A bang: Spielwarenmesse eG takes over the international game days in Essen (SPIEL). This was announced by Friedhelm Merz Verlag and Spielwarenmesse eG. The deal already expired on January 1, 2022. For the time being, nothing will change for visitors: the world's largest trade fair for parlor games will remain in Essen, the long-time organizers from Bonn, headed by Dominique Metzler, will remain active. 

The SPIEL in Essen will continue to be organized by the long-time managing director Dominique Metzler, but something has changed in terms of personnel: Florian Hess, CEO of Spielwarenmesse eG, is the additional managing director. The content of the message is, however, memorable: Spielwarenmesse eG has taken over SPIEL in Essen and is now the new owner of the public fair.

SPIEL in Essen: A long story

SPIEL can look back on almost 40 years of history: Since 1983, the event has developed from a small get-together for players into what is now the world's largest consumer fair for board, card and role-playing games. Traditionally in autumn, the national and international game innovations are presented to a wide audience in the Essen exhibition halls. Every year around 200.000 people visit the event - with an upward trend, provided you ignore the corona break. Last were the International game days in October 2021 on site in Essen under pandemic conditions, the year before the organizers had held the fair as a purely online format. Despite Corona, over 90.000 fans made the pilgrimage to the "game capital" of the republic.

"It was important to me that the unique profile of SPIEL was maintained in the future," says Dominique Metzler, who has successfully expanded and established her family business together with Rosemarie Geu over the past decades. “With Spielwarenmesse eG and its experience with leading international trade fairs, I am very happy to have found a partner who will continue and develop this successful trade fair in my favor for the next few decades. My team and I are very much looking forward to working together. "

The pandemic has further accelerated the popularity of board games. In 2020 the German games market alone grew by 21 percent. The trend can also be seen at the toy fair in the B2B segment. The international game inventor fair will be integrated into the toy fair and the games area will be further strengthened. The Nuremberg-based company promise to treat the international game days SPIEL just as cautiously, but as an independent trade fair that will be retained in its original form.

As a cooperative, Spielwarenmesse eG is already operating “from the industry for the industry”. Numerous game publishers are among the member companies. According to the press release, board spokesman Christian Ulrich emphasizes: “With the toy fair and the international game days, we have two completely different concepts, which, however, overlap thematically and thus also create synergies. With SPIEL we are expanding our responsibilities in the games area without changing the character that is typical of the trade fair. "

Spielwarenmesse eG is a marketing service provider for the toy industry and organizer of trade fairs, including the "Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair Nürnberg", the world's largest trade fair in the toy industry. 46 companies founded the registered cooperative back in 1950 – today around 150 members run the company. The legal form is a special feature in the trade fair sector.

SPIEL should remain SPIEL

Christian Ulrich is the spokesman for the board of Spielwarenmesse eG. Photo: Spielwarenmesse eG

Christian Ulrich is the spokesman for the board of Spielwarenmesse eG. Photo: Spielwarenmesse eG

The general conditions of the event are important for visitors, and these should remain unchanged for the time being: the continuation is assured, say those responsible - so "visitors in Essen can continue to test and play to their heart's content in the future".

According to statements by the actors, it is therefore certain that the trade fair will remain at its traditional location in Essen. The message emphasizes that the game will be kept as an independent event - in its "original form". When asked, Christian Ulrich, Spokesman for the Board of Directors of Spielwarenmesse eG, confirmed that talks with Messe Essen were still pending, but that they were not interested in "changing the successful location of SPIEL".

The initiative that ultimately led to the deal apparently came from both sides, albeit with very different approaches. Board spokesman Ulrich explains: "Our company has been in the toy industry for 70 years and our team in Nuremberg identifies very strongly with the associated topics and products. When we heard that Ms. Metzler would like to secure long-term prospects for SPIEL, which she will remain on board in a controlling capacity, we quickly got in touch.”

The sum that flowed will remain anonymous. "We have agreed not to disclose the price of the takeover," says Ulrich.

Christian Ulrich is part of the trio that only took office at Spielwarenmesse eG last summer. In July he, Jens Pfluger and Florian Hess replaced the board members Ernst Kick (Chairman) and Hans-Juergen Richter. Florian Hess acts as an additional managing director for the International Match Days. At Spielwarenmesse eG, his area of ​​activity lies in the function of a “Fair Management Board member” with responsibility for trade fair organization and sales, as can be seen from the announcement published at the time about the change of office. Previously, Hess looked after the exhibitor activities of all trade fair projects and their further development.

The next toy fair in Nuremberg will take place from February 2nd to 6th, both on site and with an attached digital format. The SPIEL'22 in Essen is planned for the period from October 6th to 9th as a presence fair.

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