The International Game Days 2020 are a few weeks away, this year everything will take place in virtual space. SPIEL.digital relocates everything that visitors know about the physical fair, sometimes clearly recognizable, sometimes in a modified form, to the Internet. That sounds bulky, but according to the organizers it won't be. Everyone can join in, let themselves be carried away or specifically look for exciting topics. Interaction plays a central role, but coercion does not. That's what SPIEL.digital is all about.


Corona has been driving players in front of the screens for months, and here and there board players also switch to digital worlds in order to be able to play together without having to meet. Even if game groups are slowly starting to hold a major event like SPIEL in Essen, that was at the latest not an issue since the “lockdown”.

The organizing Friedhelm Merz Verlag now had the choice: Either cancel completely or convert SPIEL into a new format, as some fans demanded shortly after the cancellation of the physical fair. After a short period of reflection, the decision was made in favor of the latter variant - and now comparatively hastily to work out a completely new concept, install a platform and lure exhibitors and interested parties into the virtual playroom. On the opening day, fans will find out what the outcome was in the end, because then they can step into the digital world of games - analogous to the opening of the exhibition halls. Whatever the success, it is already clear: the SPIEL.digital is an important step in the right direction.

SPIEL.digital: themed worlds instead of exhibition halls

You hear and read a lot these days about SPIEL.digital and its innovations: new games, cool videos, board games online. But what if you don't know your way around this virtual world? What can we then expect from the digital trade fair event? We asked Friedhelm Merz Verlag and the answers clearly point in one direction: Even inexperienced users will be able to extract from SPIEL.digital exactly what suits the respective game type and what interests them. So you don't have to be an IT expert.

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Anyone who is currently looking around on social media and forums is often confronted with a central question: What do I actually have to do when SPIEL.digital starts on October 22nd? Publishing director Dominique Metzler has the simple answer: “Discover the SPIEL.digital!”

There will probably not be any major hurdles. Friedhelm Merz Verlag has given some thought: “Everything will be very self-explanatory and user-friendly,” says Metzler. “Either you can be inspired by one of the 17 theme worlds or you can use the list of new products to get started right away”. The theme worlds are actually something like different player categories. Dominique Metzler gives an example: "If you are only interested in children's games, for example, you can visit the children's games theme world, where you will find all the publishers that have games to match, and you can then find all other game information on the publisher's stands."

The same applies analogously in the digital world for role, family, or expert games. Everything has been clearly sorted and accommodated in the theme worlds. The list of novelties is like direct entry for those players who have specific titles in mind. And even then you won't have to search long: the 1.300 or so titles can be filtered on the SPIEL.digital online platform according to many different criteria. In combination with the main categories - i.e. the theme worlds - users should find their way around this world, which may be new-fangled for many social gamers.

All information is interlinked, the topic worlds or the overview of innovations are more or less central contact points. There will also be an exhibitor directory, so anyone who wants to find out more about games from a particular publisher can do that without any problems. Links from the directory also lead to the “stands” of the exhibitors, who can customize their offers there.

Don't be afraid of the internet!

What may sound confused and complicated, especially for inexperienced users who do not use social media or online platforms every day, is basically easy to understand. The organizers are sensitized to user problems, SPIEL.digital is not an event only for “heavy users”. Dominique Metzler makes it clear: "The whole offer is self-explanatory!"

Different formats should also ensure that everyone can find what suits them. Tired of hours of videos? Then you can simply browse through the games, read through brief descriptions of titles that you have previously picked out using the filter system.

The entire SPIEL.digital is building a concept of participation: fans can join in if they want. They can pass their time however they see fit and how it entertains them. If you just want to collect information quickly, you can visit the digital fair as well as those who play games who have already met up with friends for a few virtual board game rounds. SPIEL.digital provides a space filled with content that game fans can then use in their own individual way.

If you still want to be inspired, you can basically simply join the interests of others. In the themed worlds, visitors will simply be able to drift and discover interesting things: “We have built in a hotness factor here,” explains Dominique Metzler. “When a booth is particularly busy, the publishing booths start to glow. We assume that visitors who haven't had a publisher on their radar before will feel addressed, become curious and just take a look at what's going on right now. " Smaller publishers in particular can score points online with this function, perhaps even more than at the on-site trade fair. Provided that they manage to captivate enough visitors with their content. One way could be sales promotions, some providers are already starting: “The publishers have just started to discontinue their sales promotions. You can already see that there will be numerous discount campaigns, ”said the chief organizer.

Ask me! Nobody at SPIEL.digital has to do without the explanations. Photo: Volkmann

Ask me! Nobody at SPIEL.digital has to do without the explanations. Photo: Volkmann

Expensive technical equipment is not required: Basically, you don't need a webcam or a headset. “However, you can only chat with publishers using the chat functions,” explains Metzler. For communicative types, however, audio-visual peripherals become essential: "If you want to talk to publishers via zoom, for example, your device should have a camera," says the publisher. And even at the gaming table it probably makes sense to have at least headphones within easy reach: “These laps are mostly run on Discord”. The explanations are available to explain the rules, which are then even similar to the on-site trade fair: everyone gathers, this time in a virtual room, one explains, the others listen - then the game is played.

Dominique Metzler compares the experience at SPIEL.digital, at least in part, with the experiences that fans have every year in Essen: “It's like at a real trade fair. We provide the infrastructure here and are also responsible for one of the German-language live streams ourselves. The exhibitors fill this platform with life to a large extent. ”In addition, there are influencers who post their own content on the platform -“ if they want to, ”says Metzler. The voluntary nature of the event also shows how much it depends on the participants who make SPIEL-digital the event it should be: a colorful, lively game world.

SPIEL.digital: the soft launch of the list of new products is imminent

It is a mistake that you have to invest many hours in order to benefit from SPIEL.digital. Dominique Metzler explains: “You can certainly hang around on SPIEL.digital for four days and experience something new again and again. Here, too, it is like at the real trade fair. There are many day visitors, but also many people with season tickets. That depends entirely on the visitor. "

The system takes you by the hand. So there will be an overview on which all events are listed so that you can recognize them “at first glance”. In addition, a media hub serves as a contact point, where you can quickly see which video contributions are available, explains Metzler. Preparations are currently in full swing, and Friedhelm Merz Verlag is distributing what is new and what visitors can expect via social media and a newsletter. This also includes reports on the participating publishers.

It was already a bit digital at the SPIEL in Essen - now there is the full broadside "Internet". Photo: Volkmann

It was already a bit digital at the SPIEL in Essen - now there is the full broadside “Internet”. Photo: André Volkmann

Dominique Metzler reveals that a complete list of all the publishers participating in SPIEL.digital will not be available until the start of the trade fair - on October 22nd. But: “We will soon be providing a soft launch for the list of new products. In addition to the game titles, publishers and authors, you will also be able to see age information and prices. Beyond that, however, no further information about the games. These will only be visible at the start of the trade fair. " If you assume that only the big publishers will take part in the digital trade fair, that is by no means the case: Many small exhibitors use the platform to present themselves and their offers: from game publishers to clubs.

And if you are still unsure whether you can take part in the trade fair with your IT skills: “The entire platform is so user-friendly that you don't need a lot of experience”, Dominique Metzler concludes. Because nowadays there is “almost no one who doesn't hang around on the Internet”, says Metzler, you should just stop by at SPIEL.digital. Her appeal: "Come on over, we won't bite!"

It starts on October 22nd, the online fair will then take place until October 25th: The contact point for information is www.game.digital.


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