SPIEL ’22 – Together is my favorite place to be
As a lover of games, I have joined the pilgrimage to Spiel in Essen every year since 2014. The world’s leading trade fair for board games is a special experience not only for professionals in the industry, but for everyone. Publishers from all over the world present their new products, and retailers offer novelties and bargains directly for sale. Though Spiel had suffered like other trade fairs reduced to smaller or digital formats (or canceled entirely) during the pandemic, this very special fair was almost back to normal this year. New for me: it was my first time at Spiel as an exhibitor. I had already organized many other trade fair booths as event manager, but somehow Spiel is something different… So let’s take a slightly different look. We won’t focus on the games themselves, but on the trade fair and the experience as an exhibitor.
The journey - all roads lead to Essen...or not?
Unfortunately, the information from the organizers regarding arrival and setup was… limited. Without much of a plan on how things would work, we left Hanover (or in Jakob’s case Bielefeld) at 6 a.m. on Wednesday. Somehow we had gotten into our heads that the fair would open for the press at 1 pm and that the booths should be ready by then. Well, that wasn’t quite the case, but in the end it was a good thing we arrived early. Both the traffic, apart from a small traffic jam, and the exhibition grounds were still very manageable so the arrival was very relaxed. But which gate is meant for delivery? Well, turns out you have to drive all over the exhibition grounds until you find the sign “Exhibitor entrance here”. One can imagine several ways to make that easier 😊.
Set-up made simple
Thankfully access for exhibitors was very relaxed. At the entrance, we provided the stand number and parking fee and off we went onto the exhibition grounds. We were even able to drive our car into the hall right up to the stand. What a luxury. So the monitor was quickly unloaded, the rollups set up and the exhibits staged on the showcase and counter. Stand ready at 10 o’clock. Now what?
Fair, fair, fair
Since the booth was ready so early, we were already able to explore on Wednesday morning: to admire the many booths, to get to know our friendly neighbors, to distract them from work. And of course, to check out the other products. For AVA, the latest game hits were less relevant than new technological developments and the game authors themselves. Author conversations were particularly valuable for us. We discussed directly which game mechanics to implement on AVA and in what form. Authors gave incredibly valuable feedback and were very excited about the possibilities AVA offers. We are already looking forward to exchanging ideas in numerous follow-up meetings. In the following four days we were almost exclusively tied to our booth – all the better that we had used Wednesday for a tour. To be honest, we hadn’t expected our booth to attract so many visitors. Our 3D printed figurines, the Flunkies, were a hit with visitors big and small, and were a great conversation starter to introduce the AVA concept. Families with or without children, occasional or devoted gamers, tabletop or role-players, game designers and publishing representatives – everyone was enthusiastic and our booth was always in demand.
"Thou shalt not praise the day before the evening".
Evenings were dedicated to networking. This was mainly invitations from major publishers and manufacturers to restaurants around the fairgrounds on Wednesday and Thursday evening. Friday and Saturday were for team building. Speaking of teams, my second project, the publisher Woodpecker Games, was also at the fair presenting its game Nanolith. The AVA and Woodpecker teams got along very well – maybe we’ll even have more to report in the future… Despite exciting days and enjoyable evenings, it was very tiring and we were glad for a well-deserved rest each evening.
Conclusion - So what were our takeaways?
On Sunday afternoon, after 4 days at the show, you could feel the exhibitors’ relief to finally go home. We hastily packed up our things and this time carried them the long way to the car. Had we wanted to drive in again, pre-registration and long waiting times would have been unavoidable – but we were ready to go home.Although Spiel is a lot of fun, it’s also exhausting. Our voices had suffered more than anything, and the large bag of cough drops we had brought was completely empty.
And what are our takeaways: lots of very positive feedback and the encouragement to continue with AVA. Incredible conversations with end users as well as great ideas and inspiration for game concepts and mechanics from authors. Even a few applications outside the board game world for such a platform that combines haptic and digital elements. And last but not least, many follow-up meetings with publishers and authors. We are also looking forward to the next trade shows – especially Spiel 2023, where we will definitely be back with an AVA booth.
How was your SPIEL experience? Maybe you even visited our booth?