Now we saw it all.
We saw Origins "Epic Failure" Online.
We saw Gen Con "XLS of somebody's else events" Online.
We saw the Dice Tower "Marathon of Gameplays" Spectacular.
We saw BGG "Not Paid Promotion of Discord" Virtual con
And this past weekend. We saw Spiel "Alternative BGG website" Digital.
So, yes, we saw it all.
We are ready to sum up the whole virtual thing now, but before we do, let me today discuss only Spiel.Digital
Vast exhibitor hall
I saw comments on the Internet that it was too much, too much of clicking, browsing, checking, people were saying that the whole website was too big, they were lost, they were tired after clicking on the site.
That is an interesting shift of perception. I myself dedicated 3 hours on Friday to check as many booths as possible, visiting them one after another. After those 3 hours, I was able to check more than half of the booths at Spiel.Digital in the Expert category.
In a real Essen Spiel, after 3 hours, I would probably be done with one hall. One of eight huge halls. I would just barely touch the event.
I found Spiel.Digital much easier to navigate than crowded halls where I am lost after every 20 meters of wandering. Here it was super simple, click, check what they have, click next, check what they have, next, click what they have... After 3 hours, as I said, I already checked half of the whole show. Super easy.
Hidden games on booths
Although wandering through the halls was much easier than in a real life, finding about the release was so so so much harder. In real life you walk by booth, you see game set up on demo tables, you see components, you can stay for 2 minutes and watch people playing and get some idea about the gameplay. Just look at the tables and get a first impression.
In the virtual world, you enter a booth, and you see a link to Tabletopia. No you are logging in, seeing an e-version of the game, and no gameplay in progress, just you and the table. What do you need to do now? Read rulebook? Look for some players to play? Ask for help? You log out. It is as simple as that. You won't bother.
I heard yesterday a very interesting point - no hidden gem exploded this Essen. No Aquatica, no Spyfall, no other game that was on nobody's radar before the show and exploded during the show. Small independent publishers had no chance to become supernova of the fair.
It is very simple - we did not try the new games on a massive scale as we do in the real physical world. No viral recommendation happened.
An Introvert's dream come true
Visiting a booth at Spiel.Digital was an experience suited for an introvert. You enter booth. Nobody chit chat with you. Nobody asks if you need help. Nobody asks you to join a game. You are alone, nobody talks to you, you can read a description of the game, browse through photos, check videos with gameplay or reviews.
No rush. No crowd. No noise. Only you and the complete information about the game in front of you. Personally, I loved it.
But! But then there are publishers. And publishers...
...Publishers disrespected players
More than half of the booths I checked had no materials dedicated to their releases. It is freaking mindblowing. Publisher pays for the booth. Publisher participates in the biggest virtual show of the year. And he is too lazy to upload a freaking photo of the product. Too lazy to upload a single video. He doesn't even link a review of the product from Dice Tower or any other YouTuber.
I cannot believe how not prepared most of the publishers were. How disconnected they are from the ways and tools of promoting the product in the XXI century. How lazy their marketing teams are.
Many booths at Spiel.Digital were a sad manifest of complete disrespect to attendees.
Buying games was easy
Spiel.Digital did something revolutionary for geeks who buy games - you were able to buy most of the new releases from one general webstore. Instead of buying games at each separate booth (which also was an option), you were able to check Spiele Offensive and Pegasus Spiele webstores, and they had in the offer most of the new releases. In a few clicks, you were able to buy 20 new releases from all these small and big publishers and have it boxed in one package and shipped to your home.
So efficient. So easy. Click, click and you have a new game from Portal, Kosmos, Amigo, Board & Dice, Hobyworld and all other publishers - packed in one box, shipped to your home.
So much better than holding these insanely heavy IKEA bags through the halls and pulling them to your car in the far, far away parking lot.
Buying games lost the charm
You see the crowd at the booth, people holding the new game, the line of gamers excited to buy the new one hot thing is long, and the energy is here, and the need to be in the line, to buy the game, to bring it home, to have it in hand, to open it in the evening in the hotel, to discuss it in the nigh at restaurant, to show it to other geeks what you bough, discuss it... It didn't happen at Spiel.Digital, right?
When you go to Germany, when you travel to Essen, you want to bring memories from fair. You buy stuff, because it is Essen, it is celebration of new releases, and you want to bring memories home.
Spiel.Digital lacks of this element. When you sit at home, at your desk, when you browse the catalog, there is no charm. No geeks pressure. No hype. No crazy energy. No people proudly holding the game. No need to have it and to have it now!
You can order it two weeks later from your fav online store. Buying games at Spiel.Digital makes no difference from buying on Amazon.
So why care?
Spiel.Digital by far was the best virtual con of the year. Spiel.Digital by far prepared the most epic infrastructure and gave us tools to enjoy virtual board game convention. We were given so many features to have a great time at the con. The site was mindblowing with all the booths, live streams, Tabletopia integration and all other possible features. It's a stunning effect of hard work and months of preparations. No other virtual con so far was even close to what we received here. I applaud and respect what was achieved here.
Spiel.Digital did all there is to provide board gamers an event to enjoy.
The question remains, though - was it enough?
And even more important question - is it even possible?
Please, let me know in the comments what's your take on the virtual cons and Spiel.Digital in particular.
You can follow me on Twitter at @trzewik. This is BGG copy of my blog BoardgamesThatTellStories.com
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