With the end of SPIEL '23, Friedhelm Merz Verlag begins preparations for the games fair in Essen next year. The overall conclusion is positive, but here and there fans expressed criticism or suggestions for improvement.
Under new leadership, the Friedhelm Merz Verlag team made a successful debut: the organizers ultimately counted around 193.000 visitors in total in the exhibition halls. It was full, but not as full as four years ago - at least in terms of fan numbers, the SPIEL from 2019 is still a reference. The general framework of the Essen games fair had hardly changed, otherwise hardly anything was the same: new logo, new look, new hall timetable, a mascot, new app, new ticket system including new, higher prices. All the adjustments ultimately meshed well. Nevertheless, where almost 200.000 people collide in a limited space in just a few days, mishaps happen and you get the feeling that you could tweak a few things to optimize things even further.
Heading towards SPIEL '24
Friedhelm Merz Verlag and Spielwarenmesse eG will certainly celebrate their success, but they will probably not rest on their laurels. Florian Hess. Spielwarenmesse board member and one of the Friedhelm-Merz-Verlag managing directors commented in the final report on SPIEL '23: "Things will continue just as exciting with SPIEL, as we have a lot planned for the next few years." The feedback will now be evaluated, among other things, to “further optimize” SPIEL. This means that from now on the clock is ticking for the organizers to analyze frequently mentioned points of criticism from fans and possibly make new changes.
And there were many criticisms and suggestions for improvement. One of the particularly frequent mentions was the wish for an equalization of the crowds in exhibition hall 3. Although the new concept for themed exhibitor spaces worked overall, the connoisseur and expert games in particular were sometimes brought to a standstill, especially on Thursday and Sunday . “Hall 3 is clearly too small for the number of visitors, it must be equalized or divided into two halls,” writes a fan on Facebook. Such suggestions should be read several times in a similar form. The basic tenor: the hype hall needs significant relief.
In the other areas of the trade fair, the fan crowds were mostly in a good flow. Traditionally the only exception: the gallery with its food stalls. At peak times there is a lot of crowding because there is usually only a narrow row of people in the gallery. The rest are queuing for churros, potato spirals or fries. After all, the culinary offerings were impressive. In addition to the well-known standards between currywurst and kebab, the food trucks served burgers or burritos, fries in “perverse” variations or flatbreads with various cheese toppings. The days of “French fries cupboard” and cola as an alternative to lunch are long gone. In principle, there would be space for even more food cars outside or for the stands to be relocated, but then the weather would have to cooperate.
Several visitors believe that the organizers should lend a hand to the exhibitor stands again here and there. Some of the suggestions: Kickstarter-Projects that have not yet appeared collected in one hall; Separate German-language games and international titles; arrange the bag storage more centrally; shorten the path from the main entrance to the first occupied hall; Set up your own business area or move the “nerd stuff” back into a hall.
More seating comfort – indoors and outdoors
What many fans missed at SPIEL '23 was comfortable seating. Anyone who carries heavy games and logs kilometers in the halls longs for some peace and relaxation every now and then. “I would like to see a few more seating options or a little more spread out,” writes a Facebook user. According to fans, the trade fair should also create even more space for seating in the outdoor areas: “There should be a few more beer benches and tables.” Others don’t just want seats, but comfort: “chill-out bean bags” at some of them the hot spots. The desire for comfort is obviously great: “The trade fair itself was an experience. However, seating would be really good,” reads on. One user on Facebook even sees a need for “significantly more decent seating.” The fact that people have to sit on the floor – “sometimes like in a pig pen” – is a thorn in her side. This is not worthy of an event of this magnitude.
According to many trade fair visitors, backpacks and large bags do not belong in crowded halls or in crowds. Some believe that existing bans should be more strictly controlled. Others rightly ask where people should take their games if they don't have transportation. Such discussions show the challenges the team at Friedhelm Merz Verlag faces when it comes to the actual planning of the trade fair. Because one thing is clear: without shopping opportunities it would be GAME in Essen an unusual and essentially completely different event. In contrast to purely trade visitor events, the experience at conventions and trade fairs also includes the range of goods that you can choose from.
The classic criticism can also be found this year: the parking situation. If you arrive by car and would like to do so directly in front of the trade fair, you will have to accept waiting times and sometimes have to cover long distances by shuttle bus or on foot. “The parking spaces were a disaster, far too few,” one reads. “The parking situation was again more difficult at times this year...most of the parking garages were for trade visitors and retailers...as a normal person it was more difficult...there should definitely be better communication (also in the app) about when and how parking garages are closed or full “, said another visitor. Some others would like more information about the parking situation further away from the trade fair, perhaps via the app.
Even small things are required: more trash cans, clean toilets, full disinfectant dispensers, or small flags at the stands to indicate the language versions of the games available there.
The latter was very well received: navigating through the halls with the smart program was child's play. You could search for new products and publishers, put together your own list of favorites or briefly check information on the publishers' linked websites. Thanks to the interactive application, the cell phone should now be part of the standard equipment of every SPIEL fan.
The list of suggestions for improvement is long. It's like that every year. Some things will change, but not everything will be possible at an event of this size.
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