Escape Room

Part
01
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Part
01

Escape Room industry: Overview and popular markets

While we have endeavored to provide extensive information on the global escape room market, due to the relatively new establishment of this market around the world, there is very little data pertaining to the global industry as a whole. However, we did find a number of relevant data points including the number of escape rooms worldwide, the key countries, average prices, the fragmentation of the escape room market and recent news. Below we provide a deep dive into our findings.

Market Data

Number of Rooms & Key Countries/Markets

As of August 2017, there were an estimated 2,800 escape rooms in operation worldwide.

At the end of Q2 2017, there were more than 1800 escape rooms in the US. According to data collected since 2014, the market began with just 22 escape room locations in the US, which grew to 450 by the end of 2015, then to 1,400 by the close of 2016. This data signifies a growth of 300% year-over-year in the US.

As of July 2016, there were a total of 163 escape rooms in operation in Canada, with Ontario reporting 69 rooms.

According to data collected on 1040 escape rooms worldwide, the countries with the most escape rooms by density are European nations with Cyprus reporting one escape room per 163,000 people, Estonia with one room per 189,300 people, Hungary with one room per 267,500 people and The Netherlands with one escape room per 373,400 people. The data also indicated that Europe has the most escape rooms, when comparing continents, with three times as many rooms as in North America and Asia.

Average Prices

According to the EscapeRooms website, the average price for an escape room session is USD 28. Prices range from as little as USD 4 in Chennai, India and up to USD 41 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Other countries in the low price end range include Ukraine (USD 4.2), Poland (USD 7.2) and Macedonia (USD 7.4). High-end prices include Iceland (USD 38.4), Luxembourg (USD 37.3) and Norway (USD 33.4).

Fragmentation

The escape room industry is reportedly very fragmented, with each location offering different experiences, technologies and story lines. According to a survey by EscapeRooms, the most common narrative worldwide is "Escape from the Unpleasant", followed by no narrative and a simple escape the room theme and "Engage with the Supernatural". Other variations include actors as part of the escape room story line, fitness challenges, custom electronics, high fidelity sets, internet-bought puzzles, weekend-long games in hotels and secret society-type narratives. Furthermore, narratives vary from continent to continent, with Asian escape rooms predominantly horror-theme based, while in Europe there is a preference for last century-themed scenarios. In the US, 25% of escape room players prefer a modern era scenario.

News & Developments

In March 2017, The Verge reported on the ways in which escape rooms are becoming the future of advertising. US-based companies such as FOX and HBO have used escape rooms to engage with audiences and the rooms have been popular at conferences and events such as Comic-Con and SXSW.

As reported by engadget in October 2017, car manufacturer Audi, released a special edition escape room to market its new E-Tron cars. Named the E-Tron Room, teams of three or four people search for a doctor who has disappeared and are presented with advanced mechanics, holograms, robotic arms and projection mapping. The aim was to showcase Audi's technological capabilities and provide a sneak-peek into what the company can offer in the future. Established in Barcelona, Spain, the room was free to the public and was planned to be moved to Madrid in November 2017.

Also in October 2017, the first Escape Room Industry Conference was held in Nottingham, UK. More than 150 people attended where topics discussed included escape room business management, customer service, market advice, home automation systems and future thinking for the industry. Individual guest speakers were followed by an Enthusiasts Panel where changes in the industry and puzzle favorites were discussed.

Conclusion

After extensive research, we were able to determine that there are more than 2,800 escape rooms worldwide and the average price per session is USD 28.
Part
02
of five
Part
02

Escape Room industry: trends

Escape room industry trends include having escape rooms onboard cruise ships, using actors to interact with the participants, escape room and meal combinations, using escape rooms as a learning experience and using escape rooms in advertising or promotion of a product. Each trend is described in detail below.

TREND #1: ESCAPE ROOMS ON CRUISE SHIPS
Companies like Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International have started the trend of escape rooms onboard cruises for entertainment. This trend is replacing other usual forms of entertainment on decks like Bingo and Shuffleboard. "Royal Mystery" on the Royal Caribbean International is a hybrid puzzle entertainment game and "Escape the big top" on the Norwegian Cruise line challenges guests to a physically challenging adventure. "Escape the Rubicon" is another unique challenge on "Harmony of the seas."

TREND #2: INTERACTION WITH ACTORS
Several Escape rooms include an added element of interaction with actors. Sometimes this could just be someone who makes the introduction while at other times they are a part of the experience. Paradiso in NYC carries this off successfully and has some good customer reviews. " The man from beyond" has also received good reviews about their actors. Some concerns that crop up regarding the use of actors are the talent quality as that can make or break the experience. Actors are becoming increasingly common in escape rooms, and a ready etiquette list is available online for players planning to go to escape rooms.

TREND #3: MEALS
Many establishments with escape rooms have started ensuring that there are enough dinner options available on the premises. Often, people start their evening with an escape room experience but would then leave for dinner and entertainment elsewhere. A new Escape room in Denver called Solutions Lounge and Restaurant offers guests food and beverage options.

TREND #4: LEARNING EXPERIENCES
Often, the information that you are exposed to in an escape room is cultural and historical, and similar to what you can get in a museum. Arizona State University has an escape room-styled museum on its campus. The experience includes a scavenger hunt, art matching, and code-breaking, among other activities to encourage team-building and a more participatory learning experience. Many teachers are including escape room strategies in class as they encourage critical thinking and provide a practical and immersive experience to prepare students for the real world. Nicole Naditz, a 12th-grade school teacher in California, has changed her classroom teaching style to include padlocks that open by solving math puzzles or science questions. KFC has also turned their kitchen into an escape room for training their staff.

TREND #5: ADVERTISING AND PROMOTIONS
Brands see an opportunity in escape rooms to engage with a captive audience. Audi has made an escape room to promote their e-Tron cars, and Ford has replaced their test drives with an escape room game. An Albertan Credit Union has been innovative in its marketing strategy using this virtual experience to educate the masses about financial responsibility. HBO and Disney have several experiences specific to their shows. A Novotel in Switzerland offers participants the experience of a stay in their hotel.

In conclusion, escape rooms continue to gain popularity, and there are several innovative ways of using them that are trending. Chief trends revolve around cruise ships, actors, meals, learning experiences and promotions.
Part
03
of five
Part
03

Escape Room industry: major players

The ten major players in the escape room industry provided below included three companies based in Asia, three based in Europe, and four based in North America. These escape room operators are considered ‘major’ as they either operate multiple facilities around the world, launched the first escape room in their country, and/or has opened the largest escape room in their city. For each major player below, I will provide the link to their website along with a brief overview of what makes them a major player in the escape room industry.

LIST OF MAJOR PLAYERS IN THE ESCAPE ROOM INDUSTRY

SCRAP Real Escape Game is based in Kyoto, Japan. The company created the first escape game in the world in 2007 when Takao Kato developed a real-life version of the video game Crimson Room, a point-and-click game that “involve the user moving a cursor around and clicking on different items to further progress in the game.” SCRAP Real Escape Game launched its first facility in the US in 2012 and today, it is operating escape rooms in Japan and North American cities such as San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Toronto.
Escape Hunt is based in Bangkok, Thailand. The company launched its first facility in July 2013 and is currently operating 250 rooms worldwide. After launching additional branches throughout the Asia Pacific in 2013/2014, Escape Hunt launched its first European branch in Brussels, Belgium on 22 December 2014 and later, its first branch in the US on 25 April 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Xcape Singapore is the first escape room operator in Singapore. The total size of its four local outlets is 6,400 square feet. Xcape Singapore has also launched outlets in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan.
Claustrophobia is based in Moscow, Russia. Its first facility was launched in 2013. The company is currently operating 150 escape rooms across 11 cities across Europe, Asia, and North America.
Escape Reality is based in Coventry, United Kingdom. In June 2017, the company opened the largest escape room in Las Vegas. It has also launched escape rooms in Chicago and Dubai.
On March 10, 2017, G.Point launched its first escape room in Barcelona, Spain. It is the largest escape room in the city. The size of the facility is 3,000 square meters and contains 18 rooms.
On July 19, 2016, Escape Hotel launched its first escape room in Hollywood. It is the largest escape room in Hollywood. The Geisha House Japanese restaurant was operating at this site for ten years before it closed in June 2013.
Key Quest is based in Ontario, Canada. It operates 37 venues in the US, making Key Quest the largest player in the country. Key Quest also operates 13 venues in Canada.
EXIT Canada is based in British Columbia. The company opened the first escape room in Canada. It is currently operating eight facilities in British Columbia and two in Alberta.
On March 9, 2016, Escape Manor partnered Diefenbunker to open the world’s largest escape room. Only one level of the four-story, 300-room, 100,000-square-foot Cold War museum was transformed into an escape room. Escape Manor is currently also operating escape rooms in other Canadian cities such as Toronto, Brisbane, and Regina.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, major players in the escape room industry include operators based in Asia, Europe, and North America. The largest escape room operator in the world, Escape Hunt operates 250 escape rooms worldwide, while the largest operator based in Europe, Claustrophobia operates 150 escape rooms.

Part
04
of five
Part
04

Escape Room industry: consumer demographics

Overview

The majority of escape room consumers fall between mid-to-late 20s and early 30s age group, with largely equal gender distribution, though they are also popular among families and corporations. A report by Forbes noted that Millenials have not only been early adopters, but also the drivers of the escape room industry. Los Angeles Times reiterated this assertion by stating that, "Escape rooms feed a taste for real-life diversion that tech-addicted millennials can enjoy with friends and strangers."

Corporations looking for team building and bonding experiences for their staff members are also making use of escape rooms and contributing to their revenue growth. Many of them are taking the lessons learned in escape rooms about their teams and applying them in their businesses. More and more corporations are using escape rooms for team building activities due to the new level of excitement and effectiveness that they bring. It is noted that major companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook have all taken their staff to escape rooms.

Trend towards experiences

Recently, there has been a trend among consumers to spend money on experiences rather than on goods, which has played a part in popularizing escape rooms. Research has shown that experience-related services, such as taking part in spectator events, traveling, going to amusement parks, and eating at restaurants have all grown 4 times faster than expenditures on goods. Another article by Financial Times reiterates the fact that modern consumers are moving away from material goods and tend to prefer experiences instead. This means that consumers are shifting their expenditure from goods to experiences, and escape rooms are among the favored experiences. Millenials spend the highest on experiences.

Demographics of escape room consumers

I did an intensive study and looked at a number of studies showing the demographics of escape room consumers, such as one survey on 175 escape rooms from around the world, which provides a demographic overview. The researchers used the Escape Room directory plus other escape room websites to locate these facilities. Below are some major demographics that came out of these research studies.

By age

The demographics according to age were as follows:
Corporate groups — 19%
Intergenerational14%
Date night — 11%
Young adults (under 21) — 19%
Groups of adults (over 21) — 37%
The escape rooms tend to be most popular with people over the age of 21.

Another interview with an owner of an escape room reiterates that young professionals (between the ages of 25 and 35) are the main customers of escape rooms. They enjoy doing this for social interaction and as a way to escape social media for a short while.

Another survey with 642 respondents agrees with the earlier survey report that consumers in the age bracket of 25 to 34 are the highest number. The breakdown was as follows:
Less than 18 — 24%
18 to 24 — 24.7%
25 to 34 — 29.5%

A 2017 survey of escape room enthusiasts found that Individuals aged 26-30 made up the largest number (23%), with those 31-35 in second place (21%). In addition, over half of the survey respondents indicated that they have received a Bachelor's degree or higher.

By gender

The breakdown of players by gender was as follows:
All female — 14%
All male — 15%
Mixed genders — 71%
According to the survey, escape rooms tend to attract both genders on a relatively equal measure as most groups are equally split between males and females. This was even more pronounced in Asia and Australia.

A different report shows the percentage of female consumers as being a little higher with 57.8% females against 42.2% males while mixed gender was at 82.7%.

By facilities

The breakdown by the number of games in facility was as follows:
One single game — 24%
Two different games — 27%
Three different games — 18%
More than three games — 31%

Facilities in Asia specifically were found to have more games than other locations with 66% of escape room facilities in Asia having over four games.

Conclusion

Millenials have been noted to be the major drivers of the escape room industry. Corporations are also quickly picking up the trend to enhance team building activities among their team members. The majority of escape room consumers fall in the mid-to-late 20s to early-30s age group, with largely equal gender distribution.

Part
05
of five
Part
05

Escape room industry:

The top five games in the United States are Austin Panic Room, Palace Games, Breakout Lawrence, The Basement, and 5 Wits' Tomb. The top five games worldwide are Escapade Games' Zoe, 5 Wits' Tomb, The Kingdom of Cats, Blitz Room, and Blast from the Past. It does not appear that many European or Asian rooms were rated by Escape Room Addict, so the worldwide rankings are not available; however, a 2015 study named the most influential escape rooms as SCRAP in Japan, Parapark in Budapest, Hinthunt in London, and Escape the Room in NYC. A deep dive of my research findings is below.

METHODOLOGY

Despite extensive research, I was unable to find a single consolidated list or rankings database of all worldwide escape rooms. I did unearth the Escape Room Addict website that uses an objective scoring system to rank escape rooms, but even though 310 rooms have been reviewed, there are few from Europe or Asia. Therefore, the top five list of global escape rooms is not comprehensive, as there does not seem to be a source that provides apples-to-apples comparison metrics for global escape rooms. There are top 10 TripAdvisor lists for worldwide cities, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other European countries, but there is no way to compare the results across lists to create a single global list.

As a result, I identified the top five escape rooms as scored by Escape Room Addict, but despite the fact that there are Canadian and Australian escape rooms on the list, it is not a complete analysis of worldwide escape rooms. Even so, I believe the 10 on the list are extremely popular not only in their respective cities, but also with visitors and escape room experts. It is important to note that even though I was unable to find a list that ranks global escape rooms, the “Peeking Behind the Locked Door: A Survey of Escape Room Facilities” indicates that the four escape room experiences that have had the most influence on new escape room design are SCRAP in Japan, Parapark in Budapest, Hinthunt in London, and Escape the Room in NYC. It is safe to say that these four escape rooms must be very popular with players if other companies are using them as inspiration for their own rooms. Although this study was completed in 2015, it is the most recent data available regarding escape rooms and will be used for statistics throughout the brief.

The top 5 escape rooms in the United States was compiled using four different “best of” lists, two of which are USAToday and 10Best's Readers’ Choice Travel Award winners lists for 2016 and 2017, one of which is a ranking of escape rooms by the Haunted House Association, and one of which is a ranking by Merry Jane, a definitive millennial resource for “news, culture, and video.” To make the top 5 list for the United States, an escape room had to appear on at least two of the four lists or be one of the highest ranked escape rooms according to Escape Room Addict. With the abundance of escape rooms currently in the United States, just five escape rooms were on two or more of these “best of” lists.

UNITED STATES

Please note: in absence of objective criteria, these escape rooms are presented in no specific order.


The Panic Room in Austin, Texas is “mind-puzzling and interactive escape room experience” that requires teammates to work together to solve a series of puzzles to escape one of five locked rooms within 60 minutes. The five themes offered at this facility are the Oval Office, Cabin Fever, Phase III Human Trials, Prison Break, and Abandoned School. One reason why people enjoy the Panic Room is because its rooms are changed every 10-12 months so “repeat players will always find a new challenge.” In addition, one feature of the Panic Room is that there are clues scattered throughout the room, which according to “Peeking Behind the Locked Door: A Survey of Escape Room Facilities,” is the most popular type of puzzle in escape rooms, with 78% of respondents saying they prefer “searching for physical objects hidden in the room.”


Palace Games, located in San Francisco, California, includes three different escape rooms based on historical figures and events. These are the Great Houdini Escape Room, the Roosevelt Escape Room, and the Edison Escape Room. Visitors to the Palace Games are transported back in time and must work together through communication and collaboration “in order to solve the mysteries of the room and discover the secret way out.” These history-themed games are popular with visitors because the puzzles require a high degree of teamwork, and based on the results of the escape room survey, 58% of rooms include puzzles that require team communication. Moreover, escape rooms with themes that place players in a specific time and place between 1900 and 2000 are the second-most popular themes at 24%. Only modern-themed escape rooms scored higher, but just slightly with 25%.


Located in Lawrence, Kansas, Breakout has five themed escape rooms that are ideal for game aficionados, team building, and tourists and travelers. The themes available at this site are Party Like It’s 1999, Can You Protect the Rules?, Time is Money, and Enlist Now. Two rooms, Party Like It’s 1999 and Enlist Now employ the popular themes of occurring in 1900-2000 (24%) and 1700-1900 (13%). The two other rooms fall into the “other” category (16%), which means there is no available data as to why these particular rooms would be popular. However, both rooms require teams to solve a mystery or crime, which is the third most popular escape concept, with 9% of respondents preferring this scenario.


Rated the #1 escape room in the U.S.A. by Escape Authority and ThemeParkUniversity, The Basement is located in Sylmar, California. It is a horror-themed room "where participants must work together to find clues, solve puzzles and escape the clutches of a crazed and cannibalistic serial killer." The Haunted House Association calls The Basement “the single-most immersive kidnap experience short of being in a real life SAW.” Horror-themed escape rooms are tied for fourth in popularity, with 13%, but the premise that players must “escape a specific unpleasant place,” rates it high among players, as 30% prefer such scenarios. There are two other rooms at this location, The Elevator Shaft and The Study, but only The Basement appears on ranked lists.


There are seven rooms at this Syracuse escape room facility, several of which have been reviewed by Escape Room Addict and two of which narrowly missed making the top 5 worldwide list. The Tomb room, however, tied for first with a 9.5/10.0 score. Unlike other highly-rated rooms, 5 Wits escape rooms are only 30-minute experiences. This makes it easy for players to play more than one scenario per day, which has been noted as a preference among escape room visitors. Out of the four scoring categories of “pre-room,” “room quality,” “immersion,” and “puzzle design,” Tomb lost just one-half point on "immersion". It received a perfect score otherwise. This room incorporates several popular characteristics of escape rooms, including being set in between 1900-2000 (24%), escaping a specific unpleasant place (30%), searching for hidden objects in the room (78%), and using team communication (58%).

INTERNATIONAL


Tied for the top overall game with 5 Wits' Tomb, Escapade Games' Zoe is a horror-themed escape room that has the reputation of being the “most frightening escape room” in the country. It is located in Fullerton, California and shares the space with one other escape room called The Last Experiment. Zoe received a 9.5/10.0 score from Escape Room Addict, the room having lost just a half point for “puzzle design”. The Escape Room Addict’s review of Zoe said, “Somewhere between an escape room, a theme park maze and interactive theater, this room will leave you drenched in sweat and heart pounding.” Players have said they particularly enjoy the attention to details “from the high quality props and set, and the technology used in the room to even pre-recording polite responses should one be needed in the room.” Mostly, though, visitors to this room say it’s the frightening nature of the story line that makes it a popular destination. For instance, Escape Room Addict said, “Overall, this is the most terrifying escape room any of us have ever played. While more puzzles would be nice, it’s hard to focus on solving puzzles when your adrenaline shuts off your brain. But the immersion, the owners, the overall experience in general was great! The waiting room was dark and foreboding, much like the actual experience itself.” As with The Basement, Zoe makes use of the popular horror theme to draw players in, but it also includes hidden clues (78%), riddles (37%), and ciphers (35%) to make the experience exhilarating.

5 Wits' Tomb (See description under the United States section)

Omescape’s The Kingdom of Cats

Ranked third on the Escape Room Addict list, with a score of 9.4/10.00, with “puzzle design” and “pre-room” scoring slightly less than 5 stars each, The Kingdom of Cats is very different from the other games on this list. Rather than attempting to escape from an unpleasant place, players have been magically entered into the annual "championship tournament to crown the wisest cat in the kingdom," which is a competition put on by Austin Schrodinger, ruler of the Kingdom of Cats. The fantasy theme is the 6th most popular type of escape room, with 12%, just one percent less popular than horror. The Escape Room Addict mentions that the theme is a primary reason for this room’s popularity, in addition to the puzzles and use of tech: Everything looks great, the puzzles are well integrated into the room, and there is a good use of tech, leading to a number of those special ‘wow’ moments. The feline theme is used well, and adds a fun and whimsical air to the room, making a nice change from the umpteenth ‘you have been kidnapped and must escape your dark and scary cell' type of room. The Kingdom of Cats is located in Markham, Ontario and shares the space with four other experiences, including Dark Altar, Joker’s Asylum, Project Sphere, and The Penitentiary.


The Blitz Room by Next Level Escape in Sydney, Australia received a 9.3/10.0 from Escape Room Addict, with the only negative points attributed to its “pre-room.” This room is different from a traditional escape room in that players have “only 15 minutes to whip through as many puzzles as they can.” Puzzles change every few weeks and teams compete to remain on the room’s leader board. As such, players don’t exactly “escape the room” when they play in the Blitz Room. Instead, they attempt to score as many points as possible by working through the various puzzles. In this way, “The Blitz Room retains the puzzle-solving feel of traditional escape rooms while shifting the focus away from escape towards maximizing point scoring. This means that prioritizing which clues you tackle is vital, since we guarantee that you won’t be able to get through everything.” The Blitz Room is part of the 10% of rooms that do not have a permanent theme. Instead, themes change every few months, with Game of Thrones having been a recent popular theme. Players specifically enjoy the diversity of the puzzles in this room and the shortened time limit, which allows them to play whenever they have a few minutes to spare.

60 to Escape’s Blast From the Past

60 to Escape made a top 10 list for the United States, but its Blast From the Past landed at number 5 overall internationally based on Escape Room Addict’s review. Located in Gurnee, Illinois, Blast From the Past scored a 9.2/10.0, losing a half point each for “pre-room,” "room quality," “immersion,” and “puzzle design.” Blast From the Past combines several popular escape room characteristics, specifically being set in the 1980s (24%) and investigating a crime or mystery (9%). However, unlike other games on this list, Blast From the Past is one of only a few escape rooms to include a missing person (3%). The story line is one of this room’s strongest points, with Escape Room Addict saying, “The adventure begins with a short, interesting, and well-made video that tells you important information about the game, and more importantly, it draws you into the theme with a little backstory. From the very first second, we truly felt as though we were in the story.” In addition, players appreciate the puzzle diversity, stating, “they have puzzles of vast variety in terms of how they work, the type of puzzle, and the difficulty of puzzles. Some puzzles we got right away, while others took us several minutes (and several brains) to figure out! We loved that this room required we communicate and work together, but there was also something for everyone to do.” Team communication is high on the list of popular aspects of escape rooms (58%), and Blast From the Past certainly makes it a priority. Blast From the Past shares the escape room space with three other experiences, including Bomb Squad, Containment, and Museum.

Conclusion

Based on Escape Room Addict Scores, the top overall escape rooms are Escapade Games’ Zoe and 5 Wits' Tomb, each scoring 9.5/10.0 points. Top escape rooms in the United States include Austin Panic Room, Palace Games, Breakout Lawrence, The Basement, and 5 Wits' Tomb.
Sources
Sources

From Part 05