The GAME in Essen begins: The trade fair is a farewell and a new beginning at the same time. The team from the organizing Friedhelm Merz Verlag takes a different approach, breaks with traditions - some things are successful, others less so, you have to get used to a lot of things. SPIEL has always been in a state of flux, and this year's edition does not change.
Board games are booming again: After a short break last year, games and puzzles are continuing the disproportionately strong growth that has been going on for ten years with an accumulated increase of ten percent by the end of August 2023. The main drivers here are the games, which increased by six percent, as well as the strategic trading cards segment, which, spurred on by the ongoing Pokémon trend, recorded an increase of over 45 percent compared to the previous year. Important: These figures include the sales success of Ravensburger Disney Lorcan not even included because the release did not fall within the analysis time window.
Board games, board games, card games and puzzles are once again proving to be a source of inspiration for the toy industry and an attractive cross-generational leisure option that has been an important anchor for people, not only in the past crisis years.
Board games are once again proving to be a popular way to fill gaps in leisure time; this year, two-player games and solo formats are particularly popular; Sustainability is also a trend that is becoming increasingly noticeable. Probably not least because environmentally and climate-conscious fans in the next generation are pushing the issue much more.
The SPIEL through the ages
Before the official starting signal for SPIEL'23 in Essen was given on Wednesday, the organizers invited people to a press conference followed by a show of new products - this tradition has not changed, but the setting is new. There were tears before the games – or at least an emotional moment. Long-time SPIEL boss Dominique Metzler had her say. On the video wall, because she wasn't there in Essen: “Travel time”. Instead of wearing out his feet in the exhibition halls, Metzler travels around the world in a camper van, especially Europe, after entering his well-deserved retirement. She was unable to fulfill her “girl’s dream” as the busy managing director of Friedhelm Merz Verlag. Anyone who has to be responsible for a globally respected trade fair like SPIEL in Essen has little time. All the more reason to give her farewell. At the same time, it is a new start - and the new team around Carol Rapp leaves no doubt about that.
The press conference took place in a new location - in the middle of the glass foyer at the main entrance to the trade fair. Brighter, more technical, but less rustic charm. The innovation show that now took place in the Essen hall was similar: more angled, significantly warmer, narrower, louder, but at the same time more comprehensive. The publishers presented just over 1.000 of the 1.745 new products there. There was nothing more than a rough overview, which was partly due to the temperatures in the exhibition hall.
Not every change seems to be good at first glance, you at least have to get used to it. The other possibility: The organizers have identified possible problems and are making adjustments for next year's trade fair. It already has its date - and there's something new here too: SPIEL'3 will take place in Essen from October 6rd to 24th. You take the holiday with you, but not the fall break this time. For scheduling reasons, as Carol Rapp, managing director of Friedhelm Merz Verlag, explains. From 2025, however, the trade fair will take place again during the holidays.
The new team is trimming the SPIEL for efficiency, they are not stingy with superlatives: This year's trade fair is the largest in the history of the SPIEL. The publishers are showing their new products on 62.500 square meters – an area that is around 25 percent larger. The organizers counted 935 exhibitors, last year there were 880. “The halls are absolutely full,” says Carol Rapp happily. The number of the targeted 180.000 visitors has long since been increased: After advance sales, a new “cautious estimate” was made, says PR man Robin de Cleur. Friedhelm Merz Verlag is now expecting around 200.000 visitors. The number is close to the record year of 2019.
When the doors to the exhibition halls open from Wednesday to Sunday, the aisles are likely to be crowded. Fans will then officially explore the adapted hall concepts for the first time. Friedhelm Merz Verlag will be looking forward to the feedback, as so far the reactions to the “topic sorting” have been divided. What won't change is that you'll see happy faces everywhere at the gaming tables and in the halls. One thing will be missing: that of Dominique Metzler.
Picture gallery: New product show at SPIEL'23 in Essen
“Value of Play”: Playing makes sense
A sense of community is of central importance. 62% believe it contributes to personal development and 60% are even convinced that playing helps with health and well-being. The fun factor follows in fourth place with 56% – a little surprise. “The industry survey shows,” said DVSI Managing Director Ulrich Brobeil in the run-up to the world’s largest consumer trade fair for board games, SPIEL, in Essen (October 4-5, 8.10.2023), “that there is a gap between what gaming has in terms of practical relevance in everyday social life and the importance we give to games and toys in public discourse. The value of play is often underestimated or taken for granted, even in politics.”
Since 2014, the games market in Germany, but also in many other countries, has developed significantly. Sales of games and puzzles almost doubled. The range of games has been significantly expanded and internationalized in various segments. Many startup publishers emerged, while crowdfunding platforms added new sales channels. But the online market also contributed to a major expansion of the market. In addition, games and puzzles are popular items in bookstores, stationery stores, but also concept stores and museum shops. They can even be found in fashion stores as impulse items.
The classic toy trade is also increasingly focusing on games and puzzles, which are now the strongest product group there. With the “High Play Value” initiative, around 36 game shops and 48 toy stores have come together to form a network to bring good games to the people. Classic specialist retailers are also experiencing higher footfall in stores again and are offering on-site events to give customers opportunities to get to know games. Many stationary specialty stores used the Corona pandemic to expand their online offerings, reach new target groups and broaden their customer base. The supply chain and transport problems of recent years have largely been resolved, and the high fluctuations in raw material prices have also normalized. The large producers have expanded their capacities and invested in modern machines. The average price for games and puzzles has only increased slightly over the same time.
Online retail achieved major growth during the business closures during the Corona period. Sales at large online shops are currently declining. Some providers have recently felt this development. The second largest online shop in the children's and toy sector, myToys, will cease operations at the end of the year and attempt to direct parts of the business to the parent company www.otto.de. The self-administered insolvency of the HABA FAMILY GROUP, which had to struggle with internal problems and the resulting decline in sales, came as a big surprise. All in all, the market for games and puzzles is on a stable, healthy growth path and will continue to be of increasing interest in the coming years. He benefits from the increased focus on quality and changing leisure interests.
In addition to the classic family and children's game segment, the number of casual players has increased significantly, also due to positive experiences during the Corona period. While families spend time together, casual gamers increasingly play in groups with friends. This is particularly true for the “kidults”, the age group of 14 to 35 year olds. Party games and/or crime and puzzle games continue to be trendy here. The group of board game fans who love challenging, tactical or strategic games with great features have high quality standards.
The game publishers expect a positive development for the upcoming Christmas business, which accounts for around 40 percent of annual sales in the toy trade. “Games are an ideal gift for all generations and offer great value for sharing. Especially when people are at home more, games and puzzles bring a lot of joy,” says Hermann Hutter, first chairman of Spieleverlage eV and owner of the publisher Huch! & friends. Retailers also expect the desire to buy to increase again. “Wages have risen significantly,” Hutter continued, “that should brighten consumer sentiment.”
|Mortal Kombat 1 Premium Edition (PlayStation 5) (AT-PEGI) *||86,08 EUR||Buy|
* = affiliate link. If you purchase via one of the links, we receive a portion of the purchase price as a commission. There are no additional costs for you, but you can support our portal by doing so. Last updated on September 30.11.2023, XNUMX / Affiliate links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. Images from Amazon PA API.