The games fair in Essen is not only a visitor event, but also a big business meeting. The toy industry is doing well, the growth figures presented are stable. However, the recent crisis surrounding ongoing supply chain bottlenecks, increased raw material and energy costs and inflation seems to have stopped the highs of previous years for the time being. Nevertheless: the hopes of the actors are pinned on the Christmas business.
After the sales boom of the past two years, the games industry cannot escape the current crisis either. In the first eight months of the year, sales of games and puzzles in Germany fell by around seven percent in 2022. Compared to 2019, however, the market is still clearly in double-digit growth. That is the summary of the association of games publishers as a representative of many well-known publishers in German-speaking countries.
Board games: Low prices could fuel the desire to buy
It is not surprising: every high is followed by a low, so the flattening of the growth curve in the games segment is not a catastrophe but a normalization of the market. With the corona pandemic, the partial isolation and the contact restrictions that lasted for many months, people were looking for alternatives to get through the pandemic - and found them in board games and puzzles. A similar conclusion is drawn by the association of games publishers: games have therefore been in vogue for years and had gained even more importance during the Corona crisis.
Many families would have used games and puzzles intensively for joint activities during the lockdown times. After the easing of the pandemic situation, one had hoped for a return to normality as far as possible, but then things turned out surprisingly differently: "The Ukraine crisis, skyrocketing energy costs and galloping inflation are now affecting the mood and consumer behavior of consumers," says the association . The accumulated sales in 2022 are therefore somewhat weaker than in the boom year 2021. However, the general interest in games remains at a high level.
According to the association, games are becoming more and more popular as a way of "switching off and at the same time being busy and exchanging ideas with friends or family". Playing is also very important as a meaningful, creative and sometimes challenging leisure activity. That was important in the lockdown and will certainly continue in the next difficult months.
Christmas will be a (game) festival
The look into the future, the look at the Christmas business, is therefore more sobering than hoped. Nevertheless, the games publishers association chairman Hermann Hutter is in good spirits. When asked, he explains that he is assuming good Christmas business despite the general crisis. Mainly for one reason: in Germany, games are cheap compared to other countries: a title costs around eleven euros on average. However, connoisseurs know that the price range between the small six-euro deck of cards and the 150-euro package of miniatures is large, and crowdfunding is driving the price spiral even higher.
The comparatively low price level could play into the hands of the industry, after all 40 to 50 percent of sales are made in the Christmas business. And there is something else that is advantageous: "One rarely saves on children," says Hermann Hutter. Also this year there will be many games and toys under the decorated fir tree. However, these were then often purchased online. Because: The still weak frequency in the inner cities and the high energy costs are difficult for the retail shops, for the burden of which the state urgently has to offer help to the trade. At the same time, however, the following applies: the publishers have so far only passed on the price increases to a limited extent. In the past two years, supply chain issues have created a number of challenges for publishers. "There are signs of relaxation here, so that delivery times and availability have improved significantly," says Verbund. However, the still lacking capacity at the German ports for container deliveries is problematic.
Inflation, which is accompanied by large paper price increases, transport cost increases, currency losses and extreme energy price increases during production, is noticeably noticeable for the publishers. And the strong US dollar and the, in contrast, weak euro make the situation challenging.
Specialist retailers are entering the ring with online platforms
However, the specialist dealers are combative, many have upgraded during the pandemic. The after-effects of the pandemic are therefore partly positive. After the closures in the last two years, stationary trade was able to regain market share and expanded its range of games and puzzles. Lots of small traders are now increasingly active in the online business and thus offer their customers an expanded range.
In addition to historical topics, party games are also popular, which guarantee a nice evening together. In uncertain times, games provide relaxation and balance; at the same time, they bring friends and family together across generations. In the digital age, more and more people are looking for and appreciating personal communication and the shared experience. The growing number of cooperative games encourages the shared experience that brings both familiarity and joy. As Dominique Metzler, head of Friedhelm Merz Verlag, which organizes SPIEL in Essen, explains, computer games would not be direct competition: the board game industry, which is sometimes declared dead, is alive and kicking.
Partially Fusions between "analogue" and "digital" formats are therefore definitely to be seen as a positive signal before the solid market data. The more than 1.800 innovations at the games fair in Essen reflect one thing above all: there are masses of new ideas and products.
The titles presented are representative of a mass of board games that will be presented at SPIEL. The record number of new products reflects the general development of the games market during the pandemic. According to the market researchers of the NDP Group, global sales of toys will have grown by 2021 percent in 22 compared to the pre-Corona period. The "Parlor Games & Puzzles" segment made a significant contribution to the increase.
Within the same period, annual sales have climbed by 32 percent to just over 15 billion euros worldwide. For 2022, the market researchers expect sales to be at the same level. "The great flight may have come to an end, but the stable numbers are an indication that the interest in board games in society is sustainable.
"People still want to play," says Florian Hess. A visit to SPIEL '22 is the right occasion to strengthen this enthusiasm or expand your hobby. "The number of exhibitors, their international variety and the abundance of new products is more than impressive in view of the tense world situation," sums up Dominique Metzler. For them, SPIEL has recovered from the pandemic break and is in solid shape. The event will be hers this year Reputation in the board game world as a leading trade fair do all the credit.
"After Corona, the players want more personal exchange again," says Hermann Hutter, "and trying out new games together. There is no better place to experience the high level of innovation in the industry than at trade fairs and games festivals.”
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