The start of SPIEL.digital 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 aimed primarily 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 adolescents and young adults are spending their time playing board and card games is a trend that is continuing this year. Internationally oriented trade fair events such as the international game 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 SPIEL.digital do a lot to ensure that this year the fair can do what it does otherwise: get people excited about games.

SPIEL.digital as a pioneering format

Publishers will be presenting almost 1.400 new products at SPIEL this year. In addition, one would now expect a picture gallery for the “novelty show”, which traditionally follows the press conference. This year it is different: There are no table lines in the Essen exhibition halls with board and card games lined up, so there are no photos of them either. If you want some “physical trade fair flair”, you have to go to the Picture gallery of the novelties from last year dodge.

What is happening 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 been seen in this intensity before,” the publisher sums up, referring to the success of cooperative 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. That is well received - and in the end is reflected - summarized with all the other concepts - also in the growth of the industry. The games industry was able to grow around 21 percent, the entire toy market was at nine percent. Board games for adults make up a large part of the sales success, accounting for 30 percent of sales. Exit and escape games as well as logic or activity games are particularly popular. Popular and “sexy”, on the other hand, are party games that focus on communication. What you could guess has also been confirmed: Licensed board games show an increase of 20 percent, despite the lack of blockbusters - or maybe because of that.

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

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

As much as the coronavirus pandemic has affected world events, in some cases even paralyzed it, the toys industry defied all negative trends. Problems in the supply chains were manageable, explains Hermann Hutter. Unsurprisingly, online trading benefits and retailers suffer. But: retailers have now responded and have taken action to counter online retailing, with on-site campaigns, for example, to lure game fans into the shops. SPIEL.digital also supports the local retailers in this regard, who often invite “physical games” as part of the online trade fair, even if the corona restrictions are currently being intensified in many cities and counties. Around the globe, 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 to play innovations there too. Visitors to SPIEL.digital can find an overview of all participants under the program item “SPIEL Local”.

Not everything is bad in the Corona year - and Hermann Hutter's outlook on the industry is also positive. The fourth quarter is still ahead of the strongest growth period, and the Christmas business will be buzzing. “Playing contributed to the great crisis in the world,” says Hutter, in the best sense of the word. Now it is up to the players to use the new communication channels offered by SPIEL.digital, among other things: With the online fair, Friedhelm Merz Verlag has launched what “will be 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 likely to enrich or enrich games. "The personal togetherness and the haptic feeling" are the driving factors for board games, explains Hermann Hutter.

Actors should "actively participate"

That it is the Are players themselves who have to make a contribution to the success of SPIEL.digital, is more than just an empty phrase. Dominique Metzler calls on all actors to “actively participate”. The basic structures and a platform as a central point of contact have been created so that it is important to use what is offered.

And anyone who thinks SPIEL.digital is an elitist online offer only for large locations 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 or accommodation costs. What is striking this year is the high participation from Latin America. Numerous publishers, especially from Brazil, are exhibiting for the first time. " South American authors also present prototypes. “We are particularly pleased that a new exhibitor from West Africa is taking part,” said Dominique and Maximilian Metzler. Nibcard Games is a young Nigerian publisher that has released 24 games to date. "He is doing 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 players, that's something of a motto for SPIEL.digital. The hotness factor, central hub and numerous filter options should ensure that game fans ultimately find the content that is personally interesting for them. “During the conceptual phase, we thought about what could be implemented in the short time and where the focus should be,” explains Dominique Metzler. The focus was then on the novelties. There are products from other areas, such as role-playing games, but the focus for SPIEL.digital 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 SPIEL.digital 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 SPIEL.digital 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 SPIEL.digital 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 SPIEL.digital 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 SPIEL.digital here: https://spiel.digital/de.

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.

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