Now open in Edinburgh: Escape Hour

Escape Hour clock faceEscape Hour of Edinburgh has already become an exit game with one of the most intriguing backstories we’ve seen, and it’s only just opened. Except it opened in November. Confused?

Steve Nicoll and team have a 20-year history of running backpackers’ hostels, and their current one consistently receives excellent feedback for the good care that its guests are kept in and the positive atmosphere that this generates. Steve decided to get into the exit game field and found an excellent location. At the eleventh hour, someone else put in a bid to lease it for ten years, and it was off the market. Accordingly, Steve used the backpackers’ hostel to host a single-room site, with deliberately little publicity for a few weeks. The initial reviews were impeccable.

However, not so much at the eleventh hour as at the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour, one further check revealed that the bid to hire their intended location had fallen through and it was once more up for grabs, no thanks to the estate agent who had kept the news to himself. The path from there to secure the site was circuitous and fraught, but expensive persistence paid dividends and Escape Hour ended up where they wanted to be all along: right in the middle of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Edinburgh becomes the second city that this site covers to get to a third location; who knows – not this site! – perhaps there might be more to come?

The first game on offer is Major Plott’s Revenge, a spy thriller. Major Plott is an ex-KGB general who is out to take revenge on the British establishment, who he blames for his demotion and humiliation back in the USSR. He was the head KGB spy master until his spy ring was busted 6 years ago by a master British double agent, simply known as Agent X. Major Plott has yet again been tricked into hiring an alluring British undercover agent, Agent Y. She has been employed as his personal assistant but has so far been unsuccessful in uncovering Major Plott’s secret plans. She has managed to lure Major Plott out of his lair in a basement office off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Your team has been recruited by MI5 to try and uncover exactly what his evil plans are. It is suspected that he may be about to use a nuclear device to reek his revenge. Is he about to blow up Edinburgh Castle? It is your mission to steal his master plan which we believe is hidden in a safe in his office. He is a cunning spymaster and it will be a difficult job to try and find out what he is up to. So far Agent Y has been unsuccessful but she has bought you 60 minutes before he returns…

No time to delay, then! There are advanced plans to rotate the games frequently, and Steve has an excellent idea for what might follow. We may try to widen the appeal in Edinburgh by focusing on some historical themes. Tourists come from all over the world to experience our culture and immerse themselves in our history. Why not play an escape game and learn a wee bit about of the local history too?… Tick off that dose of culture instead of going to the museum! What better way to create engaging memories that will last long in the memory than to learn through play?

Steve also writes: We see the market for escape games in the UK as having exponential potential for growth over the next two years. So Edinburgh now has three escape games, but give it another six months and that number may have doubled. Escape games here are probably at the “chicken and egg” stage. What comes first: escape games, or the people that want to play them? Both need each other to grow. To that end, we don’t really see anyone else in Edinburgh running escape games as our competition until maybe the market becomes over-saturated. (…) We are here to compete with every entertainment activity that people are happy to spend money on as our competition.

To do that, though, we need more people building escape games and therefore building awareness of their existence, in order to create more demand. So both ((Escape proprietor)) Daniel Hill and I will be watching the TripAdvisor ratings intently, not to see who is first but waiting for the day hopefully in the not too distant future that there are three games in the top ten things to do on TripAdvisor in Edinburgh, if not the top five.

We want the experience from start to leaving to be as excellent as possible, in the hope not that it makes our customers not only want to come back ASAP but also want to try any other escape game. I would therefore have no problem displaying posters for other escape games in our premises, especially our local competitors if a reciprocal arrangement can be made. Anyone with posters out there please send them on. (…) Personally what I might like to see is some sort of local cooperation where you might find something like the three Edinburgh, or three Manchester, or three London games coming together to form a joint offer to try and encourage the real enthusiasts out there. They tend not to travel in large numbers and consequently it can be fairly expensive for only two or three players to make a journey and also tick off three games at once. Food for thought maybe.

Extremely tasty food for thought as far as this site is concerned. It’s tempting to wonder how many people might find a game in a faraway town online and not realise they can play much closer to home; indeed, that’s part of the thinking behind the existence of this site at all. If there is interest in further co-operation, contact Steve. Alternatively, whether you have your own game or not, with three different sites, surely Edinburgh might be well worth a visit on your exit game
expedition travels?


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