November 2015 Dealwatch: coupons and discounts to play exit games for less

"Special Price" stickerDealwatch is an occasional feature which, as the name suggests, looks out for special offers that exit games are promoting. (Very occasional; the last time it happened was January.) Some ground rules apply:

  • Do check voucher companies’ terms, conditions and guarantees and this site takes no responsibility for deals that fall through for whatever reason, which sadly has happened at least once and probably twice;
  • Many of these deals only permit a limited number of vouchers to be purchased and then the deal will expire. It’s quite possible that deals may have expired between being published below and your attempt to use them;
  • This non-commercial site does not attract any commission for promoting these deals, or for you using them;
  • These deals are not exclusive in any manner.
  • Ken found about half of these and many thanks to him, as ever, for sharing them.

Groupon seems to be the de facto brand leader, or at least the site that more exit games use than any others. There’s no telling when these might expire, but currently it has social buying deals for Code to Exit of Altrincham, ESCAP3D of Belfast, Escape Game Brighton, Hidden Rooms London, Mission Escape of Exeter and Zombie in a Room of Chesterfield. It’s far from the only game in town, though, no pun intended; Dealmonster (to which this site says “monster, monster”) has a deal for Clue HQ in Blackpool with about a week left on the clock. That said, if you want to play Clue HQ in Brentwood, there’s a discount code of uncertain lifespan that was shared on its Facebook group.

Sometimes you can find the existence of a site that you didn’t know even existed when you spot a deal for it. The rather wonderfully-named The Bristol Maze, more of which soon, has a deal on Wowcher that expires when Tuesday turns into Wednesday; Lock Down Zone of Rotherham, more of which even sooner, has posted a half-off code, LDZ50Off, that applies in November.

Last, but far from least, EVAC of Glasgow has a LivingSocial deal with two or three days left to go on it. This has been saved for last because EVAC’s manager Graeme writes with a sad tale but sees the funny side:

Evac was full on Saturday ((7th November)), but when I turned up, it had been broken into and trashed which was sad. Made it back open today ((Monday 9th November)) though after extensive work yesterday.

They didn’t nick much however I wish I was there when the thieves opened up their lockboxes to find puzzles :)!

Quite upset they never tried to solve the puzzles and just crowbarred open every lock… ah well.

Nous sommes tous Français

&heart; FranceThis site sends its love and warmest thoughts to the www.escapegame.paris and www.escapegamefrance.fr blogs – and, indeed, everyone in France, whether they’re part of the exit game industry or not.

While there’s no pretending that this is in any way, shape or form any sort of compensation for the horrid developments of the last 24 hours, this site needs to share some good news for its own benefit.

  • Congratulations on their opening to Clue HQ’s new location in Brentwood and to Extremescape of Disley in rural Cheshire. The latter is a particularly pleasant surprise as prior suggestions were that it would open in 2016, but its Pirate Ship room is already open and taking bookings. Two rooms are open in Brentwood; The Logic Escapes Me has reviewed them and raved about the location.
  • Congratulations also to Escape Live of Birmingham for winning the “Business Start Up and Enterpreneur” category in the Birmingham Post Business Awards. (Other sites have also recently made it to the final shortlists in regional business awards and also deserve their own congratulations.) Escape Live have also recently been featured in The Guardian, in an article about the genre; news of their expansion, both at their original location and at a forthcoming Essex branch, has also made the press.
  • Escape Quest of Macclesfield are celebrating their first birthday today, with three celebrated games and more on the way. Hooray!
  • Much younger, Code to Exit of Altrincham are opening their second room, The Test, today. No locks! No furniture! No other games quite like it, by the sound of things! Definitely one where this site is looking forward to the reviews.

All of this is, at best, distraction from the real issues of the day. Sometimes a little distraction isn’t so bad, though.

The (Puzzle) Hunting of the Snark

The Hunting of the Snark campaign logoThere are many interesting crowdfunding campaigns going on at the moment, but here’s an unusual one for a puzzle publication that deserves a wider audience. Puzzlebrains presents The Hunting of the Snark will be a printed and digital edition featuring the “full text of the poem combined with a collection of specially-written quirky puzzles and, if we raise extra funding, a whole new set of equally quirky illustrations too“. The campaign has a week and a half to run and is currently only a few hundred pounds short of its goal.

Behind the scheme is David Brain of Puzzlebrains, which has been mentioned in passing in the comments to a previous post; it’s an online magazine published as a .pdf file, that has been running since 2008 and is full of puzzles of many different styles, often (pop-)cultural requiring investigation and research, with each issue also featuring a metapuzzle. Compare to P&A magazine, perhaps.

It’s clear that David has copious puzzle-setting experience; you might also have encountered him as part of the excellent Game Control team for the London leg of DASH 7 in the Spring. As well as being able to reserve your copy of the new edition of Snark, you can also subscribe to the four issues of Puzzlebrains planned for 2016 at the same time. The most inexpensive reward in the campaign is a back number of Puzzlebrains, so you can get a sample of the house style for a single pound and find out whether it floats your boat or not.

History does not judge author Lewis Carroll without reservations, but considering his known penchant for wordplay – he’s strongly associated with the style of puzzles known today as word ladders – then it’s tempting to believe that he would have approved. Callooh! Callay!

Now open in Bury: Trapped In

Trapped In logoThis site has previously featured games popping around the centre of Manchester and also at one of Greater Manchester’s southern extremes, Altrincham. Here is news, courtesy of two of this site’s most appreciated contacts, of a site at the other end of Greater Manchester. While it doesn’t even have a Manchester postcode, it’s at the end of the Metrolink, so that only adds to the Manchester feel of the place.

Trapped In opened at the end of October with two sixty-minute rooms for teams of two to six, with more rooms promised soon. The easier of the two rooms has a theme, Air Traffic Control, that is unique and welcome as a result. “Terrorists have attacked the air traffic control tower, kidnapping the air traffic controllers and damaging vital computer systems. You and your team have been called from a nearby airport to come in to get the place back online. You must act quickly as there are planes circling above and they only have enough fuel left to fly for one hour. You must succeed to prevent a massive mid-air disaster. Find the clues to gain access to the control tower and get everything back online before time runs out.

A slightly stiffer challenge is promised by the Time Machine game. “Mad professor Elias Ivarsson from Sweden has been creatin the world’s first inter dimensional time machine, capable of travelling to any place or time in a matter of seconds, and now he thinks he’s had a breakthrough and created a working prototype. You and your team are responding to a newspaper advert recruiting guinea pigs to test his creation. The risks are clear, but Elias assures you that everything is safe as long as you’re not away for more than 60 minutes as power reserves are limited. Climb aboard his marvellous creation and prepare to become a part of history as you are the first humans to travel in space and time. Choose your time and place and go explore, but make sure you’re back before the power is exhausted.” – for, if you don’t, perhaps you will find yourself trapped in the wrong era altogther.

The Ela Mill site has one other very distinctive offering; upstairs from Trapped In is Arcade Club, a massive collection of old arcade games, pinball tables, consoles and computers. Pay once and you can spend six hours on Friday, twelve hours on Saturday or six hours on Sunday exploring the whole works, set to free play. Ooh. Ooooooooooh.

The League Table: end of October 2015

Population graphThis is the nineteenth instalment of a (just about) monthly feature which acts as a status report on the exit games in the UK and Ireland, hopefully acting as part of the basis of a survey of growth over time. It reflects a snapshot of the market as it was, to the best of this site’s knowledge, at the end of 31st October 2015. It’s taking longer and longer to produce as the number of rooms increases, but that’s no bad thing.

The Census

Category Number in the UK Number in Ireland
Exit game locations known to have opened 95 7
Exit game locations known to be open 87 4
Exit game locations in various states of temporary closure 1 2
Exit game locations known to have closed permanently 7 1
Exit game locations showing convincing evidence of being under construction 8 0
Exit game locations showing unconvincing evidence of being under construction 7 0
Exit game projects abandoned before opening 2 0

The term opened should be understood to include “sold tickets”, even when it is unclear whether any of those tickets may have been redeemed for played games; the definition of location should be understood to include outdoor locations, pop-up/mobile locations with open-ended time limits and component parts of larger attractions that are played in the same way as conventional exit games. Pop-ups with deliberately very short runs (e.g. Hallowe’en specials, or games run at conventions or festivals) are not counted in this list; games with deliberately finite but longer runs (e.g. Panic!, which awarded a prize to its champion at the end of its sixteen week run) are counted.

What a month it has been! The UK has seen eleven openings and three closures. That said, there was a reopening which has added one to both of those numbers; goodbye to Escape Hunt in London and hello to Escape Entertainment. For the record, the closest thing to this to have happened previously was the rebranding of AK Escape Room to We Escape in Cork, but this site considers that to have been a continuation of a previous site whereas Escape Entertainment has all-new games and there might yet be another franchise of Escape Hunt in London at some point down the line, so this site considers Escape Entertainment to be a new enterprise.

The two additional permanent closures both move from having been listed in the “temporary closure” category last month. The web site for iLocked has apparently gone for good, and the web site for Escape Land is now being used to sell tickets for Hidden Rooms London, in a good demonstration that a web site may still retain some search engine value, and thus be of some financial value, even once the physical location is no more. In Ireland, Escape Clonakilty confirmed on social media that it is closed for the winter and Quests Factory‘s web site is down to the point where it looks like it isn’t coming back.

The Report Card

Site name Number of rooms The reviews
Site name Total number Different games Find reviews
Adventure Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Agent November 3 3 TripAdvisor
Bath Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Aberdeen 3 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Inverness 3 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Liverpool 5 6 TripAdvisor
Breakout Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
Can You Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cipher 0 0 TripAdvisor
Clue Finders 2 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Blackpool 2 2 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Warrington 4 4 TripAdvisor
clueQuest 6 2 TripAdvisor
Code to Exit 1 1 TripAdvisor
Crack The Code Sheffield 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptic Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptology 2 2 TripAdvisor
Cryptopia 0 0 TripAdvisor
Cyantist 2 2 TripAdvisor
Dr. Knox’s Enigma 2 1 TripAdvisor
Enigma Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Enigma Quests 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Belfast 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Dublin 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Clonakilty 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Dublin 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Edinburgh 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Entertainment 8 2 (TripAdvisor)
Escape Game Brighton 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Glasgow 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hour 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hunt 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Land 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Live 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Newcastle 2 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan Live 4 4 (TripAdvisor)
Escape Quest 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Durham 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Plymouth 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Scotland 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escapism 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escapologic 3 3 TripAdvisor
escExit 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
EVAC 1 1 TripAdvisor
Ex(c)iting Game 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Newcastle 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Strategy 1 1 TripAdvisor
Fathom Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
gamEscape 2 2 TripAdvisor
GR8escape York 2 2 TripAdvisor
Guess House 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Hell in a Cell 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Hidden Rooms London 2 2 TripAdvisor
HintHunt 5 2 TripAdvisor
House of Enigma 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
iLocked 0 0 TripAdvisor
Instinctive Escape Games 1 1 TripAdvisor
Jailbreak! 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Keyhunter 3 3 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve Brighton 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve London 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lock’d 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lockdown-Inverness 2 2 TripAdvisor
Locked In A Room 4 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Edinburgh 1 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Games 2 2 TripAdvisor
LockIn Escape 3 3 TripAdvisor
Logiclock 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lost & Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Make A Break 0 0 TripAdvisor
Mission Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Mystery Cube 1 1 TripAdvisor
Mystery Squad 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Panic! 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Puzzlair 4 4 TripAdvisor
QuestRoom 1 1 TripAdvisor
Puzzle Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Quests Factory 0 0 TripAdvisor
Red House Mysteries 1 1 TripAdvisor
Room Escape Adventures 1 1 TripAdvisor
Salisbury Escape Room 1 1 TripAdvisor
Secret Studio 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Escape Network 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Preston 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Gr8 Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
The Great Escape Game 4 4 TripAdvisor
The Live Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Room 5 5 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Glasgow 2 1 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Leeds 3 2 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Liverpool 2 1 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Manchester 1 1 TripAdvisor
Time Run 2 1 TripAdvisor
Trapped In 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Trapped Up North 3 3 TripAdvisor
We Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
XIT 4 4 TripAdvisor
Zombie in a Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)

Corrections would be most welcome.

This site supports all the exit games that exist and will not make claims that any particular one is superior to any other particular one. You’ve probably noticed that this table has removed the review summaries; this site has pages with the review summaries for every site in the United Kingdom and, separately, for every site in Ireland.

This site takes the view that if you’re interested in review summaries, you probably care (at least to some extent) about the question of which site probably has the best popular reviews. Accordingly, you might be interested in the TripAdvisor’s “Fun and Games” rankings lists in (picking only cities with multiple exit games listed) Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham or Sheffield.

Additionally, TripAdvisor now has pages entitled Top Escape Games in United Kingdom and Top Escape Games in Ireland. The UK page looks like it lists twelve of the escape games that are both #1 in “Fun and Games” in their town and listed as an escape game first, in some order, then the escape games that are #2, then the escape games that are #3 and so on. This list is becoming harder to understand; TripAdvisor suggests there are now 24 towns in the UK where an escape game is number one in “Fun and Games” in that town, including one town where two different exit games are number one in “Fun and Games” and number one in “Outdoor Activities” respectively, despite both taking place indoors. (As ever, in the most general terms, it also remains arguable whether you would choose to rank – say – “#1 of a very small number” ahead of “#2 of a very large number”, that sort of thing.) The same site has been top of the national list two months running.

You might also be interested in listings at Play Exit Games, a few of which contain ratings and from which rankings might be derived, or ranking lists from other bloggers. Looking at London sites, The Logic Escapes Me have provided recommendations and detailed comparisons; see also this piece at Bravofly and thinking bob‘s comparisons. In the North-West, there are rhe QMSM room comparisons and Geek Girl Up North site comparions as well. If you have your own UK ranking list, please speak up and it shall be included in future months. The next step could be some sort of exit game Metacritic, comparing the reviews and opinions of those who have played a great number of such games; hopefully, this would corroborate the popular reviews, or perhaps point out some inconsistencies.

It’s more laborious than difficult to estimate the number of people who play an exit game over the course of a month, though there are limits as to how accurate it can be. This site uses data available to the public from sites’ booking systems, the number of rooms at each site, any data supplied by the site (either to the public or in private correspondence), and bears in mind trends in the numbers of Facebook likes, TripAdvisor reviews, photos posted and team sizes per site according to team photos. This site won’t necessarily take owners’ claims at face value, but there’s nothing to be gained from turning business away and saying you’re sold out when in fact you aren’t. October was slightly stronger than September, but many of the new sites opened fairly late in the month and so contributed relatively little to the overall total, though their contributions in November onwards may well be rather more voluminous. Close to half of the sites seem to do (at least close to) half of their weekly business on a Saturday.

This site quotes some fairly broad error bars for its estimate of the number of players below and it’s worth explaining why. If sites tend to sell very many games on the day or very close to the day, the true number will tend to be higher in the range. If sites tend to pretend that they have sold more games than is the case when really they are closing the rooms for staff training, the true number will tend to be lower in the range. There’s a factor accounting for repeat players; asking figures among self-selecting fans who choose to visit a site like this would be unrepresentative, but the assumption is that a considerable majority of players play only one game and that the outliers don’t bring the average up very high yet. Different games cater for different group sizes, which is factored in, and the assumption made here is that it’s reasonable to take average group sizes per game based on each site’s group photos.

With all this in mind, this site makes its best estimate that the number of people who have played at least one exit game in the UK or Ireland, at any point in time up to the end of October 2015, is 400,000. (This estimate is quoted to the nearest 10,000, but the site would not like to claim more confidence than “between 160,000 and 1,000,000”.) As ever, if someone plays more than one game at the same site, this figure still only counts them once, and this number is only really meaningful in the context of this site’s previous estimates. The other usual caveat is that this figure may exclude data from locations about which this site is ignorant – and, as ever, this site keeps discovering new locations that perhaps it might have found out about earlier!

Good news from early November

another-adventureIt’s been a few days since the real world has permitted a chance to catch up with things here, so to get back into the swing of things, a few quick good news stories:

  • This site has covered proposals at exit games before. This site has even covered proposals at Breakout Manchester before… and more than one of them, from memory. (Can’t get enough of them, though!) However, this site hasn’t had one quite like this before. The groom, who popped the question, wrote about his day, and the moment itself has been caught and shared both as a still photo and as a video clip, in the very rare instance where sharing camera footage from the rooms is actually properly cool. Hooray! Many congratulations to the joyous couple!
  • Two and a half months ago, this site posted about Red House Mysteries and their involvement in the Chatroulette First-Person Shooter. If you happened to be on Chatroulette at the right time, perhaps you might have been lucky enough to be involved in the recently-released level two, much more spectacular still, being filmed in an abandoned power station. Congratulations all round, not least to Red House Mysteries for the timely opening of their site in Exeter.
  • Over in Leeds, Locked In Games celebrated their first anniversary not only with some rather spectacular cakes but by donating the day’s profits to a local charity. Many happy returns of the day!
  • In London, the granddaddy of them all, HintHunt are hiring an experienced site manager. Jobs are also going in New York, Vienna and Budapest, which sounds extremely exciting.
  • Having started at Breakout Manchester, a good place to end is at Breakout Liverpool, where one Daniel Sturridge and friends broke out of their Classified room. Fingers crossed that more injured footballers use exit games as part of their rehab routines.