Spielwarenmesse: Interview with Pegasus: Digital games vs. board games?

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Movers & shakers

Interview with Pegasus: Digital games vs. board games?

from Harald Hemmerlein

Many publishers of games have taken leave of this split into two camps. Most classical titles can be supplemented very well with digital offers. In any event, the publishers find proximity to the games community more important. That’s where many ideas for new titles mature – after which comes the right platform. Andreas Finkernagel and Karsten Esser, managing director and owner of Pegasus Spiele GmbH, tell us what influence the games scene has on the sector.

Spielwarenmesse®: The market for classic parlour games has for years been quite stable in all toy markets despite strong competition from the digital corner. Will manufacturers of board and card games be similarly unworried by tablets and apps?

Andreas Finkernagel: As manufacturers of parlour games, we’re not worried about tablets and apps. For years now, you’ve been able to play digital versions of many of our games. Of course, every new technology and form of communication involves risk, but the opportunities these new communication media offer in the board and card games segment outweighs the risk by far. At Pegasus Spiele, we too are constantly exploring the possibilities of these technologies to find out what opportunities there are here for classic interaction.

Thus in the autumn of  2014 we were the first company to introduce the category of so-called A-Books (Adventure Books analogous to e-books) and to publish with our partner Questor AG an interactive book to accompany the best selling novel DIE ZWERGE by Markus Heitz. It expands the classic book interactively into a game for digital end devices. But we’re also planning to publish apps for our games. A specific example for Spielwarenmesse 2015 is BRAINS by Reiner Knizia, for which we’re bringing out simultaneously a game as an app and as a classic board game for digital end devices. We think it’s very unlikely that tablets and apps will displace classic gaming to any great extent.

Insiders estimate that there are not many more than maybe 8,000 frequent gamers in Germany, whose networks constitute the celebrated German games scene. What influence does this scene have on the German games market?

Karsten Esser: First, we think the number of frequent gamers you mentioned is too low. Where do you draw the line when you talk about frequent gamers. The German magazine for frequent gamers, spielbox, itself has a much higher circulation. Our own magazine for gamers, GamesOrbit, appears with a print-run of 40,000 copies. Die Siedler von Catan – The Settlers of Catan – that was one of the best-known winners of the Game of the Year would today be included in the category Games for Connoisseurs. Last but not least, we ourselves have sold over 100,000 copies of VILLAGE, the Connoisseur Game of the Year 2012.

For years, up to 160,000 visitors have been going on a pilgrimage to the Internationale Spieltage SPIEL – the international gamers’ exhibition – in Essen, and the majority are still from Germany. Naturally frequent gamers have a big influence on the product category Games for Connoisseurs, which is what we, like the jury, call the Game of the Year. And this segment is in fact growing. The Germans’ affinity with parlour games, much admired abroad, allows us as a publisher to operate in a domestic market where new ideas for games are all the time being born, tested and played, and they are not only found to be worth playing but are also turned into actual games. So we’re always getting new ideas for games in other categories which can be transformed into games for the family, in other media or, for example, on digital platforms. So the games scene gives us a strong foundation for the development and marketing of games worldwide.

What role do licences play in your programme and in the games market as a whole?

A.F.: Almost from the outset, at Pegasus Spiele we’ve been working with, for example, American publishers whose games we have adapted to the German market. In so doing, we introduced the Munchkin games brand to Germany and, with sales having exceeded the million mark, it has now become part of the mass market.

As well as with licences of foreign games, we were successful in those early days with products on classic licence themes like Lord of the Rings, for which we’re going to publish new games in 2015. Most recently, we published the party game to the
Blockbuster TV series The Big Bang Theory, and with the Der 7bte Zwerg – The seventh Dwarf – we’ve marketed a classic family game for young and old to accompany the animation film of Otto, the slapstick legend.

With strong licences, there’s always a possibility of more success in marketing a product. But for us here in Germany what’s more important is that licence products are a good game here in Germany or that they are based on a very good play principle. That’s why we simply focus always on making very good parlour games, because only then can they beat the competition and maintain their position in the market long term.

Can you see any trends at the moment?

K.E.: If you look further afield at the bigger picture and disregard the obvious trends like the increasing creation of links between classic board and card games and the mobile and online world, trends are proving to be ever more fleeting. Given this situation, the risk of relying on the simplest trend themes has multiplied. Long-lasting products and high-quality parlour games must, however, be conceived for a longer timescale.

On the other hand, customer preferences have changed radically in the case of toys and games themselves. Men and women are prepared to spend much more money on their themes and worlds. At the same time, theme worlds that only a few people were interested in have now moved centre-stage in society. A prime example of this is the Fantasy segment, which has become a mass phenomenon through the influence of Lord of the Rings alone. In the same way, many of our own theme worlds have shifted into the epicentre of the games scene. Products about zombies are another example. Or games for Japanese Manga and Anime series.

The reality of our lives has in recent years also changed to such an extent that we have ourselves set a trend with our series of new, stand-alone 2-person games that take account of the fact that we have many 2-person households. As you’ll see, a trend that will surely continue in 2015.


Author of this article:

Harald Hemmerlein

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