Since 1986, the Cannes International Games Festival has been a mecca for board game players. Less publicized than the Cannes Film Festival, the latter nevertheless delivers one of the most prestigious prizes in the gaming world: the As d'or - Game of the Year. The Internet user reveals his secrets to you.
It's not just the cinema that ignites the Palais du Festival de Cannes. From 10,000 festival-goers during the first edition in 1986 to more than 110,000 during its last physical edition in 2020 (in 2021 due to the epidemic the show was canceled and the awards ceremony took place by videoconference), the Cannes International Games Festival has continued to grow.
Created in 1988, the As d'or prize has evolved over time, both in terms of the jury and the selection process. In 2005 the award merged with "Game of the Year" to become L'As d'or - Game of the Year. What is the place of this prestigious award in the gaming ecosystem? Who makes up the jury and how do they judge the hundreds of games created each year? So many questions to which we will try to provide answers.
To be eligible for the Ace d'or, a game must have been released in France during the year and not be a reissue or an extension. "What interests us are the games that come out for the first time in French on the French market. Both a creation and a localization", explains Olivier Reix, member of the jury.
Corollary to a dynamic market, each year more than 450 games are eligible for the Ace d'or every year. This year the jury tested 450 games to keep only 12, divided into 4 categories. "The nine jurors play as many games as possible on their own. We try to have each game tested by at least two members. We have a shared Excel file to follow the progress of the tests. This allows us to ensure that we we test all the games and that no box is dropped. As in any testing process, games emerge fairly quickly, we distinguish three annotations: indisputable, why not and no chance. Very quickly, we skim those that fall into the third category and we focus on the other two and refine this selection throughout the year. The 50 to 60 games that caught our attention are tested by the full jury. On some games, I was able to play up to 30 games and on others only 2 or 3", explains Olivier Reix.
The jury is made up of representatives from all playful backgrounds: general and specialized press, shops, toy library, café games. Its members communicate throughout the year. Physical meetings are quite rare, even outside of pandemic periods. A first plenary session takes place on the occasion of the Paris festival is fun. Three weeks before the deliberation, the nine members meet for a weekend to refine the list and ensure that they have all the cards in hand for the time of the deliberations. "We don't necessarily all play together: there aren't many games that are played at 9. The idea is to be isolated for a weekend and focus on the games that we have short listed. Fortunately, on good games, there is quite often a consensus", further analyzes Olivier Reix.
Officially the selection criteria are: originality, creativity, innovation, quality of design, aesthetics, flawless rules and fun of the game. To those who might be surprised not to see replayability among these criteria, Olivier Reix explains: "In Absolutely, we obviously want to want to play a game several times. , this type of game is not replayable, but they offer a unique and awesome experience. The same is true for investigation games like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective".
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Each member of the jury has their own more or less subjective criteria. Olivier Reix confides that he does not give any importance to the price of the game - but it seems obvious that for the members representing the game shops that this criterion is important.
For the expert, losing or winning a game has no effect on the score. On the other hand, first impressions are crucial, and it can be tragic for a game to have a rulebook that is not up to standard. "After 20 years of games, I have become quite demanding. If you don't understand the rules when reading them, especially for a simple game, then it's unacceptable", adds Olivier Reix.
While expansions and reissues of games are not eligible, as long as the rules are new and original, it is possible for a licensed game to qualify. "As with movies, we've seen the rise of franchises in recent years - to build on a brand that's known and loved by gamers. If you compare Unlock, every new game has the same mechanic, so it's is eliminatory. On the other hand, 7 Wonders returns with a 7 Wonders Architect game and offers a completely new game mechanic - and therefore an original game experience. We had the same crush on Dragonimo which was based on the license of Kingdomino and took up the domino markers and the graphic universe, but brilliantly redesigned for a children's audience", explains Olivier Reix.
While the number of nominated games remains stable with 12 games, the categories have increased from 3 to 4. For Olivier Reix, this development was necessary to give more clarity to the different prizes. "Initially the Ace d'or had 12 categories, but it was incomprehensible, we refocused on 3 prizes. Child, clear for everyone. All audiences, again very readable. And Expert, this category is a a bit bastardized that lacked clarity. Indeed, a slightly advanced game can have a slightly more complex mechanics than a game for everyone without really being for experts, who prefer complex games with often very long games. This is why we introduced this year the Initiated category which meets the target of more than occasional players".
For Gautier Althaus, public relations manager and game buyers at Philibert - a specialized online store - the As d'or is an essential prize: "It's the prize with the greatest reputation in France. The biggest media aura with coverage not only in the specialized press but also in the daily and national press. For us, as a specialized e-commerce site, this is a price that allows us to bring in new customers. Indeed, some games are not available in supermarkets or on Amazon". As soon as the selections were announced, the undeniable aura of the prize sparked enthusiasm for the 12 games in the running, which reached its climax the weekend following the announcement of the winners.
Thierry Przybyla - Manager of the Black Book e-boutique (role-playing games, board games, accessories) explains: "The selection of the Golden Ace is a perfect excuse to highlight these 12 games. We rely on the legitimacy of the award to highlight a full article on the selection via an insert on our website, coupled with a newsletter sent to our subscribers. We communicate again once the winners are known, it's a real extra soul for a game than to obtain the Ace of gold".
Patrice Boulet, co-founder and co-manager of Iello editions, explains that as the sector is growing, with a constantly increasing number of new products, it is becoming difficult for retailers and consumers to make their choices. "A label like the As d'or is a guarantee of quality that helps to guide these choices. All the nominated games benefit from a boost. The entire gaming sector: consumer, retailer
The publisher adds: "Since December 2019, we have seen Christmas catalogs - those famous bibles from the big brands - which highlight games that have won L'As d'or.
On one or more pages. It is a presentation to the general public which is a real recognition of the work of the entire entertainment channel. It is also a label that is beginning to be scrutinized around the world. For example, our game Little Town, selected in 2020 for L'As d'or, has gained international visibility; it makes it possible to decide on foreign publishers to buy the license to localize and distribute the game at home. We certainly do not have the assurance of a raid at the level of a Goncourt, but it is an undeniable boost, especially on the most popular games.
Once the winners are known, the actors will redouble their efforts to communicate with their usual audience but also with the general public. "One of our growth objectives is to make our existence known to the general public and occasional players. That they get used to specialized game stores and abandon Amazon and Leclerc. Communication around the As d'or is a moment where we invest in the purchase of advertising space on Facebook, Google and other advertising platforms", concludes Gautier Althaus.
The latter fears only one thing, the curse of the shortage: "There is a fairly recurring curse, the game which obtains the Golden Ace of the year is often out of stock at the time of the announcement. So this year with the supply difficulties the risk may be even greater".
More than 110,000 visitors roam the aisles of the show, and visit the 300 stands where there are more than 5,000 professionals ready to demonstrate thousands of games. The grand palace is full to attend the awards ceremony. All of this would not be possible without the work of the many employees of the Cannes International Game Festival. Work which is coordinated by the project manager of the festival: Maelle Johnson. For the Internet user, she returns to the high point of this event: the ceremony.
"The media and spectators are increasingly interested in the Golden Ace prize. The number of interactions on social networks continues to grow. Last year, due to Covid-19, we we had to carry out the awards ceremony online and in less than 24 hours the video garnered more than 34,000 views on our Facebook account. This year, health constraints are forcing our hosts of Are you game? to stay in Canada We therefore have Martin Vidberg and Simon Murat who will be their emissaries to present the show they have designed. We work in cycles of 3 to 4 years with animators to keep the ceremonies as dynamic as possible. Every year from the summer we begin to work on the concept of the ceremony, we discuss the budget of the ceremony and work hand in hand throughout the edition.The ceremony is the high point of the festival, even if the budget of the living room was impacted by the pandemic, that allocated to the cere Mona is intact. And from October, we have regular meetings on staging and any specific needs. And everything accelerates around January 20 when the list of nominees is known. Some sketches are then finalized to take into account the particularities of the list".
The festival teams, after an edition canceled by the pandemic, are full of hope for this first edition in the world of "not completely after". “We have implemented a health protocol validated by both the prefecture and the ARS. According to social networks, the public is eager to return and the publishers are also very much awaiting this resumption of the festival, all the stands have been sold, despite Asmodée not coming. We are ready and are impatiently awaiting the reunion with the playful public", concludes Maelle Johnson.
Historical games such as Bridge and Scrabble are still well represented, the share of board games and role-playing games has taken on a new dimension in the image of the gaming market. The Swedish group Embracer acquired, in 2022, Asmodée, the French leader in board games for the tidy sum of 3 billion euros. Proof if it were needed of the dynamism of this market.