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SPIEL '20 Cancelled

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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From gallery of W Eric Martin
The news that many people had been anticipating has now been made official: Convention organizer Friedhelm Merz Verlag has cancelled SPIEL '20, which was scheduled to take place October 22-25, 2020. Here's the full text of this announcement:
Dear SPIELers,

With great regret we have to announce today that we have to postpone this year's SPIEL, which was planned for 22nd to 25th of October 2020, to the date 14th to 17th of October 2021.

The health of our exhibitors, visitors, guests and employees is very important to us.

We have been observing the very dynamic national and international development regarding Covid-19 very closely over the last weeks and months and have explored all possibilities for the implementation of SPIEL '20, also in coordination with the authorities. Unfortunately, this has led to the conclusion that due to force majeure, we will not be able to run SPIEL '20 on the intended date, either factually or technically. After a long time of consideration we have come to the painful conclusion that SPIEL will have to be postponed by one year.

However, we are already looking ahead to SPIEL '21 and can't wait to welcome you next year again.

Until then, please stay safe and healthy.

Your SPIEL-Team
Despite the vast size of the Messe in Essen where SPIEL takes place, the huge number of people in those halls would have made it possible for one sick person to infect a thousand or more attendees, with those attendees then spreading their illness all over the globe, so it's no surprise to me that this event has been removed from the calendar.

Publishers around the world will still release new games in Q4 2020, of course, but the launching pad for those titles won't be SPIEL '20. Time for everyone to adjust to "The Great Pause of 2020", to use terminology from Looney Labs, and figure out which games to announce when, whether to delay titles to 2021 when retail markets might be fully operational or whether to launch earlier when people are looking for more home-based activities, and how to create buzz and licensing deals for a title when the buzziest event of the game industry isn't taking place. We all have a lot of adjusting to do in the weeks and months ahead...

Update: After I went back to bed following the announcement of the 2020 SdJ nominations, Friedhelm Merz Verlag sent the following note to members of the press, a note that suggests more directly why the event was cancelled:
Faced with an unchanged dynamic situation and the resulting lack of planning security, the world's largest and most-visited public fair for board games SPIEL, which last year welcomed more than 200,000 visitors and 1,200 exhibitors from all over the world, will not take place this year and will be postponed until next year.

"We have observed the very dynamic national and international development with regard to Covid-19 very closely over the past weeks and months and have evaluated all possibilities for holding SPIEL '20", explains Dominique Metzler, Managing Director of the organizing Friedhelm Merz Verlag. "Unfortunately, this has led to the conclusion that we will not be able to hold SPIEL '20 at the planned date due to a lack of planning security. A solid and responsible fair preparation is not possible under the given circumstances. For this reason and after a long period of consideration, we have come to the result, which is certainly very painful for everyone, that we will have to postpone SPIEL by one year."
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