The official starting shot for SPIEL.digital has been fired, the online trade fair is running from now until Sunday at 23.59:XNUMX p.m. From the perspective of the organizing Friedhelm Merz Verlag, the start can be described as successful, even if it was bumpy. The onslaught of fans initially brought the platform to its knees. At times nothing worked, now a lot is possible, but by no means everything. But: There was no shit storm - and that's a good sign.

- a comment by André Volkmann


The collapse of a server as a “self-fulfilling prophecy” of the IT industry did not spare SPIEL.digital either. Just in time for the start at 10 a.m., the crowds brought the technology to its knees. The worst problems are now under control, and details of user management and the media links within and between the platforms are being worked on. With everything you can complain about about the stumbling block: It could have been worse.

Anyone who has ever participated in a reasonably popular launch event on the Internet knows how stubborn Internet technology can be at times. It is not surprising that it has now also hit SPIEL in its digital form - in the end it is also a far less problem than many users who are prepared for confrontation shout out. Not everything is running smoothly for a long time and of course there is a need for improvement, there is a lot to complain about. Or you can just be completely crazy and be happy: For the organizers who are proud of their digital offer; for yourself, because you have the opportunity to try something new; for the large and especially small publishers who want to present their innovations to hundreds of thousands of fans despite the Corona crisis.

SPIEL.digital makes its online debut

In the meantime the situation has stabilized, one filters one's way through the hodgepodge of content in the hope of discovering something of interest. The mood among the fans is quite mixed: Sometimes you see a lot of joy, sometimes a lot of frustration, and opinions are often somewhere in between at the moment. For various reasons. Some fans see their expectations not being met because they have created a completely different picture of a purely online trade fair in advance. Other fans do not get warm with the user interface, barely or only indirectly at what interests them. Still others are simply overwhelmed by the multimedia offerings that are beating down on them. And who is right in the end? Clearly: everyone and nobody. It is difficult to identify a real trend, because the big shitstorm does not occur overall, but the conclusion is probably in favor of the organizers.

You don't have to be stressed by “live” and “current”. If you want to enjoy SPIEL.digital, you have to act as if you were at the physical fair on site in Essen: Just click through it, don't just search. You have to be patient. If some influencers rummage for minutes in the game box in the live stream, lose the thread and babble instead of informing, then this is not least due to the fact that it is a program made by fans for fans, not by professionals for end customers. Sometimes that's the charming part of such a trade fair concept. You don't get a TV program that has been planned at all levels, not glossy videos from the high-tech studio, but handmade from the back room - and that's exactly why sometimes you get them pieced together and not conceptualized.

If you want to call it that, the SPIEL.digital is a hard blow with the very rough content club and because the attention span on the Internet is comparatively small anyway, overly broadly conceptualized content increases to a consumption problem. So again: Patience is required.

This is primarily not due to SPIEL.digital itself, but to the way in which content is used today: fast, to the point, target-oriented - in other words, the exact opposite of “let yourself be surprised”. You have to take your time for SPIEL.digital and its content - and also remember that you have until Sunday night to look at everything in peace. And anyway: Influencer "binge watchen" for hours is probably the worst of all possible options, the content of the platform is retained even after the trade fair has ended. So the call can only be: be interactive, use games, look for like-minded people. SPIEL.digital provides exactly that.

The Pegasus Games virtual hub is one of the best deals. Source: Spielpunkt

The Pegasus Games virtual hub is one of the best deals. Source: Spielpunkt

What is offered depends heavily on the actors. Some of them stand out, for example the publisher Pegasus Spiele. Its virtual hub has been tidied up and offers links to all of the publisher's essential content. SPIEL.digital is therefore not a stopgap solution by Friedhelm Merz Verlag, but a joint stopgap solution from all those involved. Because it is by no means easy to digitize all content, concepts sometimes fail, while others play to their strengths: virtual board games, for example, which works pretty well.

The organizers deserve appreciation and praise for their project, which was not actually planned in this form, but was implemented because they wanted to offer fans more than a trade fair cancellation. In the end, Friedhelm Merz Verlag did a lot of things right and well with SPIEL.digital. The fact that the overall package cannot meet every taste is due to the fact that completely different consumers encounter an offer that is diverse, but not complex. And whether board games are suitable as pure presentation products is another question. Watching others play video games is sometimes not for everyone, but at least there is plenty of action. Watching others push pawns across the table is a meditative experience that you may or may not like.

It depends on every single user to pull what promises added value from SPIEL.digital. The makers have created a suitable platform for this, in a hurry and with a more than solid result. The fact that not everyone cheers with enthusiasm is probably also due to a lack of experience in dealing with digital board game content. And the handling of an online trade fair even more so.

Regardless of whether you like SPIEL.digital or not or are still undecided, the interview with many fans is clear: The International Games Days in 2021 prefer to take place in Essen again. Until then, however, you should be happy about what is made available to you in these difficult times. So be damn grateful for the offer - at least a little.


Author