Update: This piece is outdated. We published July 2018 Escape Room Industry Growth Study on July 28, 2018.
We’ve been tracking the growth of the escape room industry since 2014. After two years, the US market was still growing rapidly. Now, one year later, that hasn’t changed. If anything, it intensified in year three.
US escape room growth over time
Here is last year’s report.
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.
By the end of 2016, there were over 1,400.
At the end of Q2 2017, there were over 1,800.*
These days we’re making daily updates. If we spend a long weekend escaping rooms in Los Angeles or Philadelphia, we come home to a mountain of directory updates. We’re still adding over 200 new escape room companies per quarter; that’s companies, not games.
*1,800 is of the end of Q2 on June 30. As of today, that number is just over 1,950.
Why don’t those numbers match the REA directory?
The REA directory covers the United States, Central America, and the Caribbean. It also covers Canadian escape rooms that are just across the US border.
One year ago, we knew of multiple escape rooms in Mexico and one in Puerto Rico.
In the past year, we’ve added listings in Colombia**, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Jamaica, and Panama.
**Colombia is technically in South America, but this company really wanted to be the southern point on our directory, so… why not?
Are all those rooms still open?
Most of the escape rooms we’ve added to the map are still there. We’ve removed 45 escape rooms, or 2.3% of the total rooms added.
Some escape room companies are folding, but they are still opening far more quickly.
How do you count 1,850?
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 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 include permanent entertainment establishments. We do not list one-time escape room events, even if they are open for a month or two. To the best of our ability, our directory (and this study) includes permanent established businesses.
Escape rooms are diversifying as they are influenced by other industries.
We include some interactive puzzle experiences that take place outdoors, as long as they are permanent and predictably operated.
We include some escape rooms set in stores, bars, restaurants, and even a frozen yogurt shop.
We include some escape rooms established in (or by) summer camps, churches, and resorts, as long as they are open to the general public.
So far, the directory includes 13 mobile escape rooms. These companies will come to your business, parking lot, home, or other venue and set up an escape room-style adventure, whether or not exiting a room plays a part.
So which company has the most locations?
In the US, these*** are the companies with more than 5 locations. (There is no measure of quality implied by this list):
|Escape the Room||18|
|The Great Escape Room||14|
|Epic Escape Game||10|
|Amazing Escape Room||8|
|Escape the Mystery Room||8|
|Room Escape Adventures||8|
|Texas Panic Room||7|
|The Escape Game||7|
|Escape this Live||6|
|Mastermind Escape Games||6|
***Due to the url-based methodology used to find multiple locations, it is possible that we missed some.
The vast majority of escape rooms – almost 1,500 of the 1,883 – are single location operations.
As mentioned above, this counts locations that aren’t fully operational yet, but are clearly in development.
Following last year’s study, we published more detailed information on our methodology for tracking the growth of the industry. That information will give you some additional perspectives on this data.
As mentioned in the methodology outline above, there are notable spikes in escape room growth. This is because we track the date we added a company to the map, which doesn’t necessarily match the date the company opened for business… but we’ve been very on top of this for a long time.
Note the growth in Q3 of 2016. Many of the escape rooms added that quarter, and so many more that we’ve added since, are thanks to Melissa from Connecticut. Since Melissa found our directory last summer, she has devoted countless hours to finding new escape rooms, updating current listings, and investigating questionable information. She volunteers an enormous amount of time to this directory. We cannot thank her enough.
Where are we going?
We will see a lot more openings, both by people who have done careful research and those who have not.
We will find more companies offering experiences sort of like an escape room and we will have to figure out whether they belong in our directory.
We will also see the investment and skill gap start to take its toll on the lower end of the market. This means we expect to see more closures as we know that there are companies that have failed to produce fun games, market effectively, or competently operate a business. Please let us know when companies near you close so that we can continue to track the industry accurately!
Although we will see companies close, that doesn’t mean the industry will come crashing down. In the next year or two, we expect to see the industry expansion slow, but that will not be a sign of impending doom. Every region will have a saturation point and it will not be identical from city to city.
For owners who are worried about local over-saturation harming their business, a word of advice: close your old, low-end games. We frequently hear of players visiting a single game that opened 2 or 3 years ago at an established company and walking out saying, “I can do this.” These outdated escape rooms contribute to the fact that new companies continue to pop up without doing their homework.
In the meantime, no one knows where the saturation point is. If the United States progresses as many other international markets have, there will be a boom, there will a retraction, and then the companies that are strong enough will shift into sustainable models of innovative design.
We’re hopeful for what the next year of innovation and creativity will bring.
Thank you to Melissa from Connecticut for her dedication to the REA directory.
Thank you to our good friend Chris for his enormous help making Excel do our bidding.