That's it, SPIEL is over - the Essen exhibition halls are closed to board game fans from all over the world this year. Friedhelm Merz Verlag was expecting around 200.000 visitors. It still remains to be seen whether the largest trade fair to date was also able to set a record.
“All the best for another year, thank you very much.” – what the band Pur sings so beautifully also applies to the gaming fair in Essen. The event is over for now, many feet are smoking, arms are aching from carrying board game boxes weighing many kilograms, and the body is demanding recovery. The GAME in Essen Every year is as beautiful as it is tiring.
The restart was successful. SPIEL 2023 was the first trade fair without a corona pandemic, but not without corona. Numerous posts on social media showed positive tests, living with the virus is the new normal. But the micro-creature is no longer a hindrance to fun.
Old feeling in new halls
There were many changes, especially the new hall structure which caused irritation among long-time trade fair visitors. It was no longer possible to navigate through the aisles blindly, as exhibitors were now sometimes found in completely different locations. In fact, the organizers have succeeded overall in restarting. It was busy but never crowded. The traffic in the corridors was sometimes slow, but rarely came to a complete standstill. It was busy at the gaming tables, but there was always a chance of getting a seat.
What has traditionally changed little or not at all: the frustration with the parking situation and the construction work by Deutsche Bahn, which always takes place during the holidays - for good reasons, but annoying for fans of the game fair. Otherwise, SPIEL presented itself in top form for its 40th birthday: almost 1.800 new products, around 1.000 exhibitors from 56 countries, an increase in space of around 25 percent, a new look through logo adjustment and the mascot “Meeps” and a colorful supporting program offered a look at games from different perspectives.
The mix of small and large stands resulting from the new hall structure was well received, but criticism was voiced here and there because Hall 3, in particular, became a somewhat overcrowded hotspot at times with connoisseur and expert games. It was at least predictable that there would be a concentration there. Because: Where connoisseurs and experts gather, the trade fair hypes are usually hidden. This year there were more small ones: Many publishers reported sales of individual titles, but there was no such thing as an over-game that you definitely shouldn't miss. Instead, it seemed as if the scene had become much broader in terms of its interests than in previous years.
Despite the core events in Hall 3, this was not the only center of the gaming fair. The new concept ultimately worked completely in one important respect: the theme halls ensured a visible distribution of the fan masses because well-known publishers were able to demonstrate their appeal at different locations. It was crowded, it was chaotic, but at no time was it close to collapse. This insight is likely to be important for the organizers, as they still have a lot of plans for the trade fair in the future. What remains: the old feeling in new halls.
The trade fair period for the coming year has already been decided and here too the organizers are breaking new ground, albeit involuntarily. For scheduling reasons, the trade fair in 2024 will take place from October 3rd to 6th, outside the autumn holidays and with a public holiday at the start.
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