Unlike the other major German game fair, the Nuremberg International Toy Fair, Spiel is open to consumers as well as publishers and designers. The fair often has over 130,000 guests with 151,000 in 2006, although numbers were low in 2007 due to a German rail strike.
It is currently the biggest gaming convention for board gaming, RPG, ect. in the world, followed by Gen Con Indy in Indianapollis, Indiana. It is reputedly the biggest and best public show for boardgames, card games and CCGs, with designers and publishers demonstrating their newest games, retailers selling games at discount, and a large fleamarket with a wide range of new and used games. In addition, there is usually a hall of comic book sellers, and one or two halls with RPGs and live action material, and a hall of large inflatables and activities for kids. The show sometimes has computer games, but these are unusual.
The exhibition centre is called the Messe Essen. It is in an area of Essen called Margarethenhöhe, in the South of the city.