6 Year US Escape Room Industry Report (August 2020)

2020 has been a difficult year for non-virtual entertainment. Overall the US escape room industry has adapted rapidly and the long term impact hasn’t been immediate. While it’s too early to understand the full implications of 2020 on escape room businesses, we can look at some early trends in this industry report.

In this report dated August 2020, we present a data-driven look at the US escape room industry today, based on the data industry tracking through the Room Escape Artist Escape Room Directory since 2014.

In August 2020, there are more than 2,250 escape room facilities in the United States.

This is a 4.3% decrease in the number of facilities since this time last year, when there were 2,350 escape room facilities in the United States.

Growth Over Time

In 2014 there were about 2 dozen escape room facilities in the US.

The following years introduced incredible growth in the number of escape room facilities: 317% growth in 2015, followed by 800% growth in 2016.

By 2019, facility growth had leveled, growing by just 2%.

In 2020, the industry has shrunk slightly in number of facilities, down 4.3%. That said, compared to the boom of the early years, the decline is small and the number of facilities currently operating in the US (excluding temporary closures) remains stable at 2,250.

Graph of US Escape Room Facilities Over Time

It is important to understand that the number of facilities does not represent revenue. These are two separate datasets, and no one in the escape room industry currently has access to revenue data.

Counting Escape Rooms

Please keep in mind the following nuances as you read this report:

Temporary Closures

Due to COVID-19, many escape room facilities are temporarily closed, and have been for much of 2020. In this report, we are not counting temporary closures as closed facilities. If the business is communicating the closure as temporary, and as far as we can tell, they plan to reopen the facility, we are counting this as an operational facility for the purpose of this report.

Some of these temporary closures will eventually become permanent closures, but at this time, we can only report what has already occurred, and not what may occur in the coming months.

Locations

In this report, we count escape room facilities. These are permanent physical locations where you can go play an escape room. One business owner might operate 10 locations around the country or 2 locations in the same city. These would be counted as 10 facilities and 2 facilities, respectively.

Games

This report does not count individual escape room games. While some facilities only operate a single game, many operate two or three games, and some operate far more.

Soon to Open

The Room Escape Artist directory includes some facilities that are not yet open for business, but appear to be opening in the near future. To be listed in the directory, we require a facility to have their address published on their website and their website to tell us a bit about the business.

We do not include escape room facilities that might open some day. A social media page that says “coming soon” is not enough to be listed in the directory or counted in this report.

Dates

All dates in our data are when we added a company to our directory or removed it from our directory. While we try to find companies as soon as they open, and to check often for closures, our dates don’t necessarily correlate exactly with when a facility opened or closed.

Permanence

Our directory only includes established entertainment facilities that continually operate escape rooms (2020’s temporary shutdowns notwithstanding). We do not include escape rooms that appeared for a weekend, a week, or even a month, in a temporary structure or other facility, but will not operate continually.

Venue

Most escape room facilities are independent operations. Others operate out of larger entertainment venues such as bowling alleys, arcades, or restaurants. We include these as well, as long as the escape room is a permanent fixture in the larger venue.

Mobile Facilities

The count of escape room facilities above includes mobile escape room venues, which we track separately. While in past years these have been included within the Room Escape Artist US Escape Room Directory, the current directory interface requires a full address and does not include mobile rooms. We plan to update the directory to include a listing of mobile escape room venues in the coming months.

Facility Closures

Over the course of 6 years, we’ve tracked 850 escape room facility closures.

This includes only permanent closures as reported by the business on their website or social media, and/or as reported by Google, Yelp, or Trip Advisor. This does not include temporary closures with the intent to re-open.

Gradual Trend Line

With each year, we’ve seen additional closures and we are on track to report more closures in 2020 than any other previous year.

We removed 315 closed facilities from the Room Escape Artist directory in 2019. In the first half of 2020, we removed 185.

That said, thus far, we haven’t seen an enormous surge in closures amidst the challenges of 2020.

Which Businesses Close

While our data doesn’t tell us why businesses close, anecdotally, in 2020, product quality isn’t necessarily the reason. From seeing which companies have closed, and talking with many business owners, we predict that surviving 2020 may have more to do with ability to adapt, cash reserves, a friendly landlord relationship, and government loans.

Industry Size & Government Support

72% of escape room facilities in the US are single-facility businesses. While there are chains and franchises with multiple locations across the country, these are the exception. In general, escape rooms are small operations.

That makes it especially difficult to assess the impact of the pandemic on the businesses and the industry at this time. We cannot know the extent to which the industry has received government assistance.

More than 15 Locations

These are the largest escape room companies in the US, by count of facilities.

Company NameFacility Count
Escapology46
Breakout Games39
All In Adventures31
Escape The Room24
Key Quest21
The Escape Game19

Escapology is the largest escape room company in the US, with 46 locations, same as they had one year ago.

Breakout Games and Key Quest have lost a few locations over the last year, shrinking from 44 to 39 (Breakout Games) and 28 to 21 (Key Quest).

All In Adventures, Escape The Room, and The Escape Game have added locations in the last year, growing from 28 to 31 (All in Adventures), 23 to 24 (Escape the Room), and 15 to 19 (The Escape Game).

6 to 15 Locations

Most of these companies are holding pretty steady in number of facilities compared to last year. The notable exception is Epic Escape Game, which has dropped from 10 facilities in 2019 to less than 6 now.

Company NameFacility Count
The Great Escape Room12
Amazing Escape Room10
PanIQ Entertainment10
Great Room Escape9
Puzzle Effect8
Puzzle Room LLC8
Red Door Escape Room8
Texas Panic Room8
60 Out Escape Rooms7
Brainy Actz Escape Rooms7
ESCAPE INC7
Maze Rooms7
5 Wits6
Escape Room Zone6
Escape Zone 606
Fox in a Box6

Some of the larger franchises also operate outside the US. While this report only includes their locations in the US, Fox in a Box and PanIQ Entertainment, for example, have more international locations.

PPP Loans

ProPublica put together a resource for searching the loans by approved lenders and disclosed by the Small Business Administration (SBA). This database only includes federal loans of over $150,000, listed as a range.

Most escape room businesses are too small to have received more than $150,000. For the most part, only the bigger chains received this much.

CompanyLocation CountLoan AmountJobs Retained*
The Escape Game19$2-5 million415
All in Adventures31$350,000-1 million153
Breakout Games39$350,000-1 million381
Escapology46$150,000-350,00070
Escape the Room24$150,000-350,00024
Escape the Room**24$150,000-350,0002
Red Door Escape Room8$150,000-350,0000
ESCAPE INC7$150,000-350,00067
Mastermind Escape Games5$150,000-350,00045
Escape OKC5$150,000-350,00033
Palace Games1$150,000-350,00017
Boda Borg1$150,000-350,00039
NetherWorld Haunted Attractions***1$150,000-350,000no data

*at the time of applying for the loan

**Escape the Room is listed in the ProPublica directory twice, as two different business entities.

***NetherWorld Haunted Attractions is the larger business that includes Escape The NetherWorld.

It’s likely that this list is not exhaustive. These businesses are classified in many different ways: All Other Amusement and Recreation Industries, Amusement Arcades, Other Spectator Sports, All Other Support Services, Other Performing Arts Companies, Theater Companies and Dinner Theaters, and even Food Service Contractors (Boda Borg does have food on site). We may have missed some recipients of loans over $150,000 while searching ProPublica’s database.

From this data we know the largest escape room companies received loans of more than $150,000. Most of this industry has received far less. We don’t know how much, or how far it will go.

By State

The most populous states remain the states with the most escape rooms: California, Florida, and Texas.

Colorado remains the state with the most escape rooms per capita. New Hampshire and North Dakota are the second and third, respectively, in escape rooms per capita.

Delaware now has the fewest escape rooms, which is a bit of an exception, since it’s not one of the very smallest states by population. South Dakota ranks just above it also with few escape rooms. Similarly to last year, the least populous states Wyoming, Vermont, and the District of Columbia round out the list of states with the fewest rooms.

The states with the fewest escape rooms per capita include Texas, Kentucky, Delaware, and Alabama.

Booking Trends

Over the course of 2018 and 2019 we did a study into booking trends in the US escape room industry. We collected this data over the course of 2 years and completed the study before the start of 2020.

During 2018 and 2019, the US escape room industry was already shifting away from its earlier reliance on public ticketing. When we explored escape room pricing structures back in 2017, we found, at least anecdotally, that for escape room businesses, private ticketing made more sense. Many escape room operators drew the same conclusions.

At the end of 2019, only 50% of the US escape room market relied entirely on public bookings.

Booking TypePercentage of Market
Public50%
Private22%
Both18%
Insufficient Data10%

As escape rooms reopen in 2020, we expect public bookings to become a thing of the past. Despite the broader perception of the US escape room market as offering largely public ticketing, at the start of 2020, at least 40% of facilities were already set up to offer private experiences.

Analysis & Conclusions

Escape rooms are better positioned to operate in the coming months than many other forms of entertainment. Movie theaters, theaters, bowling alleys, skating rinks, and amusement parks require large crowds to turn a profit. Escape rooms, however, are small-group, private experiences with low throughput and good-enough margins. Earlier this year, we outlined different precautions escape rooms can take to reopen safely.

While the number of escape room facilities operating in the US has decreased in the last year, it hasn’t plummeted. In fact, the closure rate is lower than we were expecting at the start of 2020, regardless of the impact of the pandemic.

We can infer that some companies are limping along based on government support, but we can’t know how many because the industry is too small to find that data. We can assume that some of these temporary closures will become permanent closures. It’s too soon to know the precise number.

As 2020 continues, we expect more closures, but we also expect innovation – the type that enables escape room companies to scale, diversity their product lines, reach new markets, and grow. The challenges of 2020 have forced escape rooms to adapt. We are optimistic that adaptation will open new opportunities.

Methodology & Past Reports

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: 

Thank Yous

Thank you to Melissa from Connecticut for her unwavering dedication to this directory. Her countless hours of research and fact-checking ensure that this report is as complete and accurate as possible. We are all indebted to Melissa for so much of the data in this report.

Thank you to Jason for building many of the tools we use to keep the directory accurate and functional. Jason’s work has also improved the directory interface for those who rely on this information and those who maintain the backend.

Thank you to the many readers from all over the country who continually let us know about the updates in their areas. Please continue to send us this information.

5 Year US Escape Room Industry Report (August 2019)

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

We’ve been tracking the escape room industry for 5 years, since launching the Room Escape Artist Escape Room Directory in 2014.

In August 2019, there are more than 2,350 escape room facilities in the United States.

If that number looks familiar, it’s because 1 year ago there were 2,300.

We’ve added more than 400 new escape room facilities to the directory in the last year and that’s a lot. It shouldn’t be overlooked because other escape rooms are closing.

The growth has leveled. The industry has begun to mature.

Growth Over Time

The US escape room industry has grown from approximately 2 dozen escape room facilities in 2014 to more than 2,350 facilities 5 years later.

The industry grew most rapidly in the third quarter of 2016.

Since then, the growth rate has slowed and the closure rate has increased. The net effect is that the total number of escape room facilities has plateaued.

US Escape Room Facility Graph 2014-2019.

Counting Escape Rooms

Please keep in mind the following nuances as you read this report:

Locations

In this report, we count escape room facilities. These are permanent physical locations where you can go play an escape room. One business owner might operate 10 locations around the country or 2 locations in the same city. These would be counted as 10 facilities and 2 facilities, respectively.

Games

This report does not count individual escape room games. While some facilities only operate a single game, many operate two or three games, and some operate far more.

Soon to Open

The Room Escape Artist directory includes some facilities that are not yet open for business, but appear to be opening in the near future. To be listed in the directory, we require a facility to have their address published on their website and their website tell us a bit about the business.

We do not include escape room facilities that might open some day. A social media page that says “coming soon” is not enough to be listed in the directory or counted in this report.

Permanence

Anecdotally, we’ve seen a growing number of limited-run, pop-up escape rooms. Our directory only includes established entertainment facilities that continually operate escape rooms. While we do include a few seasonal operations, we do not include escape rooms that appeared for a weekend, a week, or even a month, in a temporary structure or other facility, but will not operate continually.

Venue

Most escape room facilities are independent operations. Others operate out of larger entertainment venues such as bowling alleys, arcades, or restaurants. We include these as well, as long as the escape room is a permanent fixture in the larger venue. We also include mobile escape room businesses.

Chains and Franchises

72% of escape room facilities in the US are single facility businesses. That said, some escape room businesses are expanding as chains and franchises.

More than 20 Locations

The largest companies don’t show a consistent trend in expansion or contraction when compared to last year’s report.

CompanyCount
Escapology46
Breakout Games44
All in Adventures28
Key Quest28
Escape the Room23

Escapology has grown substantially (from 27 locations to 46 locations). They are now the biggest company in the United States, in terms of number of facilities.

Two of the largest companies have experienced substantial decline: Key Quest (from 35 to 28) and All in Adventures (from 37 to 28).

Two are holding pretty steady. Escape the Room has grown modestly (from 21 to 23) and Breakout Games has slipped slightly (from 45 to 44).

6-20 Locations

Expansion has been pretty flat for most of the companies with 6-20 locations.

The Escape Game is the only company in this category that has grown substantially (from 9 locations to 15 locations).

CompanyCount
The Escape Game15
The Great Escape Room12
Amazing Escape Room10
Epic Escape Game10
PanIQ Room10
Great Room Escape / Mindspark9
Texas Panic Room / Project Panic8
The Puzzle Effect8
5 Wits7
60 Out Escape Rooms7
Escape INC7
Maze Rooms7
Room 52807
Escape Room Zone6
Escape Zone 606
Fox in a Box6
Mastermind Escape Games6
Red Door Escape Room6
United Escape Rooms / Entrap Games6

Some of the larger franchises also operate outside the US. While this report only includes their locations in the US, Claustrophobia, Fox in a Box, and PanIQ Room, for example, have many more international locations.

Closures

Over the 5 years we’ve been following the industry, we’ve removed more than 580 facilities from the directory.

In 2019 alone, we removed more than 240 facilities. Stated differently, 42% of the US escape room facilities that have closed their doors did so between January and August of 2019.

Bar chart of US escape room closures by year.
There has been a significant increase in closures in 2018 and 2019.

At year 5, we are seeing a lot more companies close than we saw in previous years.

“Thankfully Closed”

When readers send us directory updates, they sometimes send in commentary. In the last year, we’ve received an increasing number of messages telling us that a company “has (mercifully) closed” or “has finally (and thankfully) closed.” Yes, those are direct quotes from a consistent map contributor in Pennsylvania.

It isn’t necessarily bad for the industry that a large number of companies have closed. Readers like this one are happy to report the closure of a low-quality escape room operation.

Bad escape room businesses shrink the market. They turn your would-be customers away by giving them a bad first impression of the entire industry. When this type of escape room facility closes, it can be a good thing for the industry in that region.

Small Business Trends

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy’s Frequently Asked Questions, about 80% of small businesses survive the first year. About 50% of small businesses survive year 5.

This is year 5 for the escape room industry in the United States.

Of the escape room facilities that have been a part of our directory for 5 years (added before July 2015), only 1/3 have closed. 2/3 of those facilities are still operating, as far as we know.

As an industry, we are doing better than average.

Reasons for Closure

Our directory doesn’t track why an escape room facility closed. Anecdotally, however, from our travels throughout the country, our conversations with owners, and information from those who report the closures in their local markets, we have a sense of why most escape room businesses close.

Reasons for closure include (in no particular order):

  • lack of business acumen
  • poor product quality
  • strife between partners
  • legal troubles
  • building or fire code changes
  • lease termination by landlord
  • investor drama

Many closures result from some combination of these, and other, factors.

Acquisitions

Of the escape room facilities in our directory, we’ve confirmed 2 dozen acquisitions over the last 5 years. We expect that the acquisition rate is quite a bit higher. This data is hard to track, as it is not always readily apparent to customers, even the type of customers who send updates our way.

We’ve also tracked more than 50 name changes. We expect that many of these indicate acquisitions or mergers as well. In other cases, ownership hasn’t changed, but a company has rebranded to reflect their growth or to escape being confused with other similarly named facilities.

By State

The state metrics remain similar to those in our July 2018 Escape Room Industry Growth Study.

The most populous states remain the states with the most escape rooms: California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Colorado remains the state with the most escape rooms per capita.

For the most part, the states with the smallest populations remain those with the fewest escape rooms: Wyoming, Vermont, District of Columbia, and Alaska.

Many of these states, however, rank pretty high in escape rooms per capita.

States with the fewest escape rooms per capita include Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, and New York. This list is almost entirely different from last year’s report (with only Alabama on both reports.)

Increasing Interest in Escape Rooms

The number of facilities is not a measure of interest in escape rooms or the size of the player base.

Watching the Google Trends data on the term “escape room,” we continue to see steady and healthy growth:

Google Trend data for "escape room" 2014 - 2019. The growth is steady with one outlier spike in Q1 2019.
Google Trends – “Escape Room”

That outlier spike in Q1 2019 correlates to two events:

Analysis & Conclusions

In our talk 4 Years of Escape Rooms: A Data-Driven Look that we delivered at the Room Escape Conference in Nashville in July of 2018, we warned that the closure rate would increase. Expansion and contraction are inevitable in any industry.

For years, we’ve hypothesized that following the July 2015 MarketWatch article The unbelievably lucrative business of escape rooms, which falsely framed escape rooms as a low-barrier-to-entry get-rich-quick scheme, encouraged entirely too many companies to open without the tools to succeed. Those expectations were not founded in the realities of the escape room business, and many of those businesses have languished.

We’ve long believed that a substantial number of zombie escape room businesses have been doing just enough in sales to keep the lights on while riding out 3-year leases. Those leases are ending and the companies are closing.

There is money to be made in escape rooms, but escape rooms are not a rocket ship. It takes skill, labor, and love to create and sustain a strong escape room business. Near as we can tell, the folks who are succeeding in the escape room business have a passion for this industry and the skills to back it up, not just for business in general.

Our confidence in this medium remains strong. We’ve witnessed it evolve from a 1-dimensional puzzle game to a complex medium for storytelling and adventure. We believe that the core concept is more durable than other forms of entertainment that have come and gone as fads. Escape rooms have changed more in 5 years than bowling has changed throughout recorded history! Escape rooms continue to evolve.

In 2019, although some escape rooms businesses are closing their doors, new businesses are opening. They are opening with data and resources that their predecessors didn’t have. We are excited to see where they take this industry next.

Methodology & Data Caveats

Directory vs Report

The data used in this report only includes escape rooms in the United States. While the Room Escape Artist escape room directory includes escape rooms in Central America, the Caribbean, and some Canadian escape rooms that are just across the US border, the data for those locations is not included in this 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: 

About Dates

All dates in our data are when we added a company to our directory or removed it from our directory. While we try to find companies as soon as they open, our add date doesn’t necessarily correlate exactly with when they opened their doors for business. It can take us a while to confirm whether a company has actually closed, and we do try to confirm each one before removing them from the directory, so those dates may not align as closely with when the business folded.

Spikes on the Graphs

Some of the spikes on the graphs can be attributed to our process for updating the directory. We batch updates by type and will do a few sessions of additions or changes or removals at once. Given our busy travel schedule, it can also sometimes take us a few weeks to get to an update. Therefore, some of the graph spiking can be accounted for by when we spent a lot of time on directory updates. In reality, the curves are smoother than you might see in the graphs.

Thank Yous

Thank you:

Melissa from Connecticut for her unwavering dedication to this directory and the countless hours of research and fact-checking she does to ensure it is as complete and accurate as possible. We are all indebted to Melissa for so much of the data in this report.

Theresa for many hours of rigorous data updating.

Jason for building us the tools we needed to work more efficiently and produce a more accurate directory.

And to the many readers from all over the country who continually let us know about the updates in their areas. Please continue to send us this information.

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.”