For the 37th time, the International Game Days will take place in Essen. The organizers have planned something like the “next big step” for SPIEL19. SPIEL'19 is daring the step from a games event to a games event. Last but not least, this is due to the new concepts with which the organizers of the fair want to maintain the ongoing hype.

"The industry is booming," said the organizers. By that you mean not only board and card games as omnipresent topics around the world, but also the figures that are hidden behind them. According to analysts, board games are experiencing enormous demand. "Research and Markets" speaks of an annual increase in sales of nine percent by 2022.

This becomes noticeable every year in the growing dimensions of the fair itself. "In the last five years, SPIEL has almost doubled its exhibition space," report those responsible at Friedhelm Merz Verlag in Bonn, which organizes the fair in Essen. This year the SPIEL is growing by a whole hall. This means that even more exhibition space is available and even more exhibitors can present their innovations: there are more than 1.500 this year. As many as 1.700 were reported to the organizers, and then they were sorted out.

The next big step

SPIEL19 is more modern and innovative to visitors. It almost seems as if you want to get rid of a dusty image - through live streaming, panels with Youtubers and bloggers, but also through a focus on content for specialist staff, for example as part of the new Educator's Day, a day when board games are useful teaching and learning Learning aids are presented. The concept is well received, reveals Dominique Metzler from Friedhelm Merz Verlag. The organizer planned the Educator's Day with 180 seats - apparently generous for a first event. Then it became clear how much attraction such an event actually has: "I could not have imagined that the interest could be so great," says Metzler, surprised. The educators were impressed by the idea and “are open to new topics”.

"SPIEL19 has developed further," says Metzler happily and speaks of a kind of SPIEL 2.0. In the end, it is the visitors who decide whether SPIEL - traditionally understood as a “gigantic board game meeting” - actually needs a complete overhaul. Around 190.000 fans from all over the world are expected in Essen by Sunday. Game enthusiasts from more than 100 nations come to see the new ideas, also from international exhibitors. Despite all the modernization measures, in the end there is only one central topic: games - in all shapes and colors.

Every year, the “New Products Show” that follows the press conference provides an initial overview:

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The authors and publishers have many ideas. They range from classic dice or card games to innovations. Parallax Games is releasing a sci-fi card game in which "invisible ink" is used as a game element. The writing is only visible under black light. Other publishers, including smaller ones, continue to rely on hybrid games, board games that work with app support.

Wad should never be missing - not even in the parlor games industry - are new editions, reworks or reboots. Classics are then presented in a new guise, sometimes just prettier, sometimes the rules have been revised. There are even retro games in 2019: for well-known brands such as Star Wars or Dungeons & Dragons.

Board games as “social training”

Hermann Hutter, first chairman of the industry association "Spielverlage eV", continues to identify trends: strategic family games, for example, whose sales have grown by 14 percent. This also applies to adult games, explains Hutter on the current figures. Overall, interest in board games has increased, also on the media level. More media professionals, including bloggers, podcasters and Youtubers, than ever before would fill the press conference room. It's more of a feeling than a fact, and so not right. Nevertheless: board games are popular and, as Hermann Hutter describes it, “social training”.

Hutter also sees the success of board games as being due to the special haptic feeling. Escape games are still in vogue, card games are popular. Opulent, richly equipped board games with visually impressive material appeal to the modern frequent gamer. Game boxes can then be large and cost more. - and also weigh more. Dominique Metzler says about Gloomhaven: “When I see the box, I faint.” The quality of a board game cannot be measured by its weight alone.

Conclusion SPIEL19 in Essen. Photo: André Volkmann

Conclusion SPIEL19 in Essen. Photo: André Volkmann

In particular, lightweight, "mobile games" are popular and popular. Hermann Hutter doesn't mean smartphone games and apps, but travel variants or board games in miniature format. Today, games are played where players go - they then take their favorites with them, at best as a pocket version. “Brain teasers”, puzzle games that are not only supposed to be fun, but also train cognitive skills, are experiencing a real boom.

Electronics in board games: complement instead of demarcation

And apps? Electronics are still part of some board game concepts, but do not replace the classic basis. In board games, apps are primarily used to extend the fun of the game or to present stories. In fact, there aren't too many new hybrid games out there - the genre remains a niche. However, one that has established itself. App games remain innovative, but they can also be classic board games.

The "innoSPIEL" 2019 went to "Ab durch die Mauer" from Zoch. Photo: André Volkmann

The "innoSPIEL" 2019 went to "Ab durch die Mauer" by Zoch. Photo: André Volkmann

Licensed games are always possible, as this year too, Asmodee Germany relies on God of War, Lord of the Rings and Marvel, Kosmos is successful with Harry Potter and Ravensburger brings the mega-seller Minecraft to the table as a board game.

Today games are driving growth around the world. Board game communities are developing almost everywhere. There is a lively scene in Poland, explains Dominique Metzler. The story-dense games by Ignacy Trzewiczek and Portal Games made a significant contribution to this. There are also games in Nigeria and Iran. And not only that: board games are developed there. More representatives from Iran would have liked to present their concepts at SPIEL19, complicated procedures for issuing visas prevented that - there is still plenty to see at the country stand. Thinking outside the box can be worthwhile.

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The next few days should be entertaining for around 200.000 visitors. The exhibitors reported around 1.000 program items to the organizers, including not only classic play sessions, but also autograph sessions and hands-on activities. With the latter, there are often prizes to be won. All program items are listed on the official SPIEL website:

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