Should you Crowdfund an Escape Room? A Data-Driven Look

Most crowdfunded escape rooms fail… but does the data reveal ways to improve the odds?

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Hypotheses

  • Most crowdfunded escape rooms fail.
  • Crowdfunding escape rooms has had diminishing returns over time.
  • Most successful escape room crowdfunding campaigns set a low monetary goal.

Methodology

Since 2013, there have been 84 escape room Kickstarter campaigns. We collected the following data points for each campaign:

  • Campaign Name
  • Close Date
  • Location
  • Success/Fail/Cancel
  • Campaign Goal
  • Earned Money
  • Number of Backers
  • Tabletop?

We converted all local currencies to US Dollars using the conversion rate for the date that the campaign closed.

We removed Kickstarters for tabletop escape room games from the analysis below. In doing so, we removed the most significant outlier from the data.*

We focused this study on Kickstarter, the most widely used crowdfunding platform for escape rooms. This limited the variables in the data set. Note that there have also been escape room campaigns on Indiegogo and GoFundMe.

Analysis

Of the 84 escape room Kickstarter campaigns analyzed, 20 completed successfully. That’s a 25% success rate.

Over time

Crowdfunding Campaigns Over Time, shows a regular increase in campaign, but diminishing numbers of successful campaigns.

Each year there have been more Kickstarter escape room campaigns. (Note that the data for 2017 is only for the first quarter.) On the flip side, each year fewer of these campaigns have been successful.

Geography

Crowdfunding Campaigns by Country shows campaigns in Germany, The Netherlands, the UK, the US, and other. Most campaigns were in the US. UK campaigns were more successful by ratio.

Escape rooms in the United States used Kickstarter the most. This was followed by the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, and Germany, in that order. There was one campaign each from Australia, Belgium, and Canada.

Money

Average goal vs earnings: Shows that the average goal runs around $15,000 while the average earnings for escape rooms hovers a little over $2000.

Most escape rooms didn’t even come close to achieving their campaign funding goal. In this regard, the United States was no different from any other country.

Gap in Goal vs Earnings: Shows that most campaigns miss their goal by a very wide margin, while the successful campaigns just barely exceed their goal.

Successful campaigns set lower goals. On average, the goal of successful campaigns was 1/3 of the dollar value of campaigns overall.

Most successful campaigns barely achieved their funding goals. On average, successful campaigns met their funding goal with 119%. More than half of these made their goals with less than 110%.

Inference: This likely means that many of these campaigns were pushed past their funding threshold by the game’s creators. It’s likely not a coincidence that most successful campaigns just barely exceeded their goal.

Backers

Average number of backers shows that most campaign receive an average of 25 backers, while successful campaigns receive an average of 65 backers.

On average successful campaigns had more than twice as many backers as campaigns over all. They were likely reaching beyond their family and friends.

Canceled campaigns

5 campaigns were canceled prior to failure. In one instance, the company relaunched a new campaign after the canceled one. The original campaign set a goal at $7,500. When they tried again, they set a more attainable goal of $1,500. They successfully raised $1,520. To succeed, they lowered the goal and then just barely attained it.

Kickstarter’s stats for all industries

According to kickstarter’s published stats (which are continually updated), 35% of all launched campaigns have successfully completed.

A general category, “games” is right in line with this at a 34% success rate.

I initially thought that it may have been the limited geography of escape rooms that resulted in a lower success rate, but the theater category seems to disprove that assumption. Kickstarters for theater complete successfully 60% of the time.

My assumption is that escape rooms are less well known and not viewed as an inherent public good in the same way as theater.

There are a lot of reasons why Kickstarter campaigns fail. Given the general Kickstarter trends, escape room campaigns have room for better performance.

Success stories

These were the 5 most successful escape room Kickstarter campaigns:

Chart depicting campaign outliers; the only 5 campaigns to exceed their goal by 150% or more.

With one exception, they had modest goals relative to the data set.

The earliest one from 2014 was Sherlocked, which we visited in Amsterdam and loved. Most of these were more recent. Perhaps they looked at the data before they dove in?

The outlier of the outliers

Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment has been the most successful escape room Kickstarter campaign to date. It raised an impressive $135,429, which is 695% of the original campaign goal.

Escape Room in a Box co-creators Juliana Patel and Ariel Rubin spent 3 months researching and preparing their Kickstarter campaign before it launched. They looked for resources within the established board game industry. They recommend the following:

Juliana and Ariel also recommend that before launching a Kickstarter, you join the community, both locally and on the internet. If you engage with the community, you’ll have a better idea of what the players want and how to differentiate your experience from what’s already available.

Conclusion & recommendations

Three quarters of crowdfunded escape room attempts on Kickstarter have failed.

Most successful crowdfunding campaigns set a low monetary goal and barely achieved it.

The successful crowdfunding campaigns reached a larger audience of backers.

This leads us to believe that crowdfunding might be most efficient as a marketing and pre-sale tool for escape rooms.

Think twice about crowdfunding your entire escape room venture. It’s a lot of work and you certainly aren’t guaranteed success. Do your research and use crowdfunding strategically; it’s not a lottery ticket.

4 thoughts on “Should you Crowdfund an Escape Room? A Data-Driven Look

  1. I think looking at averages hides away so much of the story. If you look at the failed crowdfunding attempt in the UK, most of them were obviously ridiculous with only one or two backers, aiming way too high and with prices for backers that were close to normal game tickets. Any crowdfunding attempt that gets such a small number of backers should probably be ignored by people who are bothering to read your guide.

    The more interesting thing to me is looking at the individual cases:
    – Oubliette. They had a proven track record, a medium goal, and pushed reasonably hard on social media. Backer prices wasn’t amazing.
    – Bewilder Box. They got national media coverage, had a celebrity involved and were playing on an 80s TV show which got the nostalgia vote. They also pushed hard on social media. Backer price wasn’t amazing.
    – Enigma Quests (1). Based in London, with an easy accessible them (magic) and were massively boosted by getting an entry in Time Out. You can see the obvious spike when they got mentioned, firstly online then in they physical copy: http://www.kicktraq.com/projects/1346245478/immersive-experience-live-quest-enigma-quests-lond/. Backer price was very good.
    – Enigma Quests (2). Established company by now and went for a very low amount. Backer price was very good.
    – Enigma Escape. Pushed heavily in social media, very early escape room. Backer price was OK

    There are some obvious strands in there. Another big problem is that when I first backed kickstarter projects, I was going to run out of escape rooms soon. Now there are more than I can keep up with. Discounts have to be substantial – I’d be looking at getting a game for under fifty pounds to convince me. Otherwise, I’ll wait till you launch and see whether you’re actually any good.

    My advice:
    – Aim reasonably low
    – Get lots of early backers – convince friends and families to back early, offer some extra good early rewards. No one wants to back a project which is doing badly.
    – Convince your backers to convince other people – improve the initial backers rewards if you hit stretch goals.
    – Give good discounts. Think of it as a better option than Groupon and discount accordingly. People wait around for a second Groupon but won’t for a second kickstarter so you shouldn’t feel so worried about dropping prices.
    – Try to get the media onside. Offer to write their article, get local papers in. Try to get a link sent out on Twitter.
    – Either go for a metropolitan area with a large market or go for somewhere without an escape room.
    – Keep pushing social media.

    Sorry. That was almost an article in its own right!

    1. Lisa and I totally agree with you. The successful campaigns absolutely have their own unique stories, which we’re thinking about exploring.

      That said, the high level look does reveal quite a bit about the sorry state of most attempts at escape room crowdfunding.

  2. Good stuff, Lisa. The only additional data point I’d like to ask if you have is: how many of these campaigns were to open new businesses vs how many were for existing businesses (going towards either a new location or any other kind of enhancement)? This may not be available and I’m not asking you to manually examine all 84 campaigns, but it might result in an interesting correlation.

    This idea came to me from a “boardgame cafe” here in the SF Bay Area that ran a kickstarter not to fund their cap-ex, but to raise community awareness and provide early incentives for board gamers to support them. I think their goal was only like $1000, and they ran it when they were already 1-2 months out from open.

  3. That’s another great data point to investigate. From looking over the data, I see a lot of businesses I recognize. It would take a bit of digging to see which came first though, in many cases, the business or the Kickstarter.

    We are planning to do some more in depth follow up, especially on the successful campaigns, so, stay tuned.

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