The takeover of the Internationale Spieltage by Spielwarenmesse eG came as a surprise at the beginning of the year. At the same time, it was announced that they wanted to hold talks with Messe Essen. That has now happened. The event will remain in the Ruhr area metropolis for the time being.
As of January 1, 2022, the Spielwarenmesse eG took over the International Game Days. Not much has changed superficially since then. The event will continue to be organized by Friedhelm Merz Verlag in Bonn, by Dominique Metzler's original mini-team. Spielwarenmesse Board Member Florian Hess has the utmost respect for the “two-woman team”. He has been part of the management trio of Spielwarenmesse eG since summer 2021, so he could have an influence on SPIEL in Essen. That happened, if at all, only in detail.
Hess: Don't destroy the family character of the fair
After the takeover at the beginning of the year, there were great fears: the trade fair in Essen could take over traditional location for decades lose their character, the flair as a mixture of industry get-together and family event. With the starting shot of this year's trade fair event, it is now clear: no catastrophe has occurred. On the contrary: SPIEL has remained true to itself.
However, the Spielwarenmesse together with Friedhelm Merz Verlag has already brought about an innovation: the app. With the smart program for mobile phones, fans can navigate through the halls much more easily, put asterisks next to their favorites and thus pave the way from highlight to highlight. Otherwise, the international matchdays are recognizable as such. And ideally it should stay that way.
As Florian Hess confirms, one has the special charm of the games event in Essen in mind. "We don't want to destroy the family character of the fair," explains the board. Behind it is almost 40 years of development. An almost private meeting has gradually become a leading world-class trade fair, but without losing the flair of the cozy game show - at least in principle. Those who stroll through the halls, especially on Saturday, will find relaxation at best in the cloakroom area. Nevertheless, when fans talk about the International Match Days in Essen, at some point the conversation always turns to the atmosphere. Despite thousands of visitors, full halls and many exhibitors: it feels different.
According to Florian Hess, the city of Essen is “down-to-earth”. In other words: It's relaxed here, without attaching importance to social forms. The board of directors means everything in a positive way. People tick differently in the Ruhr area, and SPIEL benefits from that.
The Spielwarenmesse is aware of this. According to Florian Hess, the International Match Days are an "affair of the heart", which explains why the takeover came about. The Spielwarenmesse as a trade visitor event didn't stand a chance against SPIEL, especially in the area of board games. Even for Nuremberg guests, the Essen event was always the center of the board games. This aroused ambitions in the cooperative. That should not be detrimental to the International Match Days: instead of turning the event upside down, they want to improve the details. With the networking of the industry, with the organization, with the press work. The task of Spielwarenmesse eG also results from its legal form. The members of the cooperative benefit from the popularity of the Essen trade fair, which is why we want to keep it as much as possible.
What does the future of the Essen location look like? "SPIEL will remain in Essen for the next few years," explains Florian Hess. The years 2023 and 2024 are certain. Something could change after that, but this does not mean a mandatory migration to another location. "We still have a little breathing room," explains Hess. It refers to the growth potential of International Match Days. There is still room at Messe Essen: "It will take several years to fill up," says Hess. The biggest challenge is basically the area. But: It is not mandatory that SPIEL simply has to keep growing. It could also be that a decision has to be made between further growth and maintaining the character of the international game days, explains Hess.
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