Spielwarenmesse: Interview with Heidelberger Spieleverlag: Digital works too!

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Movers & shakers

Interview with Heidelberger Spieleverlag: Digital works too!

from Harald Hemmerlein

Technical components already abound in traditional parlour games, while licences fuel the interest of the occasional player. We talked to Harald Bilz, Managing Partner, Heidelberger Spieleverlag, about the games scene.

Spielwarenmesse®: For years now the market for traditional parlour games has been pretty steady in all toy markets despite strong digital competition. What about tablet PCs and apps? Aren't they going to worry board and card game makers either?

Harald Bilz: We don't see digital competition as a serious threat. On the one hand, despite MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games, editor's note) and multiplayer games with various teamspeak features, analogue games create a completely different group experience and thus give rise to a very different game quality.

On the other hand, there will be more and more 'digital-aided board games' in the future. So digital features are less a threat as more an opportunity for game publishers, Ravensburger's successful Tiptoy for one, or right now the app for the board game version of the classic computer gram X-Com. There will be more board games with digital components in the future.

So it's going to be less an issue of 'either - or' and far more one of 'both -and'.

Insiders estimate that in Germany there are maybe not more than 8,000 frequent players whose networks constitute the much-vaunted German 'games scene'. What impact does this scene have on the German games market?

H. B.: We estimate that figure to be more like 50,000 frequent players, but then it always depends on how exactly you define things. We break down this group into


  1. typical 'German gamers' (people who mainly play complicated strategy games: Alea, Lookout, so games like 'Settlers of Catan' but with a higher level of complexity)
  2. sci fi-savvy players who are also interested in
  • CCGs (Collectible Card Games, editor's note)
  • LCGs (Living Card Games, editor's note)
  • deck building (Magic, Netrunner, HDR card game, Dominion etc.)
  • dungeon crawlers (like e.g. Descent)
  • horror games (like Arkham, Eldrich, Mansions of Madness)
  • Cosim (conflict simulation, editor's note)-style board games (like Battlelore or Battles of Westeros)
  • or even board games with role playing (like Talisman or Mice & Mystics).

Although the first group might not consist of more than 10-15,000 people, the second has at least 30-50,000 fans, some of whom are very loyal.

Of course these 50,000 'game nerds' don't have a decisive influence on the market, but they are the people who have elevated 'gaming' to one of their main hobbies and they are represented to a disproportionate extent in national and international forums. So it makes sense to take a brief look at various kick-start projects to get an idea of how much this comparatively small group actually invests in their hobby.

What role is played by licences in your assortment and in the games market as a whole?

H. B.: Well-implemented licence themes make it easier for us to reach potential 'frequent players' in the much-cited mass market (defined incidentally not so much by game content as mainly by distribution channels).
If well-done, these 'bridge games' enable us to turn 'occasional' into 'frequent' players because they can trigger an 'eureka' moment that transcends Monopoly and Risk.

Any current trends of note?

H. B.: There are always new trends ... A very obvious one is the increasing integration of digital technology into traditional board games.


Author of this article:

Harald Hemmerlein

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