I’m Speaking in London at ERIC!

This has all come about rather suddenly. I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be speaking at the Escape Room Industry Conference in London, October 15 & 16.

This is the conference’s third year and my first time in attendance. I’ve heard nothing but great things.

Escape Room Industy Conference's cross keys banner.

My Talk?

I’ve been asked to speak on the player experience… which is a subject that I’ve delivered many a talk on. This one will be largely new material and comes with a brand new description:

The Player Experience: From Brain Teasers to Brain Trauma

Once upon a time there was a crazy escape room-playing couple from a faraway land. This twosome spent more time writing about each and every game they played than they spent inside of those games.

Half of that duo will journey across the ocean to regale you with wonderful and tragic tales from their puzzling adventures. Like any good cautionary tale, each will have a moral: some will make you laugh, a few will make you cringe, and one or two might make you shed a tear.

Panels!

We’re still working out the details, but I think that I’ll be moderating a couple of panels including:

  • International Escape Room Owners Panel
  • Bloggers Panel

I love moderating panels and have put a lot of work into honing the skill over the past few years. This should be fun.

You Keep Saying “I”

Yeah… it seems like this one is going to just be me. Unless something changes, Lisa won’t be able to attend ERIC. It’s not impossible that she might show up and crash the party. We’ll just have to see.

Get Your Tickets While You Can

I’d love to see you in London. If you don’t have a ticket already, you should buy one while you still can. They have a limited number of tickets remaining.

ERIC – 2019

October 9: Everything Immersive NYC Meetup

We welcome you to the next New York City Everything Immersive Meetup, co-hosted by Room Escape Artist and our friends at No Proscenium.

A partially consumed glass of wine beside a mostly consumed glass.

Details

Please RSVP on Facebook or by contacting us.

  • Wednesday, October 9, 2019
  • Starting at 6:00pm and continuing for a few hours
  • Shades of Green Pub (125 E 15th St between Irving Pl and 3rd Ave)
  • We will be congregating in the back room

This is a casual gathering. There is no formal programming. Stop by at your leisure.

Venue

Shades of Green Pub is generously offering this space to us free of charge. We ask attendees to please order food and drink from the venue. We’d like to support their business.

Shades of Green Pub asks that we consolidate checks. Please order per table on one tab and take advantage of Venmo, Paypal… or cash (most immersive method of payment).

Who Attends?

This event is for those interested in, passionate about, or working within immersive arts & entertainment in New York City. We’re calling all creators, storytellers, directors, engineers, artists, designers, writers, performers, event planners, producers, and more.

Lovers of immersive entertainment are certainly welcome as well.

Escape Rooms are part of the larger immersive entertainment industry and this meetup encourages conversation and collaboration within the industry.

Out-of-town Guests

There is a pretty good chance the creators of Escape This Podcast, Australian duo Dani and Bill, will make an appearance. Come meet our escape room friends from the other side of the world! If you’ve never listened to Escape This Podcast, you’re missing out.

RSVP

Please don’t forget to RSVP on Facebook or by contacting us. It’s helpful to be able to give the venue at headcount.

We hope to see you in October!

Announcing Escape Immerse Explore: Montreal 2020

We are excited to officially announce our Grand Tour for 2020!

Escape Immerse Explore: Montreal 2020

Montreal is an artsy escape room market. The games on this tour combine detailed set design with puzzle-forward gameplay. You’ll enjoy some themes you’ve likely seldom encountered along with quirky game mechanics.

Escape Immerse Explore logo.

What are the dates?

Sunday, May 31 – Tuesday, June 2

Which Companies Are Featured?

You will get to play 10 games from the following companies:

Where Can I Learn More?

We have written up the details of the tour and answered all manner of questions that are on your mind… and some that aren’t.

Learn more about Escape Immerse Explore: Montreal 2020.

If the link above doesn’t answer all your questions, please contact us.

Where Do I Sign Up?

You can reserve your tickets right now by filling out this form:

Take the 2019 Escape Room Enthusiast Survey

It’s that time again…

Errol and the gang over on the Escape Room Slack have assembled another Escape Room Enthusiast survey to measure player preferences.

Stylized image of a surveyer working in a parking lot.

Survey Details

The survey takes 10 to 20 minutes to fill out. The data is helpful in identifying trends in the preferences of experienced escape room players.

This year the team behind the survey translated the thing into 13 languages… which is insane. Cool… but insane.

If you have the time to reward their hard work by filling it out, lots of us will appreciate the data.

Take the Survey

Denver Escape Room Meetup – September 8

We will be in Denver briefly in early September playing tons of escape rooms. If you’re in the area, we’d love to meet you!

Two smiley face stick figures carrying the final two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into place.

When & Where

Who

We welcome all players, owners, bloggers, gamemasters, podcaster, actors, fans, fabricators… and anyone else involved or interested in escape rooms and other immersive entertainment.

Whether you’re just dabbling or you dove into the deep end, all are welcome.

What

This is a casual meetup. We’ll be taking a break from playing escape rooms just to hangout.

We won’t give a talk. We’re just hoping for interesting conversations.

RSVP

Please contact us to RSVP. This will help us have a sense of how many people to expect.

If you’re anywhere near Denver, please stop by and say hello!

Everything Immersive Livestream – First Episode!

Last night we kicked off the first Everything Immersive livestream with our friends at No Proscenium.

YouTube's red play button logo.

Everything Immersive

In early 2017 we quietly created the Everything Immersive Facebook group with NoPro and Ricky Brigante (founder of Inside The Magic).

This collaboration has created a thriving group dedicated to the various branches of immersive entertainment.

The Livestream

Last night’s discussion spanned a variety of experiences and ideas with 3 people that we adore (Noah, Kathyrn, & Anthony).

Given that this was our maiden voyage, there were some technical issues… but it did work. Early on there were some echoes, in the middle Anthony got into a fight with Skype, and near the end we had some audio drop.

If you make it to the end… you might hear some details about our next tour. You’ll see the full announcement publish here in the not too distant future.

5 Year US Escape Room Industry Report (August 2019)

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.

Now Available: “The Escape Room,” a Novel by Megan Goldin

The gold covered novel for "The Escape Room" by Megan Golden. There is a person peering through a narrowly opened door.

If you read our review back in March and have been waiting with bated breath, today is your day. The Escape Room is now available for purchase.

Don’t be deceived by the title. This is a novel that uses the escape room setting as a hook for a corporate thriller about corruption in the financial industry.

The escape room is not so much an escape room and you can’t really solve along… but we see potential in escape rooms playing a role in stories.

12-Hour Crossword Marathon to Benefit The Ocean Cleanup

Hi, I’m Steve. I’ve been writing puzzle video game reviews here for over a year.

On Wednesday, July 24, I will be putting my puzzling skills to the test as I embark on a massive crossword marathon.

Steve snorkeling.

I will be spending 12 hours going through as many Tuesday crosswords as possible from the New York Times archives. The crossword marathon will run from 10am-10pm Eastern (7am-7pm Pacific).

Whom Does This Benefit?

The stream will benefit “The Ocean Cleanup.”

This organization is developing and implementing technologies to clean up plastic in The Great Pacific Ocean Patch. Through the work of their 80 researchers and engineers, they expect to clean up 50 percent of the plastic in five years’ time.

Check out the incredible videos of their efforts at: https://theoceancleanup.com/

Contributions of any size can be made at: gofundme.com/crosswordmarathon

The crossword marathon will run live on several sites at once:

Come join me and help me conquer these crosswords!

Wednesday July 24th, from 10am to 10pm EDT

Follow updates on Twitter: @steveblog

Escape Room Meetup, Austin!

We will be in Austin on Friday, August 9, and we’d love to meet you.

Two smiley face stick figures carrying the final two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into place.

Details

  • Tamale House East (1707 E 6th St, Austin, TX)
  • Friday, August 9
  • 9pm – 11pm

Order at the front and look for a group of people chatting about escape rooms at a group of tables somewhere in the restaurant. We’ll try to get there early to claim some space.

RSVP

Please contact us to RSVP. This will help us have a sense of numbers.

Casual

Whether you’re an Austin local or you came to town for the Escape Room Conference in San Antonio earlier in the week, we invite you to join us for a bite to eat and more conversation about escape rooms.

This is a casual gathering for anyone interested in escape rooms – players or creators – to come hang out. Do not expect a talk or anything structured.

Please find us and introduce yourself!