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Links: Reorganizing SPIEL ’23, and Opening Matthew Dunstan’s Bank Statement

by W. Eric Martin

• In January 2022, Internationale Spieltage, a.k.a. SPIEL, and its owner Friedhelm Merz Verlag was purchased by Spielwarenmesse eG, the organization that runs the Spielwarenmesse toy fair in Nürnberg, Germany, and while little changed with the fair in the running of SPIEL ’22, a number of changes will be visible for SPIEL ’23, which runs October 5-8.

To start, in May 2022 SPIEL unveiled an updated logo, seen at right. The tangram is still present, but has been recolored and set at a jaunty angle to “represent the path to the future that Merz Verlag, as the organizer of SPIEL, wants to take with its fans. At the same time, the new SPIEL Essen logo is a clear commitment to the city in the Ruhr region in Germany, where the fair has been held for 40 years.”

I think the inclusion of the city name is more of a concession to people who constantly called the game fair “Essen” instead of “SPIEL”, and new Merz Verlag managing director Carol Rapp sort of agrees with this sentiment in the press release announcing the new look: “Many visitors and exhibitors, especially our international guests, often say ‘See you in Essen.’ or ‘See you at Essen.’ and they then mean SPIEL. SPIEL is Essen and Essen is SPIEL. We wanted to show this solidarity and are also working together with the city to dovetail SPIEL and Essen even further.”

SPIEL also has a new website, with a game novelty list and exhibitor maps still to come. (Aside: BGG will launch its SPIEL ’23 Preview on July 3.)

Speaking of maps, Merz Verlag is overhauling the organization and layout of the halls in Messe Essen, the building where the fair takes place. The new halls have been in place for roughly a decade, with the show first using Halls 1-3, then adding in 4, and in 2022 it reached across half of Hall 6 — but the addition of new vendors has largely taken place like LEGO bricks, with the new ones stacked on all the existing booths so that you need to walk through many halls to find all the games matching your tastes. That won’t be the case at SPIEL ’23:

The new hall design envisages that all halls will have thematic focuses and that the booths in the halls will present mainly the corresponding games. There will be a large area for simple to upscale family games, children’s games, and light to medium hobby games. Another segment is aimed at tabletops, miniatures games, role-playing games, and trading card games. Finally, there will be areas for hobby to expert games. We will distribute the other booths, for example those of retailers or accessory suppliers, sensibly to the corresponding areas. Our goal is to create the optimal trade show experience for everyone.

Of course, we don’t assign the booths on a whim. We consult with the exhibitors, take a look at their assortment and, as a team, are familiar with many games ourselves. Through this combination of feedback and experience, we build the halls in such a way that everyone at SPIEL Essen 23 feels comfortable, can find their way around easily and can enjoy their favorite hobby.

Exhibitors include publishers in Iceland, Moldova, and Egypt, so look forward to seeing games that you might never have seen before — and might not see anywhere else.

• In February 2023, designer Matthew Dunstan tweeted a breakdown of his 2022 income, noting that 2022 was “the first year I was completely full time as an independent designer with no other job”. His income in 2022 — apart from Postmark Games, which he co-owns with Rory Muldoon — was €113,970, compared to €44,244 in 2021.

Dunstan has been a published designer for a decade, with Relic Runners having debuted from Days of Wonder in 2013, and he notes in the thread that “royalties are not evenly distributed, with over 75% of my income coming from 3 titles: Echoes (designed with @DaveNealeWriter), the Adventure Games (with @PWalkerHarding), and Monumental“.

Adds Dunstan: “A takeaway is that while you definitely need at least 1-2 games that sell regularly over a period of many years (the Adventure Games were initially released in 2019 and sell more and more each year), you can somewhat help this by making series of games with regular releases. We’re about to release the 8th installment for the Adventure Games, and 5 for Echoes. This helps a lot with the overall sales, both in terms of more titles being available for purchase, and new releases helping to drive interest in older titles.”

• Royal Mail, i.e., the postal service in the UK, is releasing stamps that commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Warhammer RPG.

• To follow up a late February 2023 item about Spartaco Albertarelli’s Coyote, in Gamewright’s 2023 catalog the publisher lists three titles as having sold more than one million copies: Forbidden Island, Sushi Go!, and Qwixx. Each of these titles is at least a decade old, and the number of copies of them listed as owned on BGG (as of February 21, 2023) are:

— Forbidden Island: 84,975, or at most 8.5% of all copies sold

— Sushi Go!: 74,896, or 7.5%

— Qwixx: 23,145, or 2.3%

Just another example of how much gaming takes place outside the social media spotlight…


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