Update: This piece is outdated. We published US Escape Room Industry Report – July 2022 on July 30, 2022.
We’ve been tracking the growth of the escape room industry in the United States for two years. In that time, the industry has boomed, going from under a dozen room escape companies to over 900. The growth isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
Escape room growth over time
At the end of 2014, there were 22 escape room companies in the US.
By mid 2015, there were at least 100.
At the end of 2015, there were 450.
Today, in mid 2016, there are over 900.
These days, it’s rare for a day to go by when we don’t add at least one company to the map.
These numbers count individual locations as different companies. A company with a dozen locations is counted 12 times. Multiple locations can be across the country or just down the street.
These numbers count companies that aren’t officially open for business, but are clearly establishing a business that will open soon.
These numbers do not count companies who might open some day. A single social media page does not count as open soon. Companies need to have a physical address publicized on a legitimate website. Because map. And because links.
These numbers only track the growth in the United States, the Caribbean, Mexico, and in Canada within a few miles of the US border.
The RoomEscapeArtist.com Map exists in both map form and spreadsheet form. These two aren’t programmatically linked, so occasionally there are inconsistencies.
Also, because we do this by hand, we’ve been known to create broken map pins, typos, etc. Please let us know if you discover any such errors so that we can fix them.
The spreadsheet originally included every game offered at every location of every company. If a company offered four games at four facilities or one facility, it had four spreadsheet listings.
By the fall of 2015, keeping track of individual games became unmanageable. Companies opened new games and closed their older ones. They rarely let us know. The spreadsheet was perpetually out of date and the data set became dirty.
In early 2016 we relaunched the spreadsheet to match the map. It now has a listing for each location. The map and spreadsheet display the same information in different views.
Neighboring the United States
The map and spreadsheet include some non-US company locations.
Canada: There is no hard science as to which Canadian companies are listed. Generally, we list Canadian companies that are extremely close to the US border and not in major Canadian escape room markets (coughTORONTOcough).
Mexico and the Caribbean: There aren’t a lot of companies in this region, so we list all the ones we can find, provided we can figure out where to drop the pin on the map. I don’t speak Spanish and the Mexican address structure confuses me.
Metropolitan area growth
New York has the most escape room companies of any US metropolitan area. It has approximately 50.
Los Angeles comes in second with about 40.
After that the numbers drop off dramatically. The metropolitan areas with more than 20 companies include Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Boston.
These stats cannot answer the big question on the escape room community’s mind: how many companies can the market bear?
Ultimately we maintain that the market will never reach a high-quality game saturation point. However, it could break due to an over-saturation of low and mid-range games. If players keep seeing the same patterns, they could easily burn out on the entire medium, falsely believing that they’ve seen all that there is to see.
We will continue to watch the trends and keep an ear to player behavior.
Update: For a deeper understanding of our tracking methodology and a few corrections, please read, “Industry Growth Tracking Methodology.”
Great and useful information. I think you hit the nail on the head with saturation of low-mid quality games.
I agree with the saturation of crappy rooms and kit companies. However that will help better rooms stand out and be sought after.
I think in this business online reviews are actually helpful. They are usually pretty spot on in many case.
I can’t agree with you on this one Bizzaro. I made the case in https://roomescapeartist.com/2016/03/08/on-competition-between-escape-room-companies/.
I think you’re underestimating the number of players who are experiencing poor games as their first, and last escape room. Crappy companies tend to flood the market with high value coupons, and there are a lot of folks who buy them wanting to see what these “new escape room things” are like, and leave thinking they are lame.
Yes, this is something that is so frustrating to us. We put a lot of effort into a unique, multi-room immersive game. There are several competitors who run groupon constantly and discount heavily for corporate events. We feel we have a product that justifies our cost, but people who have only a vague concept of what an escape game is start by asking us the price. I try to explain the differences, but know that I am losing a lot of business on price… and that people who don’t have a great experience are unlikely to become enthusiasts. On the bright side, there is a difference in the ratings and our #1 spot on TripAdvisor is bringing in some customers.
Dee, I wish you the best of luck. That’s a difficult problem that a lot of companies are facing. My general advice to companies who are producing a high quality product is to team up with other companies who are doing it right and encourage your customers to visit the other’s facility.
Help the high end grow.
Hi Lisa. Hi David.
This was an interesting piece. One thing about this growth is that it doesn’t seem to be driven by some over-arching trend in people’s tastes or anything like that. It’s just that it’s been discovered that it’s a viable business model. At least that’s how it looks to me.
Anyway, it’s got me thinking I should be going after this as an outlet for my books. If they don’t have gift shops, they should, and they should have Path Puzzles in them!
So here’s my question for you two. Do you have a database of room escape companies with phone numbers in it? My plan is to systematically contact them and get the word out about the book. Do you have such a database?
Rod, we LOVE your Path Puzzle book, and have been giving copies as gifts.
Our review of your book is written, and will go live soon (it’s been delayed by our absurd backlog of reviews). Once it’s live, we should talk, I’m sure we can help you get the book into the hands of people who will truly enjoy your creation.
Sweet! Thank you! I really appreciate it.