Los Angeles: Meet us at an Escape Room & Immersive Entertainment Shindig

We’re hosting a get-together in Los Angeles later this month.

This is a casual gathering for folks to meet each other and chat about escape rooms and other immersive entertainment.

Details

  • Thursday, August 23
  • Hatch Escapes (1919 3rd Ave, Los Angeles, CA)
  • Starting at 7pm; talk at 8:00pm
  • Please bring food or drink to share
  • Hatch Escapes recommends ride shares as parking in the area can be challenging
Photo of Lisa and David of Room Escape Artist in their wedding clothes dramatically escaping a bank vault.
Photo by Michael Zawadzki

Who should attend?

Escape room players, bloggers, podcasters, designers, owners, operators… and anyone who is even just a little bit escape-room curious.

We also welcome other immersive entertainment goers and creators. You don’t need to be escape-room focused to join this conversation.

If you’re in Los Angeles, come on out, we’d love to meet you!

Speaking

We’ll be giving a short talk during the get-together.

We’re going to:

  • tell stories about some of our favorite escape rooms from our travels
  • discuss trends in escape rooms
  • share perspective on where we think the medium is going
  • unpack what the changes mean for the players

RSVP

Please RSVP on Facebook.

Check Out World Maker Faire New York 2018

World Maker Faire is an annual festival of creators. Including everyone from knitters to roboticists, this gathering shines a spotlight on incredible creations and all manner of innovation.

Some of what’s on display is world changing; other inventions exist purely for their own sakes.

A man standing on a giant mechanic firebreathing dragon at Maker Faire NY

I’ve written about Maker Faire before because I make an annual pilgrimage to feed off of the brilliance and creativity. It’s equal parts entertainment and inspiration.

Whether you’re a fan of escape rooms or a creator, I suspect that you’ll find something at Maker Faire to spark your imagination.

We’ll be there on Sunday September, 23rd (because DASH 2018 is happening on the 22nd). We hope to see you there!

World Maker Faire New York

July 2018 Escape Room Industry Growth Study

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.

San Francisco: Meet us at the Adventure Design Group

We’re thrilled to announce that we’re co-hosting a meetup with the Adventure Design Group when we visit San Francisco in August.

Details

  • Monday, August 20 at 7:00pm
  • The Laundry Gallery and Cafe (3359 26th St)

Stylized image of teh Golden Gate Bridge.

Speaking

We’ll also be giving a talk at the event. ADG has hosted a ton of amazing speakers over the years and we’re honored to be among them.

We’re going to:

  • tell stories about some of our favorite escape rooms from our travels
  • discuss trends in escape rooms
  • share perspective on where we think the medium is going
  • unpack what changes mean for the players

If you’re in the area, come on out, we’d love to meet you.

Sign up on Facebook or Meetup today!

Join us in Nashville at the Room Escape Conference

We’ll be in Nashville next week… because escape room conference!

Transworld Room Escape Conference Logo

Where: Nashville, Tennessee’s Music City Center

When: July 27-29, 2018

When we aren’t onstage, you’ll be able to find us at booth 201. Please stop by and introduce yourself. We’re always looking for good conversation.

Speaking

We’re delivering the only free talk on Saturday:

4 Years of Escape Rooms: A Data Driven Look

  • 9:00am – 10:00am
  • Room 105A

Later on Saturday, we’ll be onstage again with David  debating and Lisa moderating:

 Future of the Industry Debate!

  •  2:30pm – 3:30pm
  • Room 105A

The other debaters will be:

These are some of the people behind so many of our favorite experiences.

Thoughts on Escape, Immerse, Explore New Orleans

Escape, Immerse, Explore New Orleans collected 42 people from 17 states, who traveled 72,000 miles, to ride 2 buses and played a total of 63 games across southeastern Louisiana.

The purple, gold, and blue Escape Immerse Explore New Orleans Logo

The player satisfaction surveys showed an overwhelmingly positive response. The attendees loved the games and one another.

Randy of Escape Rumors published an incredible writeup/ review of the tour.

Player Variety

We had players on the tour who had crossed the 400-game threshold. We also had a number of folks who had previously visited fewer than 10 escape rooms and literally doubled their play-count on the trip.

Lisa's bus gathered for a group photo at RISE.
Lisa’s Bus

We’ve always tried to help players find the escape rooms that fit their taste, skill, play style, and comfort level. After running two escape room tours, we are confident that we’re onto something.

David's bus gathered for a group photo at RISE.
David’s Bus

The escape room player community is growing and it isn’t monolithic. This diverse group of people really are attracted to different things in escape rooms.

A mass escake celebrating all of the milestones that people celebrated on the #REAtour.

A post shared by Lisa & David 🔑 (@roomescapeartist) on

Mighty Games

We featured a wide variety of games ranging from the more traditional escape rooms of Clue Carré, to the immersive world of Escape My Room, to the beautifully executed games of Rise, to the dumbfounding set design of 13th Gate.

Each company offered something different. Each also offered at least one game that topped someone’s list as their very favorite game of the tour.

The Tour featured 13th Gate’s Cutthroat Cavern, a game that many would consider a curve-breaker. In a lot of ways, it was. Nearly half of the players reported it as their favorite game of the tour. That sentiment, however, was not universal.

This is no knock against 13th Gate. It’s a testament to how much room there is to create unique experiences that can be loved by different people for different reasons.

Of the 14 escape rooms featured on the tour, each of these 6 topped at least one player’s list:

Exactly half the featured games rose to the top as favorites. There isn’t one best way to create an escape room!

Creating Community

It was heartwarming to see these folks come together to play games, set records, have fun, share stories of favorite games, and laugh over terrible escape room experiences.

The games are fun, but for us, escape rooms are about the people that we share them with.

We have two buses on the #escaperoom #REAtour in #nola.

A post shared by Lisa & David 🔑 (@roomescapeartist) on

We met so many incredible people with different backgrounds, stories, experiences, and other interests.

The Experiment Continues

We’re working on what comes next. Where else can we go? What games will we showcase? What other formats can we tinker with to bring this community together?

The Escape Immerse Explore Tours of New York and New Orleans were both massive experiments… albeit experiments that Lisa and I obsessively thought through, from game line up, to transportation, to the puzzle that we hid in the welcome information and sealed in wax… but it was still mad science.

We thank all of those who popped the stopper off of the Erlenmeyer flask and joined us in drinking this crazy concoction.

Through this we’ve learned so much about player behavior and running events. We have many more ideas for how to deliver an even better experience.

We had the best weekend with all of y’all and we cannot wait to do it again.

If you were not able to attend New York or New Orleans and you would like to receive an email announcement for the next tour, please contact us.

And so ended the second #REAtour. #escaperoom #tour #nola #sleepy

A post shared by Lisa & David 🔑 (@roomescapeartist) on

2018 Escape Room Player Survey

We’ve teamed up with Lee-Fay Low, Ken Ferguson of The Logic Escapes Me, and Errol Elumir of the Room Escape Divas to circulate the 2018 Escape Room Enthusiast Survey.

Stylized photo of a land surveyer in a parking lot.

We’re excited to support the expansion of an ongoing data set of player desires and trends.

Please take 20 minutes to fill it out. We’re really curious to see how the player-base is evolving over time. The results and raw data will be published when the survey closes.

2018 Escape Room Enthusiast Survey

New US Tariffs Will Harm Escape Room Creators

The White House’s $250 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports will increase the cost of electronic components by 25%. 

Before we dive into the issue in question, I need to make a something clear. I will moderate away any broad-brush political comments. Read the post, think about the issue, and feel free to thoughtfully discuss it. Anything short of thoughtful discussion isn’t helpful to anyone. (For what it’s worth, that extends beyond this site.)

Artistically rendered image of complex breadboarding.

What’s Going On

Electronics and manufacturing expert Andrew “bunnie” Huang published a lengthy analysis this weekend about how the $250 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports will harm educators, DIY creators, and American businesses that do assembly within the United States by slapping a 25% tax on a broad spectrum of electronics components.

“The new 25% tariffs announced by the USTR, set to go into effect on July 6th, are decidedly anti-Maker and ironically pro-offshoring. I’ve examined the tariff lists (List 1 and List 2), and it taxes the import of basic components, tools and sub-assemblies, while giving fully assembled goods a free pass. The USTR’s press release is careful to mention that the tariffs “do not include goods commonly purchased by American consumers such as cellular telephones or televisions.”

Think about it – big companies with the resources to organize thousands of overseas workers making TVs and cell phones will have their outsourced supply chains protected, but small companies that still assemble valuable goods from basic parts inside the US are about to see significant cost increases. Worse yet educators, already forced to work with a shoe-string budget, are going to return from their summer recess to find that basic parts, tools and components for use in the classroom are now significantly more expensive.”

Bunnie thoughtfully breaks down why these tariffs are ill-conceived because they fly in the face of their stated goal. Assembled electronics such as smartphones, televisions, and computers are all exempt from the tariff. The unassembled components that make up those devices are subject to the 25% price hike.

The incentive to pay Chinese manufacturing to build the entire product before shipping will get magnified, not reduced.

I strongly encourage you to read his entire analysis.

Tariffs & Escape Room Creators

Escape room creators who design and build their own games or hire American labor to create custom games will take a massive financial blow from these tariffs.

The tariffs hit the absolute necessities for custom technology creation. The list is lengthy, covering essentially all of the basics short of wood, paint, and construction hardware (update: screws & nails will be impacted by the steel tariff). If it’s related to the creation of electronics, it’s probably on the tariff list.

These items from List 1 are set to increase in price by 25% as of July 6th, 2018:

A broad range of items within the following categories are affected.I have simplified the lengthy list for easier reading. Read the List 1 on the USTR website for more thorough descriptions.

  • batteries
  • soldering irons
  • oscilloscopes
  • resistance measuring instruments
  • circuit assemblies (like Arduino)
  • LEDs
  • LCDs
  • capacitors
  • resistors
  • transistors
  • photosensitive semiconductors
  • mounted piezoelectric crystals
  • switches
  • connectors
  • insulated electric conductors
  • touch screens without display capabilities
  • power supply parts
  • and many other items

These items from List 2 are under review for a 25% tariff:

  • multimeters
  • additional types of diodes
  • additional electronic integrated circuits: processors and controllers, memories, amplifiers, other
  • parts of electronic integrated circuits and microassemblies
  • electric motors
  • DC motors
  • additional insulated electric conductors
  • acrylic polymers
  • monofilament plastics (for 3D printing)
  • and many other items

The Net Effect

A 25% hike in electronic component prices will measurably increase build budgets. It will also raise the price associated with learning and experimentation.

If the finished goods you buy are made in the US, they too will have been subjected to these tariffs and will increase in price.

Build prices will go up.

Either budgets will inflate too or quality will drop accordingly. In general, Americans will be paying a lot more for a broad range of goods, so raising prices won’t necessarily be a great strategy to mitigate the losses on the business side.

What Now?

Stock Up

If you can stock up on the parts that you need, you should try to do so before July 6th.

That being said, bigger companies than yours have been gobbling up everything that they can to improve their margins, so prices have gone up, especially in markets that have already been struggling to meet demand, such as capacitors.

It’s also possible that the things you need have already sold out.

Adjust Your Budgets

If you’re planning new games, you’ll need to revisit your budget. There’s no way around it.

Speak Up

List 2, which includes all manner of 3D printing and acrylic laser cutting materials, has not yet been ratified. The USTR reports that they will open this list up for public comment. When that opens up, I ask everyone to speak up.

Final Thoughts

The bigger the company, the more insulated they are from these tariffs. Massive manufacturing operations that already handle all assembly in China will be untouched by this policy. It’s the medium and small scale businesses, as well as individuals, who will bear the brunt of these new taxes.

Setting aside for a moment my personal belief that no one wins a trade war… when I stop and contrast the stated goal of these new tariffs — to harm Chinese businesses and boost American companies — with the harsh reality that it will make more sense to buy finished goods from China, I am at a loss for words.

Increasing the price of base-level components increases the cost of education, making it more expensive to learn the skills necessary to thrive in a technology-driven world.

Increasing the price of base-level components drives up the price of goods built in the United States.

Increasing the price of base-level components decreases the likelihood that a product will be built in the United States.

If we’re going to fire a gun, it shouldn’t be at our own foot.

If you comment on this post, please include the hashtag #ReadTheWholePost so that commenters can see who has informed themselves appropriately. 

July 9: Everything Immersive NYC Meetup

Next month, together with No Proscenium, we are co-hosting the second Everything Immersive NYC Meetup.

Escape rooms are one form of immersive entertainment. This umbrella also includes immersive theatre, VR/ AR, LARP, site-specific pieces, experiential art & tech, and so many other creations. We encourage you to join us in exploring these other works.

The Statue of Liberty in black & white, immersed in fog.

Details

When: Monday, July 9 at 6:30 PM

Where: Somewhere in Greenwich Village (tbd)

RSVP: Please RSVP on Facebook

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.

If you want to meet other passionate souls and exchange ideas about the future of entertainment and storytelling, join us.

We look forward to seeing you there. Please find us and introduce yourself!

Escape This Podcast – We kicked cultist butt on the Season 2 Finale

We’ve been big fans of Escape This Podcast since it launched last year… and we finally got to play!

The Escape This Podcast labyrinth microphone logo

What’s Escape This Podcast?

Creators Dani & Bill have merged escape rooms with Dungeons & Dragons-like roleplaying (without the dice rolls) and recorded it in podcast form.

Dani writes and “dungeon masters” the episodes.

Bill plays along with the guests.

You’re free to play along at home (and scream at the players) or simply listen to the episode’s guest(s) play.

Season 2

Escape This Podcast’s second season told one big story with 10 self-contained episodes.

To quickly summarize the plot:

A mysterious puzzle-obsessed cult had gassed an entire town, making everyone apathetic so that they could implement their evil master plan. A few people had been unaffected by the gas and have been trying to stop the cult.

We joined up with Bill to finish the job.

Our Episode

You can listen our episode now.

Ready to record, our computer, microphone, mixer, drinks, and colored pens were laid out.
In spite of a serious audio setup… I managed to botch our audio :/ #NeverAgain

Lisa drew quite the map with our favorite FriXion pens throughout our gameplay. If you seriously inspect it, it’s spoilery… You’ve been warned.

Spoiler - Map

This is filled with spoilers; it just might take a lot of interpretation.A multicolored map of the Amusement park setting for Escape This Podcast Season 2 Episode 10.

[collapse]

We had a ton of fun and a lot of laughs. We are even more impressed with Escape This Podcast after having played it. Dani is brilliant and devious… which is one of the highest compliments I give.

I hope that you have as much fun listening to our episode as we had recording it.