Getting down to business

A few pieces of news arising:

1) Insider Media reports that “An AIM-listed investment vehicle has agreed a £12m reverse takeover for a live escape room business, with plans to bring the brand to the UK. Dorcaster has agreed to buy Experiential Ventures Ltd, the holding company of the Escape Hunt Group.” If you search for Experiential Ventures in the news, you can find other analysts’ viewpoints on the development; for instance, there is a slightly sourer opinion from Shares magazine.

I’m not sufficiently business-savvy to know the ins and outs of how the procedure works, and whether it’s all done and dusted and the cash-register bell is ringing or whether people are still relying on other people to supply money to make things happen. (If there is someone who can interpret, that would be very welcome.) I do like the thought of someone from the escape game industry Getting The Loot, though; while this deal might have arisen from what is, to some extent, an escape game franchise business, rather than an escape game business, I can’t imagine you could have a credible escape game franchise business without having had an escape game business first.

This site featured a couple of interviews from May 2014 and November 2014 with Escape Hunt principal Paul Bart. There’s more analysis to be done somewhere of this (and of business in general) down the line, but that day is not today; today is a champagne graphic day, as far as I’m concerned.

2) The much-missed Oubliette‘s Minkette kindly pointed to this thread on Twitter, in which Lee Shang Lun, also known as Harry, livetweeted (and translated) a talk given by Baptiste Cazes on escape room games at the Pompidou Centre. The thread is well worth reading.

3) Archimedes Inspiration‘s Kou Tseng is running the London Marathon a week on Saturday in support of Mind, the mental health charity, in an escape-themed padlock costume. You can donate directly to his fundraising effort. Alternatively, the site’s Facebook page states that “Book one of our games between now and 30th April and we will donate all the profits to Mind, an amazing charity that provides help and support to anyone experiencing an mental health problem.” Kudos! Immense kudos!

4) Shortly after that, the next UK escape room unconference will take place. “April’s UK Escape Room Unconference will be held at Summerhall in Edinburgh – a quirky and original venue close to Edinburgh Waverley train station and the bus station. The lovely peeps at LockedIn are running free sessions from noon on Monday to noon on Wednesday if you’re staying over, and on the evening of the event as well.” It starts at 10am on Tuesday 25th April; tickets are still available for under £34, including Eventbrite fee. Sadly I’ll be working the day shift and have to miss out this time, but some highly-regarded London types have suggested that the standard of games in Edinburgh is (almost entirely consistently) remarkably high, with the highest highlight at least matching anything England has to offer. A ringing endorsement, and these unconferences are always great days. Judging by the names on the Eventbrite, there’ll be easily enough brilliant people there that it’ll be worth your time and effort in terms of who you’ll meet and what you’ll learn, and not so many people as to overload the venue and become overwhelming.

5) A little further down the line is the next Up The Game conference on Tuesday 9th May at a remarkable abandoned prison venue in Breda in the Netherlands. Tickets are still available and won’t leave much change from €200, plus all the usual costs of travel to attend a conference, but the speaker line-up is stellar. I hadn’t realised quite how big the first Up The Game was – of the order of 500 attendees from 40 countries – and I’ll eagerly be awaiting news of this one from afar.

Dyson with death

Dyson "Smart Rooms"Dyson, manufacturer of remarkable cyclone-generating motors and devices in which they might be found such as vacuum cleaners, have been involved in some unusually interesting projects over the past few months. The first was a deliberately short-lived ARG called Rethinkers and the credit list contains some of the most celebrated names when it comes to integrating stories and games, one of whom was responsible for a very highly celebrated escape room. While the game is now history, probably the best place to find out about it is the appropriate subreddit.

This isn’t Dyson’s only adventure, though. At least some of the people involved in that campaign are also involved in a follow-up campaign called The Smart Rooms. This saw Dyson release a video featuring snippets of code that could be assembled (both literally and figuratively) to generate a password which might earn you access to visit The Smart Rooms themselves. These rooms will be in place in Brixton over the coming two days and every place has been booked. In context, these rooms are set to bear some similarities to a traditional escape game, but there will be an “Internet of things” / “connected house” theme and an unusually heavy focus on software engineering challenges. Indeed, the presumed reason why Dyson are going to these lengths is to capture the attention of talented software engineers and inviting them to apply to work for them. Success in either game does not guarantee employment but would surely be a feather in the cap.

This weekend’s play has another twist – and, very unusually, the best place to find out more is an article in The Sun. The players’ progress will be streamed live on Twitch as they take part; struggling players may ask viewers for help, indirectly, by indicating four words or four objects and inviting the world to vote on which appears the most relevant in the situation. Hopefully the world will decide to be helpful.

So even if you aren’t getting to play in person this weekend, perhaps you can still get to play along. Follow Dyson and their social media this weekend for the action as it happens!

Industry advertising at the UK Games Expo

UK Games Expo 2017The UK Games Expo describes itself as the largest Hobby Games Convention in the UK. It has taken place in Birmingham for each of the last 11 years and attendance is in the low tens of thousands annually. It’s a three-day event, so the figure might have some triple-counting, but that’s still very impressive. It features organised tournaments and open gaming across a wide variety of genres: board games, trading card games, miniatures war games and RPGs, both tabletop and live action. Increasingly it features game-themed entertainment events as well. (It’s almost easier to define it in terms of what sorts of games it doesn’t focus upon: traditional mind sports, physical games and digital games.) While far from all exit games players have interests in these fields, enough of them do that this seems to pose an obvious opportunity: people who go to the UK Games Expo have a much larger-than-average chance of being interested in exit games.

There is a plan to have some sort of industry-wide presence at the event. Potentially there will be a bespoke game to play, showcasing what a number of different exit games have to offer, but which will need considerable manipulation to fit into a convention context. There would also be the scope to heavily advertise your exit game brand at the event. More on this may emerge at the next unconference on 10th January, as previously discussed, but there may be no spaces left for it, so the best way to find out more would be to get in touch with Liz Cable.

Summer 2016: where are the gaps in the UK market?

Regions of the UK

From the National Archives; contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

In case anyone’s in any doubt, I’m absolutely thrilled with the job that Ken is doing with Exit Games UK since I handed it over to him. He’s definitely doing a better job of it than I could right now and may very well do a better job of it than I could do at my best. Certainly some of the changes he’s made to the administration of it are very smart, far better than I knew how to do. I’m thrilled that he’s brought the map up to date and also done a wonderful job revamping and improving the list of games, after a point at which I waved the white flag. His articles have also been top-notch, too. All that and it’s not even his first site!

I’m particularly glad that he’s brought the list of games up to date because it means I can catch up with this post. Every six-ish-ish months or so, this site looks at a snapshot of the UK market for exit games and analyses where the gaps are at that time. (See the older versions from September 2015, March 2015, September 2014 and March 2014.)

It’s possible that some of the first exit game room proprietors might have started business in the closest big city to where they happened to already live. However, if you had a choice as to where to set up business, where are the most obvious gaps in the market? Alternatively, where might people expect to see exit rooms coming soon? In mid-2016, now that some of the most successful operations have started two or more locations in different towns, where remains up for grabs?

The Brookings Institution analysed 300 of the largest metropolitan economies in late 2012 and identified 15 of them as being in the UK. Because it’s the same list I’ve been using previously, here are the 15 largest metropolitan economies in the UK, alongside the number of exit rooms featured in each one. If there’s a large metropolitan economy without an exit room, there’s arguably a gap in the market there. You can find details of which sites are in which locations on the Exit Game details page.

Metropolitan economy Sites operating Also consider
1. London ~27 2 under construction, Gravesend (1) is close
2. Birmingham 3 Nuneaton (1) is close
3. Manchester 6 Macclesfield (1), Warrington (2), Stockport (1), Atherton (1) all close
4. Leeds-Bradford 3 1 under construction
5. Liverpool 5 Warrington (1) is close
6. Glasgow 6 1 under construction
7. Nottingham-Derby 4 1 under construction, Mansfield (1) is close
8. Portsmouth-Southampton 2 Bournemouth (1) and Salisbury (1) are close
9. Bristol 4 Bath (1) is close
10. Newcastle 4 Sunderland (1) is close
11. Sheffield 3  
12. Cardiff-Newport 4 1 under construction
13. Edinburgh 7 Livingston (1) is close
14. Leicester 1 2 under construction
15. Brighton 2 1 under construction

For comparison, the Dublin metro area with 3 sites open would come just below number three in the above list.

So where are the gaps in the market? Er, there aren’t really any, any more. Too late! OK, that’s unduly flippant. I’ve linked to this before, even recently, but I really like Puzzle Break‘s Nate Martin’s take on competition between escape rooms.

Let’s use a different list, along the same lines: list of UK cities by their Gross Value Added. A more recently updated version of the data is available from the ONS, but that breaks it down almost too much. That list on Wikipedia does display some editorial judgment by amalgamating some sections together, but does so in what I consider to be a helpful fashion. Don’t read too much into the ordering as there’s a great deal of “well, it depends on what you count” – how great (for instance) Greater Manchester might be, and so on. Is it wrong to count Leeds and Bradford as distinct? How about Coventry and Nuneaton? How about Newcastle and Whitley Bay? How about Manchester, Altrincham and Bury? …and so on.

Metropolitan economy Sites operating Also consider
1. London ~27 2 under construction, Gravesend (1) is close
2. Manchester 6 Macclesfield (1), Warrington (2), Stockport (1), Atherton (1) all close
3. Birmingham 3 Nuneaton (1) is close
4. Leeds 3 1 under construction
5. Glasgow 6 1 under construction
6. Edinburgh 7 Livingston (1) is close
7. Tyneside 4 Sunderland (1) is close
8. Bristol 4 Bath (1) is close
9. Sheffield 3  
10. Cardiff 4 1 under construction
11. Liverpool 5 Warrington (1) is close
12. Belfast 2 1 under construction
13. Bradford 0 Leeds (2) and Huddersfield (1) are nearby
14. Nottingham 3 1 under construction, Mansfield (1) is close
15. Derby 1  
16. Leicester 1 2 under construction
17. Coventry 0 Nuneaton (1) is close
18. Wakefield 0 Leeds (2) and Huddersfield (1) are nearby
19. Brighton 2 1 under construction
20. Southampton 0 Portsmouth (2) is close
21. Portsmouth 2 Bournemouth (1) and Salisbury (1) are close
22. Plymouth 1  
23. Peterborough 1 1 under construction
24. Wolverhampton 0 Birmingham (3) is close
25. Hull 0 1 under construction
26. York 2  
27. Stoke 1  
28. Swansea 2  

Very roughly, this points to West Yorkshire and the West Midlands being underserved. Bradford is definitely a pretty plausible-seeming place, Wakefield somehow less so. Coventry and Wolverhampton have potential and Birmingham still has room to grow. Southampton and Hull look very plausible. The Home Counties still also look promising: moderately-sized mid-distance commuter towns like Reading, Watford, Luton, Dartford, where getting into London (or up to Oxford or Milton Keynes, or down to the Guildford area) may still be annoyingly far. This site remains positive about seaside resorts: Margate, Whitby (or Scarborough), Great Yarmouth and so on.

I would say that I was much more cautious about the market than I was last year, but the number of sites continuing to open just goes to show how little I really know!

INSERT COIN

Generic arcade game graphicThere may be less distinguishing the world of escape rooms from the world of coin-operated arcade games than appears at first glance, at least if you can stretch to accepting partial manual operation of the games, and if you can consider notes to be fungible to lots and lots of coins. (Isn’t there at least one game that claims to be completely free of manual operation? The line there must surely be less distinct still.) It’s almost an application of the reverse of “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic“. This thought was inspired by Tim Hunkin on running an amusement arcade, albeit one like no other.

Part of the reason that I feel happier blogging at Ex Exit Games than at Exit Games UK is that the number of UK games has gone remarkably quickly from 50 to 80 to 109 to a-hundred-and-I-dread-to-think. As it has done so, I feel less and less comfortable with any sort of viewpoint that could be taken as a recommendation without increasing – and already considerable – amounts of qualification that people plan to try to make their living from the industry. People still can, and still will, beat the odds, but the odds are increasingly not in your favour. (Seattle’s Puzzle Break‘s Nate Martin has a really good – and nuanced – take on the effect of competition between sites.) Every game that starts, struggles and folds is a disappointment from the player’s perspective, but a tragedy from the proprietor’s perspective.

About six months ago, I heard a cracking quote that has stuck with me. Naomi Alderman quoted her Mum on the excellent The Cultures podcast (episode 126-ish) saying words to the effect of “Almost nobody can make a full living just from making and selling their art, but almost anyone who wants to can make a life in and around the art form that they love.

Can escape rooms be art? Can escape rooms, like coin-operated games, be considered more-effectively-monetised-than-most forms of art? I’ll leave the distinction between art and craft, and where escape rooms might fit into the spectrum, to people who have a clue what the hell they’re on about concerning the topic. Not me!

Nevertheless, I wonder if there’s merit in considering creating and operating your own escape room to be, first and foremost, an artistic job? (The second half of the quote might refer to working on someone else’s escape room… or whatever escape-room-like game business might come to follow in the years to come.) What sorts of artistic jobs that have existed for decades, or longer, might offer lessons to proprietors of escape rooms?

GAME OVER

CONTINUE?

9

Can there ever be such a thing as “too many”?

Overloaded brainThis post is far from a claim that there are “too many” exit games in the UK. It is, however, a call to consider whether there can be a meaningful concept of “too many” games, and – if so – what “too many” might look like.

One follow-up question is whose perspective is being used to ask the question. As a player, can there be too many games? If the lack of replay value drives you to seek out more and more games to play, the bar for “too many” would surely be set very high, if it existed at all. If someone were to want to play every game that existed, or play a game at every site that existed, then a quest to keep up with every new opening might exceed the time and resources you have available. However, such a quest without limiting yourself to a relatively small area strikes this site as an inherently pretty extreme task. While it’s a delight that new sites and games continue to advance the state of the art, surely there comes a point where additional games, except the latest and greatest, have relatively little to offer. This may or may not be before your resources run out.

From the perspective of someone trying to make a living either as staff or owner of a game, “too many” may look quite different. Our society is capitalist; no business has an inherent right to survive. (It’s amusing to consider the existence of an exit game in a planned economy; surely a meritorious citizen would have to apply to play and then wait months or years for a space to play.) On the other hand, the extent to which a game thrives or even survives may not reflect the quality of the game in question, so much as other matters like the effectiveness of the way in which it is marketed. It seems sadly likely that there will be some brilliant games which fall by the wayside even when lesser – or merely good – games continue for longer; for those businesses, the raised bar for continued survival might be said to have arisen from too many games.

Another way to look at it might be that “too many” simply reflects more than “the right number” – and presupposes that there could be such a thing as a right number. Someone at last week’s unconference seriously looked forward to the thought of there being 300 or 400 sites in the UK; no names, no pack drill, but it was someone who knew a lot about brand expansion. It’s certainly true that the UK has fewer sites than some other countries – even some other smaller countries – and that, say, London has fewer sites than other major conurbations. Do the UK and London have to be at the top of these charts, though? Is the demand really there? The signs have looked good so far, but there surely has to come a point where things find a natural limit.

Do you suppose there could be a million players in one year? How about three million? (There aren’t many hobbies who get three million players in a year; an estimate sufficiently credible for the BBC suggested that there were only four or five million people who played tennis at least once in a year, with maybe a tenth of that playing once a week.) Even allowing for people playing multiple games, and enthusiasts bringing the average up, considering real-world typical team sizes, a million players in a year might look like 300,000 games in a year. (Maybe 250,000; maybe 400,000.) That’s 5,000-8,000 teams per week, keeping the numbers simple. When looking at it last year, the figures pointed to a room (not a site) being more successful and popular than most if it was played twenty times a week, with more than half of these at weekends. So a million plays a year might look like roughly 300 rooms, all being pretty busy at weekends. There were more than 230 rooms in the UK and Ireland at the end of 2015, and quite possibly close to 300 rooms in the UK alone by now.

There’s an awful lot of supply out there already. Whether there’s “too much”, and hence “too many” sites, remains to be seen; fingers crossed that demand remains strong and has further to grow.

Coming soon to your own home: Escape Room in a Box

The titular box in which an escape room can be found

A phrase that I once heard and has got stuck in my mind runs “say it best, say it first, say it last or say it worst”. By cute coincidence, the only citation for it that I can quickly find comes from Professor Scott Nicholson of white paper and Escape Enthusiasts fame. Today’s article is about Escape Room in a Box, the Kickstarter campaign for which closes in less than two days’ time with glorious success; under $20,000 required to fund it, easily over $100,000 raised. Saying it best or first seem impossible now; at least this can be the last place where it gets mentioned… until the next place becomes the new last place.

If you’re reading this, the concept hardly needs explaining. Escape Room in a Box “…is a 60-90 minute cooperative game where 2-6 players solve puzzles, crack codes, and find hidden clues in order to find an antidote to thwart a mad scientist’s plot to turn them into werewolves.” How good could such a game be – or, more to the point, how much could you enjoy such a game? It depends perhaps what aspects of traditional location-specific exit games you most enjoy. Some aspects, like the puzzles, can reasonably be replicated in your own home. Other aspects, like the theming of the environment and ambitious physical props, are much harder. (If a big part of the attraction for you is getting to play with toys that you wouldn’t have the chance to play with elsewhere, it’s less attractive.)

The Logic Escapes Me thought hard about the potential opportunities and limitations of the format and expressed them in their tremendous preview. Perhaps it might best be read in conjunction with Room Escape Artist‘s review of a preview copy of the game, which validates Ken’s concerns and suggests that they have largely been dealt with in a fashion close to reaching the immediate potential of the format. On the other hand, to give full context, perhaps you should compare that review with Esc Room Addict of Canada’s counterpart review of a preview copy, which was rather less enthusiastic.

In any case, the concept appears to have been in the right place at the right time and caught people’s attention more widely; the campaign has been discussed at the Huffington Post and also by those alpha YouTubers at Geek and Sundry. Also excited was Adrian Hon of Six to Start (probably best known for the Zombies, Run! fitness app), also who mentioned it on Twitter. Subsequent discussion started with his opinion “Last escape room I played was $45 *per person*. Surely they could have a higher price/tier, and make the game better or longer?” Perhaps the success of the campaign points to there being the demand for the genre after all – and, from there, it’s tempting to wonder how other members of the family might differ.

Could a later iteration be a partly digital game, requiring its players to supply their own mobile device on which to run an app? Plenty of potential there, starting with being just another medium through which to deliver different sorts of clue, going through being a unique input device and going as far as in any other mixed media game. Certainly the prediction that there may be competitors was proved quickly correct, with ThinkFun introducing Escape the Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor this month (at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of US$21.99, so set your expectations to low-tech), set to be distributed in the UK by Paul Lamond from June. That promises to have an online hint system at the very least.

Exit Games UK would be very interested if existing exit game brands were to consider this technique as a brand extension. Suppose someone has come and played your game, had a tremendous time and have left the room in high spirits. Might this be an excellent time to try to sell them a game so they might have related fun at home? It would take a certain sort of set of strengths for the combination to make sense; home games can convey puzzles very well, so this would work particularly well for a site which prided itself not just on its puzzles but also on certain sorts of puzzles which would translate to a home environment. It would also be a good way to advance the story of a persistent game universe, to keep them keen on playing within your universe when it takes so long and so much to introduce another physical game set there.

The League Table: end of February 2016

Abstract graphic suggesting growth

This is the twenty-third 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 29th February 2016.

The Census

Category Number in the UK Number in Ireland
Exit game locations known to have opened 122 8
Exit game locations known to be open 109 5
Exit game locations in various states of temporary closure 5 2
Exit game locations known to have closed permanently 8 1
Exit game locations showing convincing evidence of being under construction 9 0
Exit game locations showing unconvincing evidence of being under construction 12 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.

This month… well, the numbers get a little bit funky. The number of open games in the UK goes up by nine, but the number of games known to have opened only goes up by eight, because the number of games known to have closed permanently drops by one. The accurate reaction to this would be derision at this site’s concept of “know”, which has proved rather less accurate than suggested; welcome back, Escape Land! Take the distinction between temporary and permanent with an appropriately large dose of salt.

The Report Card does not appear this month because of external time pressures; you may note that there are seven sites which need to be added onto the lists of open games and the timeline, which should hopefully happen within the next week… maybe even before more games start opening, maybe not.

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 escape game rankings lists in (picking only cities with multiple exit games listed) Belfast, Blackpool, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Bristol again, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham or Sheffield.

Additionally, TripAdvisor now has pages entitled Top Escape Games in United Kingdom and Top Escape Games in Ireland. No obvious changes to the ranking algorithm from the previous month. The top two sites remain constant; congratulations to the site which remains top of the UK national list for a sixth consecutive month.

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 has provided recommendations, top five and detailed comparisons, as well as a brilliant brand new comparative ratings table from a handful of critics; see also this piece at Bravofly and thinking bob‘s comparisons. In the North-West, there are the Really Fun room comparisons, the recently-updated Escape Game Addicts rankings and Geek Girl Up North site comparisons as well. If you have your own UK ranking list, please speak up and it shall be included in future months.

The League Table: end of January 2016

Ascending gold bars with a red trend line

This is the twenty-second 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 January 2016.

The Census

Category Number in the UK Number in Ireland
Exit game locations known to have opened 114 8
Exit game locations known to be open 100 5
Exit game locations in various states of temporary closure 5 2
Exit game locations known to have closed permanently 9 1
Exit game locations showing convincing evidence of being under construction 8 0
Exit game locations showing unconvincing evidence of being under construction 8 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.

This month has seen seven UK additions, one Irish addition, one UK subtraction and a UK recount which deducts one from the total. (This site had both The Escape Hunt Experience and Escape Entertainment in London – specifically, in the same building in London – in the total for a while.) The Irish addition is Asylroom, which apparently dates back to October; more on this soon. The UK subtraction is Mystery Squad, which appears to have subtracted its web site. No sign of either of the sites listed as having suspended web sites in previous months.

The Report Card

Site name Number of rooms The reviews
Site name Total number Different games Find reviews
A Curious Escape 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Adventure Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Agent November 6 3 TripAdvisor
Asylroom 2 2 TripAdvisor
Bath Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Aberdeen 4 3 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Inverness 3 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Liverpool 5 6 TripAdvisor
Breakout Manchester 8 7 TripAdvisor
Can You Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cipher 0 0 TripAdvisor
City Mazes Cardiff 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Clue Finders 2 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Blackpool 4 3 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Brentwood 2 2 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Sunderland 1 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Warrington 5 5 TripAdvisor
clueQuest 7 2 TripAdvisor
Code to Exit 2 2 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 2 2 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 Cardiff 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Durham 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Plymouth 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Scotland 3 3 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 Plan Edinburgh 1 1 TripAdvisor
Exit Strategy 1 1 TripAdvisor
Extremescape 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
History Mystery Norwich 1 1 TripAdvisor
House of Enigma 0 0 (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 East London 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve South London 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lock’d 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lockdown-Inverness 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lock Down Zone 0 0 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
Mind the Game 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Mission Escape 3 3 TripAdvisor
Mystery Cube 1 1 TripAdvisor
Mystery Squad 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Namco Funscape Escape Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Noughts and Coffees 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Oubliette 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Panic! 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Pirate Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Puzzlair 4 4 TripAdvisor
Puzzle Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
QuestRoom 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
Sherlock Unlock 2 2 TripAdvisor
The Bristol Maze 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
The Escape Network 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Preston 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Gr8 Escape 4 4 TripAdvisor
The Great Escape Game 4 4 TripAdvisor
The Live Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Panic Room 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 2 2 TripAdvisor
TimeCraft 1 1 TripAdvisor
Time Run 2 1 TripAdvisor
Trapped In 2 2 TripAdvisor
Trapped Up North 0 0 TripAdvisor
We Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
XIT 4 4 TripAdvisor
Zombie in a Room 0 0 (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 escape game rankings lists in (picking only cities with multiple exit games listed) Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Bristol again, Cardiff, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham or Sheffield.

Additionally, TripAdvisor now has pages entitled Top Escape Games in United Kingdom and Top Escape Games in Ireland. No obvious changes to the ranking algorithm from the previous month. While the top two sites remain constant – congratulations to the site which remains top of the UK national list for a fifth consecutive month – numbers three and four on the chart swap back places and there’s a lot of upward momentum for sites in London and Leeds from fifth place onwards.

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, as well as a brilliant brand new comparative ratings table from a handful of critics; see also this piece at Bravofly and thinking bob‘s comparisons. In the North-West, there are the QMSM room comparisons (recently updated to cover reviews of 25 rooms to celebrate the site’s first anniversary!) and Geek Girl Up North site comparisons as well. If you have your own UK ranking list, please speak up and it shall be included in future months. The next step (and one towards which The Logic Escapes Me is making progress) 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.

In previous months, this site has made a series of estimates as to the number of people who had played exit games in the UK and Ireland. You may also have noticed that this document is being published far from the start of the month. While it probably is useful to have such an estimate – not least because if nobody puts work into putting in a rigorous estimate, then less rigorous estimates are the best ones going, mentioning no Facebook threads, and thus might get more credibility than they deserve – it’s an awful lot of work to make the estimates and keep them up to date. Accordingly, with apologies, the series of estimates must be discontinued, and the The League Table feature will continue without it for the sake of sanity and even vague timeliness.

Results from the 2015/2016 Survey

Abstract survey graphicThis is the five hundredth item on this blog, or the 501st if you count the map as an item. It’s a lovely round number, certainly, but celebratory hoopla will be saved for another occasion.

Nearly two weeks ago, this site sent out 75 e-mails to exit games in the UK, with representing total of 88 locations, inviting them to take part in a survey. Twenty-four replies have now been received, featuring twenty-three answers, which is a pleasing rate of response. The first twenty came in time for a preliminary results presentation and analysis at The Great Escape UK last week; at that point, it was suggested that the full results would be made available within a week so now is the time to shut the lid on the survey.

Here follows a summary of the results. The percentage values quoted are not intentionally misleading, but the sample size of 23 is moderately small. On the other hand, maybe it’s just the best data that we can expect to get!

1. How was 2015 for you and for your business?

52% of respondents gave a somewhat generic positive response (good, really good, fantastic etc.) and 13% specifically suggested they found things exciting, though 17% conveyed a sense that things have been tough or that their learning curve had been steep. 52% of respondents identified as being from new businesses; 26% pointed to expansion, growth or new rooms in their answers here and 9% suggested that 2015 had been better than 2014. 30% identified that they took pride in the good reviews that they had received and 13% proudly quoted the number of people they employed.

2. How do you feel 2015 was for the world of exit games in the UK at large?

57% of replies here pointed out the number of openings and 22% observed more general growth in the market. 35% identified increased awareness of the genre among the public, 13% noted the popularity and the quality of reviews and 26% gave a non-specific positive response. 9% of responses hinted at observing the start of market saturation.

3. What can you reveal about your plans for 2016?

57% of answers referred to at least one new room, 26% to at least one new site and 13% to planned forthcoming change to their existing rooms. 17% talked about spreading their brand through franchise or licensing arrangements. Finally, 13% hinted more vaguely at new projects, more experimental games or expansion outside the traditional definition of exit games.

4. What do you expect to see happen to the UK’s exit games in 2016?

The most overwhelming conclusion in the whole survey is that 83% expected more openings; an interpretation might be that some or all of the remaining response was from people who considered it sufficiently self-evident not to express. 22% said they expected further closures. 13% pointed out that they thought the market had not reached “the top” yet; 35% expected the new games launched to be better or more experimental and another 13% anticipated a better year in the media for the market.

5. What are your biggest concerns for 2016?

30% expressed concern over the effect of bad games on newcomers; 13% feared too much competition, or too many new sites, and 9% worried over the potential for their games to be copied. 17% used phrases like the beginnings of market saturation or the analogy of a burst bubble. Happily, as many as 22% of responses said they had nothing to worry about!

This site wishes to thank everyone who responded to the survey and looks forward to seeing how things compare in another year’s time. The raw results are long and accordingly behind the “Read more” link below.

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