Spiel Essen set for another record-breaking year as upsized show sells out for exhibitor space

Spiel Essen, the world’s biggest board game fair, is set for another record-breaking year after a surge of interest saw it completely sell out its floor space for exhibitors – despite a big expansion in available capacity this year.

The event will see the entirety of six halls at its long-time home, the Messe Essen exhibition centre, given over to exhibitors for the first time in its 41-year history.

Merz Verlag, which runs the annual fair, said an unprecedented number of exhibitors asked to enlarge their booths for the 2024 event, which has also attracted a significant number of new publishers – meaning there is now a waiting list for further exhibitors this year.

Last year’s show, which attracted more than 930 exhibitors, increased the footprint of the event to about 62,500 sq m – a gargantuan area which would cover more than 11 American football fields.

That floor space has now been boosted by almost 10%, to over 68,500 sq m, for the 2024 event, which will take place between October 3 and October 6, by fully expanding into previously empty space across Hall 4 and Hall 5.

Merz Verlag managing director Carol Rapp

“We are overwhelmed by the rush to our show,” said Carol Rapp, managing director at Merz Verlag, adding “We knew quite early on that it would be fuller than 2023, but just before the deadline, we received a large number of registrations.”

That huge response caused the hall plans to be redesigned several times to make use of even the smallest corners of the space, while maintaining the existing aisle width for the safety of attendees.

Rapp added that expanding to further halls this year was not an option, as it would involve relocating existing exhibitors – something which requires long-term planning due to Spiel’s new focus on creating thematic areas around the fair.

She said, “It is impressive how popular Spiel Essen is. With this power, we are starting a successful fair, the expansion of which we will consider for next year.”

Last year the organisers remodelled all six halls, splitting the fair into separate segments for children’s, family and light-to-medium games, expert games, tabletop and miniature games, roleplaying games and trading card games, with a mix of small, medium and large booths in each zone.

Spiel hoped the new hall concept, coupled with much wider aisles, would help to better distribute the crowds in the halls, and make it easier to find smaller booths of lesser-known exhibitors.

BoardGameWire reported last June that the decision had not gone down universally well with all of the exhibitors, but the general response from booth organisers during the four-day event seemed to suggest business had gone well.

Merz Verlag will have one eye on a record attendance for this year’s event, having come close to the 209,000 set before the pandemic with the 2023 Spiel, which attracted 193,000 individuals.

The ticket shop for the event is set to open at the beginning of July.

Last week BoardGameWire revealed that Spiel Essen had scrapped using AI art to promote the event after a backlash last year and ongoing legal uncertainty over the technology.

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