The start of is a few days away: the online trade fair will take place from October 22nd to 25th, which had to give way to its traditional location in the gaming capital of Essen due to the corona crisis. The number of new products is therefore not reduced: around 1.400 game fans from all over the world await. including trends and the tried and tested, but also innovations. Even if the international game days take place in a different format this year, the message has not changed: games are booming.

Board games and toys are booming. Or, as Hermann Hutter puts it for Spielverlage eV: "Games have become very sexy". It is primarily aimed at the target group of 15 to 35 year olds who have discovered party and communication games in particular. The fact that more and more teenagers and young adults are passing their time with board and card games is a trend that is continuing this year. Internationally oriented trade fair events such as the International Match Days also play a part in this.

As uncertain as the situation may have been at the beginning because a virus was able to paralyze large parts of the world, Friedhelm Merz Verlag has set up a digital alternative program so quickly and intensively. That SPIEL will be different this year than fans are used to: that is obvious. That you have to do without a lot: the feeling does not arise. The organizers of do a lot to ensure that this year the fair can do what it does otherwise: get people excited about games. as a pioneering format

Publishers are presenting almost 1.400 new products at SPIEL this year. In addition, one would now expect a picture gallery for the "New Products Show" at this point, which traditionally follows the press conference. This year it's different: There are no queues in the Essen exhibition halls where board and card games are lined up, so there are no photos of them either. If you want to have some "physical trade fair flair", you have to go to the Picture gallery of the novelties from last year dodge.

What is there despite or mainly because of the coronavirus crisis are board game trends. This year they are again based on cooperative concepts, reveals Dominique Metzler from Friedhelm Merz Verlag: "They have never existed with this intensity before," summarizes the publisher, referring to the success of co-op games at this year's award ceremonies. The German Games Prize 2020 was won by Die Crew and Andor Junior, both from the Swabian publisher Kosmos.

Competing against the game together is a modern variant of how board or card games are played today. This is well received - and is reflected in the end - combined with all the other concepts - also in the growth of the industry. The games industry grew by around 21 percent, the entire toy market was nine percent. Board games for adults, which account for 30 percent of sales, have a large share in the sales success. Exit and escape games as well as logic and activity games are particularly popular. On the other hand, party games that focus on communication are popular and “sexy”. What one could guess has also been confirmed: Licensed board games are showing an increase of 20 percent, despite the lack of blockbusters - or maybe because of it.

Some board games have had a bit of "Internet" in the past. Photo: Volkmann

Some board games already had a bit of “Internet” to offer in the past. Photo: Volkman

As much as the coronavirus pandemic has affected world affairs, in some cases even paralyzed them: the toys industry defied all negative trends. Problems in the supply chains were manageable, explains Hermann Hutter. Internet commerce is unsurprisingly benefiting, commerce is suffering. But: Retailers have now reacted and have taken action to counter online trade, with on-site campaigns, for example, designed to lure game fans into the stores. also supports the local retailers in this regard, who often invite you to "physically play" as part of the online fair, even if the corona restrictions are currently being intensified in many cities and districts. All over the world, game enthusiasts will be able to visit smaller local events in Germany, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Iran, Canada, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and the USA during the trade fair in order to play new products there as well. Visitors to can find an overview of all participants under the “SPIEL Local” program item.

Not everything is bad in the Corona year - and Hermann Hutter's outlook on the industry is also positive. With the fourth quarter, the strongest growth period is yet to come, and Christmas business will be booming. "Playing has contributed to the great crisis in the world," says Hutter, in the best sense of the word. Now it's up to the players to use the new communication channels, which offers, among other things: With the online fair, Friedhelm Merz Verlag has initiated what "is groundbreaking for the next few years," says Hermann Hutter . Hutter does not fear that digital concepts will replace classic table games: Although there are board and card games with digital components, these are more intended to enhance or enrich games. "Personal togetherness and the haptic feeling" are the driving factors for parlor games, explains Hermann Hutter.

Actors should “participate actively”

That it is the Are players themselves who have to make a contribution to the success of, is more than a phrase. Dominique Metzler calls on all actors to "participate actively". The basic structures and a platform as a central point of contact have been created for this, it is important to use what is available.

And anyone who thinks that is an elitist online offer only for large volumes is wrong. According to the organizers of the fair, there are many first-time exhibitors among the registered publishers. “For them, the online trade fair is an inexpensive alternative to SPIEL, as there are no travel and accommodation costs. What is striking this year is the high participation from Latin America. In particular, numerous publishers from Brazil are exhibiting for the first time.” South American authors are also presenting prototypes. "We are particularly pleased about the participation of a new exhibitor from West Africa," say Dominique and Maximilian Metzler. Nibcard Games is a young Nigerian publisher that has released 24 games so far. "He does real pioneering work in his home country, organizes an annual tabletop games convention in addition to his publishing activities and just recently opened the first tabletop games café in Nigeria." 400 exhibitors from 41 nations are taking part.

Instead of physically on site in Essen, this year the game will be played online. Photo: Volkmann

Instead of physically on site in Essen, this year the game will be played online. Photo: Volkmann

There will be content for an internationally oriented audience in several languages. The organizers can hardly make predictions about the number of users, even if there are expectations. Around 200.000 people attended SPIEL19 last year on site in Essen, new record. The number of visitors in the online segment could be significantly higher: there is no long journey, no costs, the possibility of a short visit, or several of them. Just click in and be inspired by the offers of the publishers and actors, that's something like a motto for The hotness factor, central hub and numerous filter options should ensure that game fans ultimately find the content that is personally interesting to them. "During the conceptual design, we thought about what can be implemented in the short time and where the focus should be," explains Dominique Metzler. The focus was then placed on the innovations. There are products from other areas, such as role-playing games, but the focus for is not there.

Opening show on the day of the premiere

As never before, publishers and stakeholders are required not only to make their offers available, but also to involve users. It starts with the on October 22nd at 10 a.m., then the starting signal for the fair will be given. There will be an opening show from 13 p.m.: The show will be broadcast on the German livestream channel. It also integrates the many other international official live streams into the program, which will provide information on the trade fair's innovations in all world languages ​​over the four days.

With free admission, board game fans can discover over 1.400 new products and world premieres and try them out for themselves at virtual gaming tables. This is made possible by the integration of online platforms such as Board Game Arena or Tabletopia. Both platforms provide visitors with free access. If you want to buy your board game treasures right away, you can do that too. And anyone who looks around the Internet knows that many fans have already filled their shopping lists.

The event program for should go online on Tuesday, October 20th. From then on you will also be able to register. The list of innovations, however, can already be viewed. If you want to click inside, you will get to here:

The online trade fair will be open until Sunday, October 25th, 23.59:XNUMX p.m., then it will be again: See you next year - then maybe not just on the screen.