To kick off Season 3, we chat with Maxime and Roxane Filion of Immersia Escape Games. Their escape games truly impressed us on our recent trip to Montreal. In this episode they talk about their immersive approach to game design, their diverse gaming influences, and how they measure success. Maxime and Roxane are also passionate about their creations and about this industry. Moreover, they have a shared vision of what escape games can be, and they are striving to build that future.
Thank You to Our Sponsors
We are immensely grateful to our sponsors this season, Morty App and Virtual Escape Games. We truly appreciate your support of our mission to promote and improve the immersive gaming community.
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Topics Discussed in this Episode
- David mentions Immersia wasn’t on our radar when we were first planning the Montreal tour. [1:13]
- Roxane talks about how their unique style is influenced by theater. [2:08]
- Maxime talks about video games were also part of his inspiration. [2:59]
- Peih-Gee talks about the “entertainment” value that she felt in their onboarding. [3:50]
- Roxane and Maxime discuss the video production in their games, which was part of the early vision for their games. They explain how making these videos is so fun and so unlike what their video producer does in his day job. [4:51]
- Roxane mentions how they were inspired by Disney and the videos explaining Disney attractions. [6:37]
- Peih-Gee hates janky videos, and especially janky intro videos. She compliments Roxane and Maxime on their lobby videos, which are not janky. [7:30]
- Peih-Gee asks about the costs of producing videos and Roxane says that they budget for video as part of the room buildout. Maxime adds that it’s important to have talented people in your network. Roxane mentions partnering with a local business to save on costs. [8:48]
- Maxime says that they take theme inspiration from tv (Evil Genius), movies, video games, and board games. Their first game Weekend at the Shack has a typical kidnapping theme. It was inspired by a video game and a board game they played when they were young. It’s a melting pot of inspirations. [10:22]
- Grand Immersia Hotel is a blend of The Grand Budapest Hotel and a Netflix series that was inspired by a true story. It’s an unlikely combination that works. David says this is what he’s wanted people to do for years. By combining themes you change the vibe, setting, and story. [12:38]
- Peih-Gee appreciates being cast as herself in Immersia’s games. Roxane mentions how much effort they put into narrative, and how hard it is to understand the story while trying to be a character. [14:05]
- David asks about hooks for games and Maxime says he looks for wow moments, surprises, and unexpected ahas because that’s what people remember. Maxime mentions (without spoiling!) that there’s a twist in Grand Immersia Hotel. Twists can be simple, but they are essential. Immersia doesn’t tell you the whole story upfront. [17:02]
- Roxane explains that they didn’t have a big budget when they started, so they had to make wow moments without budget. They had to change their original vision to be something they could afford to build. That’s why Weekend at the Shack is set in a shack. [19:04]
- David asks about the challenges in designing for bilingual rooms. Maxime says they have to think in both languages. It’s a giveaway that something is important if it appears in both languages. Because of this they sometimes prefer to swap different clues in for French vs English groups. For their new game they are shooting in French only and dubbing the English. They also have to make sure if they change something in one language, they also change it in the other. [20:35]
- David talks about his experience playing escape games in French. Lisa speaks French very well and he can mostly understand, so they do ok, but always struggle on wordplay. [23:02]
- They mostly film in French, or do voiceovers in both languages, and Maxime’s sister dubs herself in a lot of the videos. In the Grand Immersia Hotel they have a character wearing a mask and then it’s easy to dub over it – nobody can see it. [23:32]
- David asks about the friendly Montreal community of owners. Roxane talks about how they recommend the other locations in their area because they trust that other companies have good games. Since players can only play these games once, they want to keep the players engaged with the games in the area until they have time to build more games for the customers. Maxime says they are friends with owners like them who are passionate about escape rooms. This includes Jonathan from Escaparium and Steven from Sauve Qui Peut. They watched the TERPECAs at Escaparium and were so happy for their wins. [26:51]
- David notes how Montreal seems to have unique themes between the different companies. Maxime says they do talk. In fact, Escaparium renamed a scenario (The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen) so that it would sound different from the one Immersia had just released (Circus of the Lost Souls.) [29:30]
- Immersia is a family business. Roxane and Maxime say it works well because everyone has different skill sets. Some people are involved all the time and others only come in for certain things, like new builds. [31:25]
- The family’s first escape game was for Roxane’s bachelorette party. It was so much fun that they wanted to play more. However, they were looking for an immersive experience and that didn’t exist in Montreal at that time, so that’s why they built their own. [32:30]
- Maxime says everyone is involved in game creation, story, and puzzles. Others are only involved in operations, technology, and HR. Maxime does most of the marketing, but everyone shares ideas. His sister is less involved. She’s a former Olympic athlete, a 2-time Olympic medalist, in fact. [33:46]
- David asks about Maxime’s marketing background. Maxime says a lot has changed in recent years. Today we need to be conscious that most traffic to our website is from mobile, meaning it’s on a tiny vertical screen. Peih-Gee confirms that she’s always looking for another escape room right after she plays one, and that means she’s on her phone. [36:07]
- Roxane looks at the finances and she tries to give Maxime the best budget possible. She can tell when a room isn’t doing as well. They tried a competitive room and it was expensive to build and not very popular, so they noticed it wouldn’t be profitable and decided to change it. [38:20]
- In their initial business plan they gave each game a lifespan of 2 years. One indicator of success is sustainability over time. Weekend at the Shack has been running for over 5 years and it’s still popular. They look at NPS and see that this game scores the highest, which is a demonstration of success beyond money. People enjoy this game. [39:50]
- David reminds diehard fans that what the typical fan base loves is not always the same as what they love. Maxime notes that Errol agrees in his RECON talk. [41:05]
- Roxane mentions that their new room is a game show and it wouldn’t be the most popular with enthusiasts, but they built it anyway for other reasons, on a limited budget and a small space. They took a risk with something new. They’ve gotten positive responses, but one repeat customer did not like the game at all because it wasn’t what they were expecting. You have to be careful with surprises and not thwart expectations too much. [41:29]
- David wants to expand the definition of escape room to include more variety and have genres. [43:40]
- David mentions the Patreon Spoilers Club episode that dug deep into The Salutem Medicina Institute. [44:35] (Join our Patreon to get access to this deep dive conversation!)
- Roxane tells us they want to create more storytelling in their next games. Maxime adds that they’ve opened another report game. But also, in the next things they build, they are looking to create more immersion and explore the feeling of being taken by surprise. [44:54]
- Maxime lists all the places he wants to travel to play escape games. [47:22]
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Room Escape Artist Escape Immerse Explore tour to Montreal
- Room Escape Artist review of Weekend at the Shack at Immersia
- Room Escape Artist review of The Grand Immersia Hotel at Immersia
- Room Escape Artist review of Circus of Lost Souls at Immersia
- Room Escape Artist review of The Lost Island of the Voodoo Queen at Escaparium
- Room Escape Artist review of The Salutem Medicina Institute at Immersia
- TERPECA: Top Escape Room Project Enthusiast Choice Awards
RECON 21 Talks
Immersia Scenario Videos
About Maxime & Roxane
Maxime Filion: With a bachelor’s degree in business administration and 7 years working in the digital marketing space, I had a dream. I wanted to start a business but couldn’t find the right project. As a video game and immersive entertainment enthusiast, the moment I discovered escape rooms I knew this was something special. What was a new passion became an incredible business opportunity and so I convinced family members to start this journey. Now 6 years later here we are in the top 40 escape room companies in the world 2 years running and well over 100k participants.
Roxane Filion: I’m co-owner of Immersia Escape Games and a singer and musician as well.
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Escape This Podcast is a show that’s a mix between tabletop roleplaying and escape room puzzles.
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