July 2018 Escape Room Industry Growth Study

Update: This piece is outdated. We published 6 Year US Escape Room Industry Report on August 24, 2020.

We are looking at a maturing escape room industry.

There are more than 2,300 escape room facilities in the the United States.

We’ve been tracking the growth of the escape room industry since 2014.

After four years, growth continues, but not quite as rapidly. As the market matures, a few trends have started to emerge.

Growth Over Time

At the end of 2014, there were approximately 2 dozen escape room facilities in the United States.

Escape Room Industry Growth Chart shows 900 in Q2 2016, 1850 in Q2 2017, and 2300 in Q2 2018.

The growth rate peaked in Q3 of 2016. Since then the facility growth has been steady but less vigorous.

Counting Escape Rooms

Locations

The numbers above count individual escape room facilities. If a company operates half a dozen locations, we are counting it as 6 escape room facilities. If a company operates two locations down the street from each other, we count each separately as a different facility.

Soon-to-open

These numbers includes some companies that aren’t officially open for business, but appear to be opening in the near future.

In order to list a facility, we must see its physical address publicized on its own website.

These numbers do not include companies that might open some day. A social media page does not count as “open soon.” A city name with no address does not count as “open soon.”

Permanence

These numbers include permanent entertainment establishments. We do not include limited-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.

Variation

Most escape room facilities on our map are dedicated to escape rooms only. Others are part of larger entertainment facilities or housed in restaurants or other business establishments.

Mobile Escape Rooms

These numbers include mobile escape room facilities.

Mobile escape rooms take many forms. Some are built into trailers or buses. Others are delivered in boxes and crates and set up in the player’s home, office, or another room of their choosing. These companies generally serve a specific geographic area.

The mobile escape room market is growing. Our directory includes 24 mobile operations located across 13 states.

Chains and Franchises

A few companies are proliferating, opening multiple facilities around the country. There are now five companies with more the 20 facilities.

Last year only Key Quest and Breakout Games offered more than 20 facilities. Breakout Games has continued to grow, from 37 locations last year to 45 locations this year.

In mid 2018, All In Adventures, Escapology, and Escape the Room also operate more than 20 facilities.

Additionally, more companies have expanded beyond 5 locations. Last year there were 14 companies operating more than five locations. This year there are 21 companies, tallied below:

Company Count
Breakout Games 45
All In Adventures 37
Key Quest 35
Escapology 27
Escape the Room 21
The Great Escape Room 13
PanIQ Room 11
Epic Escape Game 11
Great Room Escape 10
Maze Rooms 9
The Escape Game 9
Amazing Escape Room 8
60 Out Escape Rooms 8
Escape INC 7
Texas Panic Room 7
The Puzzle Effect 7
Mastermind Escape Games 6
Escape Key 6
Exodus Escape Room 6
5 Wits 6
Escape This Live 6
Escape Zone 60 6

Count of locations is not necessarily an indicator of quality. Some of our favorite games are run by companies on this list. Most are not.

The vast majority of US escape rooms – more than 1,700 – are single-location operations.

Closures

After 4 years, we’ve tracked over 220 escape room facility closures. One year ago, we’d tracked only 45 closures. This is a substantial increase in facility closures.

The closures include both single-facility operators and facilities affiliated with larger companies that still operate other locations.

Closures are not endemic to one market. We’ve tracked closures in 41 states and DC. The most closures are in the states with the most escape rooms and the largest populations.

By State

The five states with the largest populations have the most escape rooms: California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and New York.

The five states with the fewest escape rooms also have the smallest populations (although this doesn’t map quite 1-to-1): Vermont, South Dakota, Delaware, Wyoming, and Alaska.

The states with the most escape rooms per capita are Colorado, North Dakota, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, and Utah. Colorado has significantly more escape rooms per capita than any other state.

The states with the least escape rooms per capita are Vermont, Louisiana, Iowa, Maryland, and Alabama. Vermont has significantly fewer escape rooms per capita than any other state.

Analysis & Conclusions

As the industry continues to grow, we must work together to grow it in a healthy, sustainable way.

Each company can contribute by attracting new players and delivering such phenomenal experiences that these players want to play another escape room. And another. We need to grow the market together.

As the growth tapers off, it will do so unevenly. Areas with strong player bases will support more escape room companies. The United States isn’t one market. Different regional trends have emerged in game design, business practices, and player expectations. We will continue to see market diversification.

The closures don’t mean the industry is imploding. It means that some companies are not running successful businesses. These companies typically lack quality products or business operational skills. It’s not a bad thing for these companies to close. They were frequently turning first-time players away from future escape rooms.

Many companies are flourishing. We look forward to the incredible experiences they will create for us and for every other player who walks through their doors.

Methodology & Data Caveats

Directory vs Study

This study only encompasses escape rooms in the United States.

The REA directory primarily covers the United States. It also includes escape rooms in Central America, the Caribbean, and some Canadian escape rooms that are just across the US border. Data for those locations, however, is not included in the study.

Methodology

Following the publication of our first piece on the US industry growth in 2016 we published more detailed information on our methodology for tracking the growth of the industry. That piece includes a bit of history about our directory and additional perspectives on the data.

Previous studies will remain available: 

2016 Escape Room Industry Growth Study

2017 Escape Room Industry Growth Study

Add Date vs Open Date

As noted in the methodology piece, we track the date that we added a company to the map. We try to update the directory at least once a week, but the data is skewed slightly because our travel schedule dictates when we have more or less time to focus on directory updates.

Contributions

Thank you to everyone who has contributed knowledge this year!

Please continue to let us know when you open, close, or move a facility. Please continue to let us know when there are changes to the escape room facilities in your area. You are our eyes and ears for the areas we haven’t yet visited.

We owe an enormous “thank you!” to Melissa from Connecticut who works tirelessly to help us keep this escape room data up to date. Her meticulous tracking enables us to continually provide this level of detail and accuracy. She is an invaluable member of the directory upkeep team. Escape room owners in New England will know her as half of the “Marvelous Miller” duo.

Coming Soon!

When we started this directory in 2014, it seemed reasonable to compile this information in a Google Sheet and Google Map. The data outgrew that format long ago. We know the functionality isn’t ideal for the current user base. We are working on a new engine and interface that we hope to release later this year.

Thank Yous

Thank you to Melissa from Connecticut for her unwavering dedication to the REA directory.

Thank you to our good friend Jason for building us tools to better track the escape room industry. 

Thank you to our good friend Chris, once again, for his enormous help bending Microsoft Excel to our will.

Three Years of Room Escapes: The Growth of the US Market

Update: This piece is outdated. We published 5 Year US Escape Room Industry Report on August 8, 2019.

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.*

Industry growth chart shows the US market grow from a few games in Q1 2014 to a little more than 1800 in Q2 2017.

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?

Locations

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.

Soon-to-open

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.

Permanence

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.

Business Model

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):

Company Count
Key Quest 37
Breakout Games 36
Escape the Room 18
Escapology 16
The Great Escape Room 14
Epic Escape Game 10
Amazing Escape Room 8
Escape the Mystery Room 8
Room Escape Adventures 8
PanIQ Room 7
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.

Methodology

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.

Growth spikes

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.

Two Years of Room Escapes: The Growth of the US Market

Update: This piece is outdated. We published 5 Year US Escape Room Industry Report on August 8, 2019.

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.

Chart of escape room location growth. Depicts exponential growth over a two year span.

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.

Count caveats

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.

Map evolution

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.

Saturation point?

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.”