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

Update: This piece is outdated. We published US Escape Room Industry Report – 2020 Year End Update on February 26, 2021.

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 US Escape Room Industry Report – 2020 Year End Update on February 26, 2021.

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.”