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Requiem for the Essen Game Fair


Cute but dangerous
Last weekend, it was Essen SPIEL time. A major disappointment. For the first time in a while, I didn't even bother to make pictures of the event.

Unfortunately, the quality of the SPIEL as a place to play and have fun and meet people has gone down rapidly in the last 5 or 6 years. Since last year, we've got new halls, more space, and even more space was added this year, and it would have been filled as well if not that the ebola scare drove some exhibitors away. However, it's more and more just a place for selling stuff and as as of this year, the sellers seem to have agreed on a price for new board games, you can't even really get your stuff cheaper as in normal shops.

Worse of all, since last year, there is a tendency to discourage sticking around at one table for a while and just try out games - never mind you'd usually end up buying a bunch of them. No, by now, the usually few dedicated tables have become commonplace, with the exhibitors dictating which games can be played on what table. Several boots do not even borrow out games anymore save for what's at those dedicated tables. This is no doubt to reach more people for fewer games, considering that the visitor numbers have grown while the type of visitors has changed. There used to be many people, even groups, coming in from other cities and even countries for all 4 days. Now, a lot more locals are coming in for only a day or two, and those locals are usually families or small groups of friends with not too much money to spend, so everyone's competing for their small bucks as opposed to the much bigger spending profile the permanent guests usually had. All the bigger gamer roups for board games seemed to be missing this year. There were also very little costumes, not counting the anime stuff from the Comic Action which is part of the fair.

This causes the big spenders, which we used to be part of, to only buy a fraction of stuff. For one because we can't really test out games anymore, but also because there is a lot less interesting, , inventive stuff to try. It is worst in the RPG area. In the last years, mostly due to the Role Playing Convention fair in Cologne (which is kind of a bore in my eyes, with no international exhibitors) LARP has moved out almost completely, with only one major exhibitor still being in Essen. The PNP area has become smaller and smaller, with fewer and fewer international sellers - with the exception of Flying Buffalo I didn't find anyone selling anything except collectors items who was not from Germany/Europe this year. This causes prices to go up dramatically, as the German sellers aren't trying to sell the leftovers cheap as there are no transport costs involved.

For example, the Orcus/Rappan Athuk complete book cost around €80 last year, the Pathfinder flipmats and map packs around €9. This year, it was €110 for the book and an average of €14 for the maps. It was worse for some other more specialized books.

For RPG purposes, the fair is dead, plain and simple. And it was one of the reasons we went. We could live with that, if there was still a decent chance to play board and card games, but we got maybe a quarter as many games played than last year, and last year it had already been less than the years before. We also only spent less than half of what we used to, and a lot of it was stuff we'd have bought anyway (missing MTG cards etc). We never had to go to the ATM.

So if you are thinking about going next year, you may want to reconsider. No doubt the fair will keep being successful on the monetary side, but the time it was also an RPG/ board game convention and meeting place is over.

Now if I could only find a replacement event... :.-(

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Cute but dangerous
People did last year already. There was no real reply I know of. The only partial reply I kow of was that the fair needs to make money and is thus evolving...

The RPG exhibitors said that the organizer, Merz, had basically scared them off with higher rentals for the boots and such. Obviously, the event is supposed to go more and more mainstream, and nerd stuff doesn't fit in anymore.

"Time to say goodbye" was the title or meaning of many a German game report, especially concerning LARP and RPG as such. LARP will probably be completely dead next year - which wouldn't be so bad as those are always regional exhibitors you can also find on other conventions. But I will sorely miss international RPG producers.

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters