Please Help: Looking For Our Long, Lost, Rich, & Eccentric Uncle

Hello Internet,

It has been a long year and as I reflect back upon it, I feel strongly that it would have been a much better year if we were fabulously wealthy.

Alas, that isn’t the case… but I am hoping that you can help us solve this little problem.

Since 2014, we have been rigorously training for a particular scenario:

“Our long lost uncle has passed away. His will detailed that we are entitled to his fortune if we can solve a series of puzzles in his quirky abode within 60 minutes.”

Lots of gold bullion

We are so ready for this challenge. We are a finely tuned Wealthy Eccentric Uncle Puzzle Solving Machine®. However we are still missing said uncle. If experience has taught us anything, he is in fact out there.

Please help us find him. We’d like to get to know him a bit before he passes and we earn his estate.

Gratefully yours,

David & Lisa

Neil Patrick Harris’ Box One Now Available Worldwide

We loved Box One. This tabletop escape game, designed for a solo player, stood out with its narrative development and how it subverted expectations.

Worldwide Distribution

Since we published a glowing review of Box One in November, we’ve heard from numerous readers overseas asking how to purchase their copy.

Great new, international readers, Box One is now available worldwide!

Hand holding a gold Box One challenge coin over the game's box art.

Should I Buy?

Yes, at least, according to the REA Hivemind.

Box One feels like a watershed moment in tabletop puzzle experience design.” – David Spira

“I felt as though I was really playing against the mind of Neil Patrick Harris himself.” – Tammy McLeod

Box One is one of the most ambitious and creative mass-market puzzle offerings I’ve ever played, and I would heartily recommend it to both newbies and expert puzzlers alike.” – Matthew Stein

“You’ll just have to trust me on this one – this game is way more than meets the eye.” – Theresa W

For more of our thoughts on this game, check out our conversation about Box One with Zach and Jared from Puzzling Company in the first part of this recent episode of their podcast.

How to Buy

International purchasers should navigate to www.BoxOneGame.com and click “Buy Game.”

The links to purchase in the United States are below:

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon or Etsy after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.

The 2021 Cryptex Hunt is On

A quick reminder: This year’s Cryptex Hunt has commenced.

Pokemon meme depicting a trainer facing off against a Nevins cryptex reads, "Wild Cryptex appeared!"

Justin Nevins, Errol Elumir, and company (including REA’s own Sarah Willson, among many more of our friends) have created a unique puzzle hunt through 8-bit text adventures.

Errol made a remarkable text-based puzzle game a few months ago that blew my damn mind.

Text adventure: Pixel art kitchen depicts your character's wife and the plate of eggs she made for you.
Errol’s Present Quest

If you’re new to puzzle hunts, I strongly suggest that you take a look at my Puzzle Hunt 101 primer.

If you aren’t already participating, I’d suggest gathering your puzzle friends and getting involved. This crew always does interesting, innovative, and fun things.

US Escape Room Industry Report – 2020 Year End Update (February 2021)

Room Escape Artist's "REA" - spin puzzle logo

With the end of 2020, we compiled a data-driven look at how COVID-19 has impacted the US escape room industry, based on the data we have from maintaining the Room Escape Artist Escape Room Directory since 2014.

This industry report is an update to the 6 Year US Escape Room Industry Report, published on August 24, 2020 and presented at RECON ’20 Global.

The State of the Industry Talk from RECON ’20 Global (August 2020)

February 2021 Numbers

As of February 2021, there are 2,080 escape room facilities in the United States.

In comparison, in August 2020, there were 2,250 escape room facilities in the United States. In the past 6 months, we’ve experienced a 7.5% decrease in the number of facilities.

It is critical to note that the number of facilities does not indicate the size of the industry at large. It is one indicator, and one we have the data to measure. It does not represent revenue. At this time, no one in the escape room industry has access to revenue data.

Closures

Since our report in August, we’ve removed 180 escape room facilities from our directory.

This is on par with the closure rate we saw in the first half of 2020 (also 180 facilities).

In fact, the total facility closures in 2019 (315) was slightly more than in 2020 (300).

While this industry continues to experience facility closures, many due to COVID-19 and some due to other factors, the closure rate is steady. We have not experienced an alarming closure rate.

Of note, 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. For a more nuanced understanding of how we count escape rooms (and it’s the facilities that we’re counting), please refer to 6 Year US Escape Room Industry Report (August 2020).

The Delta Widens

Closures aren’t new, but in past years, they were eclipsed by new companies opening.

In 2017, more than 75 facilities closed, and in 2018, more than 250 facilities closed. These numbers, however, were offset by many new business entering the marketing:

In 2014 there were about 2 dozen escape room facilities in the US. This was followed by exponential growth in 2015 and 2016, which had leveled off by 2019, when the number of facilities in the US increased by just 2%.

For more details on these periods of growth, read our past industry reports.

In the last 6 months, only 25 new escape room facilities opened, while 180 closed.

Chains & Franchises

For the most part, the largest companies (in terms of number of facilities) have not experienced a substantial drop in number of facilities.

The two largest companies, Escapology and Breakout Games (46 facilities and 39 facilities, respectively, in August 2020), each closed 3 facilities.

The exception among the chains is Key Quest, which closed completely in 2020. This company was a branch of the laser tag company Laser Quest, which had 21 facilities operating escape rooms in August 2020 (and additional facilities without escape rooms), and now has 0 open facilities. The closing of a large chain certainly impacts the closure rate.

By State

For many years now, Colorado has had the most escape room facilities per capita of any US state.

Colorado had a high per capita attrition rate in the time of COVID-19 through the publication of this report (April 2020 – February 2021). And yet, Colorado is the state with the second most escape room facilities per capita today, second only to New Hampshire.

Other states with high per capita attrition include North Dakota, Wyoming, and Delaware.

COVID-19 & Government Assistance

To read more about PPP Loans for escape rooms, refer to 6 Year US Escape Room Industry Report (August 2020). We don’t have any new information about government assistance at this time.

Analysis

This report is just part of the story of 2020 for the US escape room industry. A count of open and closed facilities cannot tell us about the impact of the pandemic on the businesses that remain open.

This report does not unpack the financial health of these companies. Even the information on PPP Loans linked above doesn’t give us much insight into the debt assumed by the majority of these businesses – the single-location, small businesses.

We predict that the financial hardship of 2020 will affect future investment in new games. In the near future, we don’t expect to see the same volume of new games or high-budget, blockbuster games that we’ve seen in the past.

However, that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice quality.

As in-person business reopens in 2021, we expect to see more creative escape rooms. Less investment yields more constraints, and constraints force creativity. We see this as an opportunity for creators to experiment with new ideas, and continue to push the boundaries of this medium of entertainment.

If you heard us on stage in 2019, you heard David outline the risks of high-investment games. We’ve known for some time that raising that particular bar wasn’t the long term future for most businesses. If anything this pandemic will speed us along a more sustainable path.

Future Studies

Because this report is just part of the story, today we are asking for your help in painting a more complete picture. We’re looking to learn more from you, the business owners and players, so that we can, in turn, share more information about how COVID-19 has and continues to impact our industry.

It’s a group effort, and we’re asking everyone who is reading this report to contribute. Please click the button below and fill out your survey as completely and honestly as you can. This survey is anonymous.

Here are your next steps:

  1. Fill out the survey.
  2. Share this link to the survey with everyone in your industry network.
  3. Share the link on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Slack, Discord, Reddit… and newer platforms where escape room folks might see it.

Thank You

Thank you to Melissa from Connecticut for dedicating so much time to keeping the REA directory up to date. We could not have the directory, data, or report without all of your hard work.

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.

Thank you to the owners and players who tested the survey and shared feedback with us. You’ve helped make this survey better, and the data will be more valuable because of it.

Valentine’s Day 2021 – Games, Escape Jam, & Deals

For Valentine’s Day this year, we decided to taste test black and white cookies. We’re living large.

A tray covered in black & white cookies.

Virtual Escape Games for 2

If you’re looking for a game to play together at home (from the same home, or remotely) here are our top choices for just 2 players.

Themed Virtual Escape Jam: Create

There are a few tickets left for Total Escape of the Heart, next weekend’s virtual escape jam. If you’re interested in creating a virtual game, this full day workshop is the place to be. At this jam, we’ll explore love of all different kinds through game design – from traditional romance to Gollum’s love for the one true ring. We’re hoping that creators take this inspiration and go in unexpected directions. Click here to buy tickets… or just listen to its amazing theme song.

Virtual Escape Jam Showcase: Play

Following the Virtual Escape Jam, we’ll host a showcase where our community can play these just-created virtual games. The showcase is a chance to play the cool games produced at our Virtual Escape Jams, meet other escape room players, and support a worthy non-profit, Child’s Play.

Details: Saturday, February 27 at 4pm Eastern in the RECON Discord

We’ll share more information about how to sign up for the showcase after the games have been created. Stay tuned!

The Gift of Puzzles

Amazon is currently running a 3-for-2 sale that includes a number of the products from our Amazon store such as:

Support Room Escape Artist’s Mission

There are lots of ways to support Room Escape Artist, like buying from Amazon or Etsy after clicking into the links included in this post or backing us on Patreon.

The money that we make from these helps us to grow the site and continue to add more value to the community that we love so much.