The 2017 International Game Days are over. Time for our detailed conclusion on SPIEL'17 in Essen. The important games fair, which takes place annually in October in the middle of the Ruhr area, once again proved to be a real crowd puller. Board games are still in vogue in 2017. And while licensees and publishing house representatives from all over the world are preparing for the Christmas business, every year an endless range of offers is waiting in the exhibition halls to be tried out by the game-loving visitors.

With our conclusion on SPIEL'17, we look back on a successful trade fair event that not only broke records, but is also a matter close to the heart for many players.


New visitor record at SPIEL'17: Games are booming

For the organizers, SPIEL'17 was a complete success. Friedhelm Merz Verlag proudly announced the impressive number of 182.000 visitors to the previous SPIEL'17, which took place in the middle of the quiet area from October 26 to October 29, 2017 at Messe Essen. The 35th International Game Days were more international than ever: around 65 percent of the total of 1.100 exhibitors came from abroad. This shows that the trend of parlor games is not a locally limited phenomenon, but that the toy industry should be viewed as a serious international market. It was not only Hermann Hutter who wanted more political commitment on the part of the government representatives of the Federal Republic of Germany Press conference for SPIEL'17 on the unofficial Wednesday of the fair. What is possible at Gamescom must also apply to the world's largest trade fair for parlor games - that would ultimately not only be desirable, but consistent. For the International Game Days 2018, industry representatives are therefore perhaps expecting nothing less than a furious opening event that will draw more attention than ever to the Ruhr area city of Essen and thus to SPIEL'18. It is certain that the 36th International Game Days will also take place in Essen: from October 25 to October 28, 2018, the Ruhr metropolis will once again be a gaming paradise next year. 

Our conclusion on SPIEL'17 in Essen: Gigantomania on the international game days

In retrospect, the SPIEL'17 is seen as a parlor game fair of superlatives - and not just because of the new visitor record. The fact that this year's SPIEL'17 motto is simply “Gigantomania” should hardly come as a surprise to visitors who are enthusiastic about games and who wandered through the halls on at least one of the four days of the fair. 1.200 new products could be viewed, tried out and bought. Many exhibitors and dealers were positively surprised by the sales in particular. Many of the titles recommended in advance were sold out within a very short time. However, there were no major scandals at SPIEL'17, which was not least due to the grandiose organization of the trade fair event. Those responsible at SPIEL'17 learned from their mistakes and actively worked on the organizational details. Hygiene dispensers at the entrances to the washrooms tricked visitors into thinking of at least a minimum of cleanliness. If you look at statistics on the hand washing behavior of the average toilet user, you will quickly understand why hand gel and germ-free hands are not a natural combination. The cleaning staff at SPIEL'17 went to great lengths to keep the exhibition halls in an appropriate condition. On behalf of the 182.000 visitors, we would also like to thank the many little helpers who, as a stressed trade fair visitor, are all too often overlooked.

In any case, the toilets received increased attention this year. As innovative as many board and card games were at SPIEL, at least the focus was on the toilet seat as a game element Hasbro and Megablu. The children's games Pee party and Lightning poop were omnipresent in the exhibition halls. Even Sebastian Fitzek, the creative mind behind some of the most successful German psychological thrillers, could not escape the charm of the porcelain thrones. What is particularly noticeable does not necessarily have to be good as a game. Judging by the faces of the children playing, both “Games of Thrones” were entertaining enough to be mentioned at this point. 

Even if the freedom of movement in the large exhibition halls 1 and 3 was rather restricted, especially on weekends, the organizers are to be credited with having tried everything to make the journey as smooth as possible for those arriving. As usual, this did not always work out, especially at peak times. However, it felt a little more relaxed than in previous years, especially at Essen Central Station - despite the renewed increase in the number of visitors. Overall, however, the SPIEL'17 can be described as a well-planned trade fair, the organization of which the people in charge showed impressively what you can get out of the existing capacities. 

Gigantic range of games at SPIEL'17

The games offered by the exhibitors were just as gigantic as the framework data for SPIEL'17 in Essen. It was difficult for publishers to stand out from the crowd with a certain title - also because a lot of information about the 1.200 trade fair innovations was already known in advance. This is definitely beneficial for visitors: Interested parties can find out about exciting board games and card games long before the fair, study their rules and regulations and read initial assessments in order to then put theory into practice at the gaming tables of the International Game Days.

The range of games is already too large for a visitor to get an overview. Being able to make a selection beforehand is absolutely essential given the unbelievable variety. Smaller publishers in particular benefit from the fact that no title is out of the ordinary, as they get the chance to get their ideas up and running at SPIEL. The entire structure of the 35th edition of SPIEL is welcome, fair and oriented towards the modern world of information.

David versus Goliath: Successful Marketing Strategies

One might be inclined to describe SPIEL'17 as an event of biblical proportions. Not only because Martin Luther made a special appearance (selfies with Martin Luther) at the fair on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. A kind of battle was fought out between the exhibitors in the sense of the entertaining but at least impressive story David versus Goliath. Asmodee, in the role of the industry giant, impressed with a powerfully striking LED ring that appropriately displayed the publisher's title to the visitors. Asmodee is generally considered to be a big player in the parlor game market. With the impressive video installation, the publishing house, with its German subsidiary in Essen, showed the competition how the positions of power are distributed. After all, Asmodee presented itself in a modern way with its stand presentation - and at the same time innovative. Broadcasting panels and interviews about board games live on Twitch.tv was a clever move that could not only open up new target groups, but also encourage other large publishers to raise their marketing strategies to a similarly high level in the future. The readiness was there: KOSMOS was present in several halls through a Catan raw material exchange campaign. Pegasus Spiele invited guests to exclusive game evenings including catering. Repos never tired of the board game When I dream to apply appropriately with the help of two sleepyheads. Wherever there was pumping, the result of the clever marketing measures spilled into the furthest corners of the smallest exhibition hall.   

Our conclusion on SPIEL'17 in Essen: Gigantomania on the international game days

The fact that German game publishers will be able to announce increasing sales figures in 2017 is not least due to the grandiose ideas that are emerging in the company's marketing departments. Many publishers will reap the really ripe fruits this year for Christmas. The double-digit increase in sales is considered secured. To assume that big publishers like Asmodee, Pegasus Spiele or KOSMOS are selling overpriced goods and are hardly interested in their customers is simply wrong. One thing is clear: Selling board games is a business. But it is also clear that only satisfied customers remain loyal to the publishers. If, for example, Asmodee often offers expensive board games, then this is less than the sometimes high fees that the publisher has to pay the license holders. Paramount Pictures will do in the case of the board game The Godfather have hardly been satisfied with peanuts and licenses for games from the Star Wars universe are rarely sold.

Large exhibition stands have at least one advantage for visitors: plenty of space to play.

Couple players welcome: 2-player games are the trend

One can be skeptical of games with a duel character. It cannot be denied, however, that board games and card games for two players are an important trend topic that publishers and authors are not ignoring. Outstanding titles à la 7 Wonders Duel impressively prove the high quality of pure pair games. While Uwe Rosenbergs Bohnanza - The Duel (Amigo Games) makes it clear that one is going to win The Game (NSV) one of the most underrated cooperative games out there.

Our conclusion on SPIEL'17 in Essen: Gigantomania on the international game days

In the future, pure 2-player titles will be found more frequently at dealerships and in online shops, because the sales market for such titles is available. Not every game enthusiast has the necessary number of players to tackle rampant tabletop board games or to deal with one of the now numerous legacy board games on a regular basis.

Brand recycling: the downside of success

Speaking of legacy: inherited game events that remain on the game boards to advance the plot cannot be killed. In any case, the enthusiasm on the part of the players is there, because board games like Pandemic legacy are already provided with seasonal numbers. It's a blessing for fans of such titles. And yes, story-tight board games are the ideal competing products for fast-moving consumer media such as video games. It is easier than ever before to tap into new target groups and to bind players to certain brands. This is also possible thanks to the skillful recycling of successful brands.

That works wonderfully with some titles: Alexander Pfister's expansion closes Port Royal from Pegasus Spiele brings a completely new type of play element to the basic variant and makes Port Royal - One job is still open ... a notable enrichment for the games market. When it comes to other ideas, on the other hand, you remain a little perplexed as a player. Not only pure titles are recycled, but entire authors. Eric M. Lang, for example, stands for great board game titles and great entertainment. Sometimes, however, it seems as if it only delivers what it needs to deliver for its intended target group.

David versus Goliath II: Sustainability and Responsibility

SPIEL'17 in Essen impressively demonstrated one thing: many small publishers and independent game developers do not have to hide behind the ideas of the big players. The 2mt team has the absolute opposite of calculated business thinking with the tactical board game Ninja arena proven. With game material that has been lovingly handcrafted from high-quality raw materials and applies in compliance with dignified production processes Ninja arena as a role model for a sustainable and responsible use of human and material resources. It should come as no surprise that the title is in the high-priced segment due to the general conditions. In view of the good entertainment value, on the other hand, what was more surprising was the low circulation of around 350 copies, all of which went over the counter at SPIEL'17. When asked, Oliver Schneider from 2mt also revealed that the production of further copies is currently not planned - at best a deluxe version. The combination of the use of natural material and a tactically demanding arena mechanism for up to 4 players made an excellent impression on us.

Our conclusion on SPIEL'17 in Essen: Gigantomania on the international game days

The basic concept of Ninja arena works with a three-dimensional game structure that can be designed freely, but for reasons of balancing, prefabricated, symmetrical scenarios are listed in the instructions. Each of the 2 to 4 players slips into the role of a ninja to move the Japanese warrior through the arena using tactical instructions. Movement and attack actions are placed by all participants at the same time, but concealed, with the help of dice. Quick decisions are rewarded with a more free choice of initiative markers, which directly influence the order in which the action is applied. Each sequence of actions consists of three dice, with red dice always being carried out before blue dice. The clever mechanism requires foresighted thinking and a little luck, because not every opposing action is equally predictable. The aim of the game is obvious: take out other ninja by inflicting enough damage. What sounds simple turned out to be a strategically profound game idea that would have earned a permanent place in retailers and online shops - if it weren't for the honorable moral standards of the game developers. One thing is certain: we're sticking to this title.

Small and innovative, now due to the successful hybrid game Leaders - A combined game however, is known rudy games. The Austrians presented their novelty at SPIEL'17 Interaction before. The interactive social board game focuses on a learning app that will even influence the gaming experience of the participants in the future. The learns through questions asked and the answers given Interaction-App know the other players step by step. The game concept is tailored to mixed playgroups and families, but ultimately appeals to every player who finds it difficult to sit quietly at the table for five minutes. Action comes with Interaction by performing game actions in different categories. This is reminiscent of classic guessing games like Trivial Pursuit - Enriched with sporty exercise units and fun mini-games. 

Mogel Verlag, whose development we are all too happy to follow, was also pretty “David-like”. The relaxed Lower Saxony invited to rounds of games Willi Word Worm, Pearl diving and Endangered animal but also gave visitors to the booth their latest work Lanceloth in the hands. The simple card game for young and older players impresses with its low entry barrier and high entertainment value. Mogel Verlag would not be Mogel Verlag if we hadn't got the Loth families to get at least a little bit of information about a future project. Without giving too much away: it will be artistic.

Innovation costs tradition: innoSPIEL 2017

We would have been a little more responsible when dealing with the award Golden feather desired, which has been awarded annually since 1990 to the parlor game with the best rules. Instead of the Golden feather there is now the innoSPIEL, a prize that is intended to honor a particularly innovative game mechanism. Introducing new prices is especially great for publishers because they can decorate their game packaging with additional colorful logos. Paying the introduction of an innovation prize expensively with the loss of a tradition causes us only incomprehension. Of course, we would like to see lots of innovative ideas for the games market. We doubt, however, that an award alone induces authors to work harder on innovations, which often mean an immense additional effort.   

Our conclusion on SPIEL'17 in Essen: Gigantomania on the international game days

The Golden feather indulging was an award that could bring about profound changes in its long tradition. Never before have the rules of even complex board games been as easy to understand as they are today. That would have been really innovative and at the same time brave Essen spring are available as assessories. innoSPIEL to forgive. They have already proven that those responsible at SPIEL are capable of learning.  

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