house in France, and is of startlingly good quality.
Dofus has an accompanying series of manga, the best-selling in France in fact, with 800,000 copies sold. Rather than license this out, Ankama, being Ankama, naturally chose to found its own imprint, and now publishes a strikingly cool selection of other comics and bandes dessinées under its name (one of the stranger sights at the convention is the standees advertising Jamie Hewlett's classic Brit-punk comic Tank Girl). Ankama has also opened an office in Japan, localising the games (Dofus will launch there and in Russia this year) and working on new anime projects. There's a Wakfu trading card game produced by Blizzard's partner, Upper Deck.
But we're here for the games. (Well, that and the heart-warming spectacle of entire French families in cosplay outfits and 12-year-old boys literally hopping with delight. For a games journalist, it's refreshing and all too rare to find yourself at an event aimed at children, gaming's first, oft-forgotten constituency.) We've already documented our love of Dofus, so let's move on - after noting that it has a gorgeous new 2.0 client, with all-new art, and an expansion due this year called Frigost (even MMOs have an obligatory ice level, it seems).
Of the five new and unreleased games, two are spin-off diversions. Dofus Arena, due to launch on 21st June, is a free player-versus-player version of the monster MMO. Players create teams of characters from Dofus' 12 classes under a "coach" avatar, then pit them against each other in turn-based strategy bouts in a closed arena. Cards with special abilities can be traded in-game and there are international leaderboards.
Wakfu: The Guardians is Ankama's browser-based gateway drug, aimed at the youngest fans of the TV series. Presenting a streamlined and streaming version of Ankama's trademark tactical multiplayer gameplay for a team of four, it features characters and stories from the cartoon and runs alongside it in seasons. It's completely free to play at the game's website, albeit only in French as yet. Both these games unlock items and achievements in Dofus and Wakfu through Ankama's centralised account system.
The main attractions, though, are Wakfu itself, the Xbox Live Arcade game Islands of Wakfu, and Slage.