The international game days in Essen are expected to take place. However, visitors will have to do without the publishing giant Asmodee. The Essen-based publisher has now officially announced what has long been known behind closed doors: Asmodee will not be represented with a stand at Spiel'2021. In view of the relaxed but unclear corona situation with regard to autumn, the decision is understandable - not for all fans, but in the sense of the company's responsibility for its employees. 

There is a lot of good, but also less positive news about SPIEL'21 in Essen. First of all, the most important information: What all board game fans had hoped for will most likely happen - the international game days will take place. At least that is the current status, which the organizing Friedhelm Merz Verlag informs about in the social media. A list of the publishers registered so far is also partially publicly available, which is more than expected, but from the point of view of the fans, possibly less than hoped. With Asmodee's departure, the fair will now lack at least one attractive contact point in the exhibition halls.

Asmodee: Corona still "unclear health situation"

Asmodee's cancellation of SPIEL'21 comes as no surprise, but it's now official. So far, there have been indications that the Essen-based publishing house probably does not want to take part in the International Match Days, because it was said in general that Asmodee would not take part in any events this year. This is now confirmed by the report from PR man Robin de Cleur. "Events are very important for Asmodee and an affair of the heart," it said. "We can't wait to be able to participate in small and large events again, where we share the joy of playing together and show our board games to the world."

However, this does not yet apply to SPIEL'21, because: "in the health situation, which is still unclear in 2021, despite increasing vaccination rates, we take the health and safety of our employees, partners and players to heart," explains Asmodee the decision not to appear at the SPIEL in Essen. The decision made applies to the Asmodee Group, the studios and also Asmodee Germany. Events in person will only be held again "as soon as the situation allows it", explains de Cleur in the report.

Will this have any impact on SPIEL'21 in Essen? Yes and no. Yes, because the fair will therefore lack a strong partner with top titles in its portfolio. No, because other publishers have registered, knowing that Asmodee's possible rejection is possible. So there won't be any kind of chain reaction. The registration deadline has passed anyway, and whoever is on the list will probably also be on the international match days in 2021. In any case, big names are also there in the second Corona year - and not too close: Hasbro, the Pokemon Company, Tierra del Fuego, Hutter, Jumbo, Ravensburger, Pegasus, Schmidt or Abacusspiele are also there, as are Lucky Duck Games, Phalanx, Ares, Gravity or Huckle Bear Games. In total, the list contains hundreds of entries, so the exhibition halls in Essen will probably be anything but empty.

You probably have to play "at a distance". Photo: Volkmann

You probably have to play "at a distance". Photo: Volkman

Against the background of the current corona situation, it seems likely that the international game days can take place as planned. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia allows larger events from August 27th - at least this is regulated in the currently valid version of the Corona Protection Ordinance, which initially applies until July 8th. The NRW Ministry of Health recently granted this small extension in order to be able to react to the more relaxed pandemic situation with possible further adjustments. There could be answers to two questions in particular: Are there any further easing now? Do you adapt the rules for events in summer early?

It is therefore uncertain under what conditions SPIEL'21 will take place in Essen. The Friedhelm Merz Verlag has not yet looked at the cards as far as the plans are concerned. One thing is certain: the trade fair will take place under special safety and hygiene measures. The organizers have already considered the measures: "We have submitted a comprehensive and responsible hygiene concept to the city of Essen," said Dominique Metzler, head of the organizing Friedhelm Merz Verlag, via Facebook. She makes it clear: SPIEL is not the European Championship. You will have to follow the rules.

Based on the current recommendations of the Robert Koch Institute, these will at least be the obligation to wear masks and distance regulations. Contact tracing will also have to be done, probably digitally. In addition, analogous to other events, you will have to show one of the so-called "three Gs" - recovered, vaccinated, tested. As of now, the trade fair will also have to be offered with a limit on the number of visitors. Theoretically, some of this could change as the vaccination campaign progresses – in practice, however, one will probably exercise caution. Also because the risk of infection with the delta variant increases with the beginning of autumn and the onset of cooler seasons. This will be the dominant one at this point in time – that harbors dangers. And therefore requires high security measures.

By the way: Friedhelm Merz Verlag wants to present its concept in just under two weeks. By then at the latest, fans will know more about how SPIEL'21 is organized. Until then, the following applies: put on your mask, keep your distance, have it tested - in this way everyone can help ensure that the conditions for a possible trade fair in October are actually in place.

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