Off, off, off - the SPIEL is over. That's it for the international match days in Essen this year. The organizing Friedhelm-Merz-Verlag started up again in 2021 after a one-year break due to the corona situation. The conclusion is positive from the organizers, visitors and publishers. The new chance at an on-site trade fair made game fans dig deep into their pockets - the money flowed, to everyone's delight. 

The international game days SPIEL '21 ended successfully, so the conclusion of the organizing Friedhelm-Merz-Verlag. The world's largest trade fair for parlor games attracted 93.600 visitors last year after a corona-related break. The game enthusiasts were able to see, try out and buy more than 1.000 new products from 620 exhibitors from 41 countries. The visitors made ample use of the latter option in particular. Quite a few games, showered with advance praise in the run-up to the fair, were sold out within a very short time. Almost all of the publishers spoke of good to excellent sales figures. It seems as if the game fans withheld their money in times of the pandemic in order to be able to go on extensive shopping spree. The publishers and, above all, game retailers are granted this: During the pandemic situation, little or nothing happened at times, especially in the specialist trade sector. The retailers were troubled by a huge drop in sales - for them the desire to buy is a blessing.

The joy of walking through the exhibition halls again, getting to know new games, buying first editions or rarities and getting bargains conjured up more than a smile on their faces. Also on the managing director of Friedhelm Merz Verlag, Dominique Metzler: “It's great!” Was her interim conclusion on Saturday. “The concept worked.” Metzler probably already knew some of the visitor and sales figures. However, the bill was only settled at the end: With over 90.000 visitors, the Corona debut was a success. For comparison: In 2019, 209.000 fans made the pilgrimage to Essen. More than twice as many, at that time there was no talk of a pandemic including lockdown and contact restrictions.

Visiting the trade fair was subject to 3G conditions; a corona test center was set up on the exhibition grounds for visitors. In addition, a mask was mandatory in all areas. "The well thought-out hygiene concept with wider aisles, increased hygiene measures and distance regulation has proven itself and ensured the necessary freedom of movement," said the Friedhelm-Merz-Verlag in its final announcement. And the concept actually worked - at least for the most part. Here and there you could see them, the coatis. Then the face mask became a mere face mask - sometimes on purpose, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes just the beard was in the way. And the actually prohibited cajon backpacks also shaped the image in the halls, albeit very occasionally.

The measures took effect, at most on Saturday lunchtime the hygiene and safety rules reached their limits. The rush of visitors on the day of the Essen game fair, which is traditionally the most popular, occasionally caused a “system overload” on several levels. A few hours later, the balls had straightened out, and more intensive checks were carried out at the entrances. Dominique Metzler stated that she was not aware of any “negative incidents”. The concept worked. At Friedhelm-Merz-Verlag they are not only happy about it, but also about the fact that the fair is taking place in general. Metzler revealed that they should have shivered: “2G would have given the fair the fatal blow,” she revealed. In particular, some foreign publishers would then have faced problems; participation in SPIEL would not have been possible for them under such stricter regulations. In the end, politics should opt for the looser of the two paths - and at the same time pave the way for SPIEL'21.

Dominique Metzler now looks back positively: “I am very happy about the enthusiasm with which this fair was received by exhibitors and visitors. It was a special year for us as organizers, but also for all participants. Cooperative games are trendy, and SPIEL was a great joint effort by organizers, exhibitors and visitors. As the organizer, we feel confirmed by the success of this trade fair. It was exactly the right decision to organize an analog trade fair again this year and to give game fans from all over the world the opportunity to take part in this most important meeting of the gaming world. The visitors adhered to the rules of the game in an exemplary manner. "

Picture gallery for SPIEL'21 in Essen

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The exhibitors were also satisfied with the popularity. The fair means a new start for the industry, said Hermann Hutter, publisher (HUCH) and chairman of the industry association for games publishers: “This fair was very well balanced between security and the right amount of visitors. All visitors were very disciplined - it was the perfect experience to see the joy and enthusiasm of trying out the new products. Every member of Spieleverlage eV felt comfortable and enjoyed the fact that enthusiastic international trade visitors and players came to Essen to literally soak up the new products. "

The SPIEL'21 in Essen was much more than a return to familiar territory. For the games industry, the fair could be a role model for what is possible in difficult times with the right concepts. The Friedhelm-Merz-Verlag calls this the “initial spark for further events with an audience”. With all the relaxation of the corona situation, the following applies: The pandemic is far from over. In particular, such internationally oriented trade fairs as the SPIEL in Essen show how small the big wide world can become when a catastrophic event connects the nations. Where the number of infections is falling in this country and the number of vaccinations is increasing, this is by no means the case in other countries. And so a corona attack can also be assumed at SPIEL'22. The date for the international game days in the coming year has long been fixed: board and card games will again be celebrated in Essen from October 6th to 9th, 2022.

At the end of the four-day SPIEL '21, Andreas Finkernagel, Managing Director of Pegasus Spiele, added: "I am positively surprised by the course of the trade fair and hope that it can now continue with face-to-face events based on the SPIEL model." For Pegasus Spiele, on-site events are the central element of contact with players. “I saw many happy faces in the halls, people are overjoyed to be back at SPIEL,” said Finkernagel. “And the visitors adhered to the corona-related rules very well - masks and distance did not detract from the fun. We are also seeing that the demand for games has exploded. The gaming tables at the Pegasus Spiele stand were always fully booked. The people who just found their way into the gaming hobby last year are now staying with them. "

Mostly frequent and connoisseur gamers dragged themselves home satisfied and their purchases. For them, despite the absence of some well-known domestic and foreign publishers, the trade fair offer seemed large enough. “One or the other publisher could regret not having taken part in the fair”, was Dominique Metzler's conclusion. It sounded like a friendly swipe. In any case, the publisher's head was relieved on his face, which was only half recognizable. And 2022? Which measures could find the way to the next SPIEL? Dominique Metzler wouldn't let her look into her cards, but she admitted that she had cards in hand: “I don't want to reveal anything yet. These are my plans! ”. It sounds as if visitors should be prepared for some changes in the coming year, which will then be useful for a positive trade fair experience.

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