Spielwarenmesse: Interview with Ravensburger: the future of digital and analogue games

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Interview Michael Tiesler
  Movers & shakers

Movers & shakers

Interview with Ravensburger: the future of digital and analogue games

from Harald Hemmerlein

Ravensburger is very successful in the area of electronic gaming, and not just thanks to tiptoi®. In spite of the trend towards digitisation, classic board games are still very popular among the buying public. Michael Tiesler, Managing Director of Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH, gives insights into the current trend in family games and the digital future.

Spielwarenmesse®: Toys to Life is one of the global mega trends in the toy industry. The theme was brought into play by Activision a number of years ago. It was so successful that Disney and LEGO have now clambered on board with similar concepts. With tiptoi®, Ravensburger has a product range in its portfolio that also straddles the border between analogue and digital game worlds. Is this the future of the good old board game?

Michael Tiesler:
The good old board game, as you put it, still has its rightful place and devotees. This won’t change in the future. When playing with a board, cards and dice, what matters is the shared playing experience and that people are coming together around one table. At the moment, nobody knows whether linking analogue and digital elements in board games is the way of the future. There are good examples and some less good ones. What really matters when combining analogue and tactile elements is the objective behind this “symbiosis”: should the player get a more intensive, extensive and varied product? Should the electronics offer greater possibilities to scale games and promise more fun? It’s down to the overall concept in each case.
Ravensburger has been a big hit with families with children aged four to ten thanks to tiptoi, released in autumn 2010. Parents like how classic, tactile products such as games, books and toys are linked with intelligent electronics, without the need for a monitor. Children are fascinated by the slim pen, which they can use to discover the world for themselves and which explains everything to them, plays noises and songs and invites them to play funny games. The two children’s games of the year in 2008 and 2012 - “Wer war’s?” (Whoowasit) and “Schnappt Hubi!” from Ravensburger’s board games & electronics range - also successfully combine analogue and digital elements. This combination gives the games a new intensity and offers greater variability, so that children can experience them anew time and again. We will be bringing out another children's game innovation from this range in September – “Captain Black”. The board for this will become an 85-cm long, three-dimensional ghost ship. The players will be on board, part of a breath-taking sea adventure with the restless spirit of Captain Black, the electronic game character, who controls everything.

International perspectives: relatively few games manage to establish themselves worldwide, across cultures. This is surely down to more than just language obstacles. What do the few global bestsellers have that makes them different?

M. T.:
Memory, Labyrinth, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit and Rummy are all classics that have established themselves around the world over decades. They are successful because they all have a long tradition. There are actually no classic games of the last five years that have become global bestsellers. Only “line extensions” of the best games have been released in recent years. Our approach to play is a matter of our culture and this takes different forms in individual countries. It is not just language that plays a role but also the value placed on play in a society.

Various game awards have a really major influence on market activity in some cases in Germany. The PR effect of these awards is particularly overwhelming when it comes to the “Game of the Year”. This can be a blessing or a curse for publishers of award-winning games depending on their size. Either the publishers are too small to cater for the enormous demand or as global companies they are so big that an award is more likely to be seen as an unpredictable disruption to their sales, marketing and production plans. What effect does such an award have on your business?

M. T.:
“Game of the Year” is the most popular award in Germany and an honour for anyone who receives it. It bestows status and recognition on authors, illustrators, editors and publishers and is a major motivation to make good games. The award also guarantees good sales – and not just in the year in which it is actually awarded. At Ravensburger, the award would definitely not be seen as an unpredictable disruption, but as a great reason to celebrate.

Discover the product group Games, Books, Learning and Experimenting, Multimedia live at Spielwarenmesse®. Get informations now about products and markets on the product group page.

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