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!

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.

Long open in Galway: Asylroom

Asylroom logoThis site normally titles its articles about exit games as “Now open in…” when the post comes shortly after opening. This post concerns a game that has been open since October, so “Now open” would seem to be taking something of a liberty. How many other games might exist out there that have not yet reached this site’s attention? Many thanks to the Asylroom proprietors for getting in touch.

Asylroom is an exit game in Galway on the west coast of Ireland. The location features two different games, currently Sherlocked and Se7en Sins; the latter game is set in a psychiatric asylum, as hinted at by the site’s name. Both games have one-hour time limits; Sherlocked is suitable for teams of up to six, with teams of four to six recommended, and Se7en Sins is suitable for teams of up to five. Games are available seven days a week, running from 4pm until late on weekdays and practically from midday to midnight at weekends. The fee is €65 per team, or just €55 on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

The Sherlocked game has the following story. “Sherlock Holmes while working on his very last case was kidnapped! Before it happened he finally solved it but was so terrified about the result that he hide it in his room and create plenty clues which leads to result. Being in rush he unfortunately left the room in a mess which doesn’t help to find the clues. Will you be able to get things together and find out what is all about and leave the room before kidnappers be back?

In Se7en Sins, here’s the story. “Se7en. This is the number of sins. That is the number of victims, which reaches the wrath of his chosen one. This is the number of ways of taking the life that he chooses. This is the number of days in a week in the life of the rainy city. And that is the number of the room that you will be trying to escape exploring the crannies of the mind of the madman. But are you sure he is mad? Or maybe crazy is the road which leads to the lucky escape?

Exit Games UK is seldom critical, but gets prickly at outdated and unhelpful depictions of mental health issues wherever they are featured. Exit games seldom get bad press, though this story from Canada shows how a stigmatising theme can have bigger conseqeuences than intended. (On the other hand, last time I brought the issue up on a forum, someone with such a game, as well as others, suggested that the theme was more commercially successful than their others…)

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.

Looking ahead to 2016: predictions for the year

Peering into a Crystal Ball

This site has ran predictions features over the second half of 2014 and over the whole of 2015, assessing the accuracy of the predictions each time so that the world can have a giggle at just how wrong the guesses were in the first place. Let’s have another go for 2016, more because it’s fun than for any other reason. (Compare to the 2016 predictions for London by The Logic Escapes Me.)

That said, predictions are only so-o-o-o interesting. It’s more fun to think about plausible edge cases; it’s more fun to predict a long shot than something more obvious, but who’s to say what’s obvious and what isn’t? This list of predictions will also attempt to minimise the extent to which it covers previously-trod ground, as “this was an entertaining long-shot that didn’t happen last year and remains an entertaining long-shot this year” isn’t particularly exciting. A couple of other starting-points for predictions: this site will steer clear of predicting things it believes to be foregone conclusions already, and this site will attempt to make the most ambitious predictions that it feels confident making; this site would set over-under lines for the numerical predictions only a little above the figures quoted.

This site considers each of the following to be at least slightly more likely than not:

  • This site will become aware of more than 51 exit game openings in the UK and Ireland in 2016. (Not part of the prediction, but this site suspects that at least 40% of the openings will come from brands and people already in the business in 2015, with a decreasing number of people starting from scratch. Deliberately short-lived pop-up games are not included in the count.)
  • This site will become aware of more than 13 exit game closures in the UK and Ireland. Not every closure is a catastrophe: some businesses have decided to deliberately run a game with a finite duration, possibly with later sequels in mind.
  • At least one brand will have at least nine locations open in the UK and Ireland in 2016. (This is perhaps the most marginal of predictions, but eight seems just a little too safe to predict.)
  • Crowdfunding will get harder; no reasonably traditional exit game based in the UK or Ireland will attract more than £5,000 in funding in 2016 unless the people behind it have an established track record in this or another closely related industry.
  • Many of the biggest gaps in the market will close. At least one exit game will open in 2016 within eight miles of the main train station in at least four of the seven following locations: Reading, Portsmouth, Milton Keynes, Hull, Middlesbrough, Coventry and Peterborough. (This site has heard people talk about possible sites in two of these, but that’s far from a done deal. Other possible cities have been rejected from the list for being too safe a prediction.)
  • The exit game industry will continue to grow sufficiently quickly that this site’s estimate for the number of unique players in the UK or Ireland by the end of December 2015 reaches or exceeds 750,000.
  • There will be a meeting in the UK or Ireland in 2016 with exit games as its focus which attracts more than 50 attendees.
  • This site will become aware of someone that it does not already know at the time of making this prediction running an exit game for friends and family on an amateur basis within the UK and Ireland in 2016 using something more elaborate than, say, a Breakout EDU kit or similar.
  • London and at least two other UK towns will each hold at least four Puzzled Pint events in 2016. (This site has six possibilities in mind.)
  • There will be a UK DASH event and it will sell at least 25 team spaces – or sell out completely if the organisers choose a lower capacity – within 12 days.
  • There will be at least 18 locations in at least three countries around the world at this year’s DASH.
  • Ulrich Voigt will win the World Puzzle Championship this year for his eleventh victory in seventeen years.
  • David McNeill of Northern Ireland will defend his over-50s title in at least one of the World Sudoku Championship and the World Puzzle Championship; hopefully both!
  • This site will finally predict the WPC winning team after picking second place for the last two years.
  • This site loves stories of marriage proposals taking place at exit games and there have been at least ten customer proposals on record. A more interesting prediction is that by the end of 2016, this site will become aware of at least one proposal between a couple who got to know each other by both working at the same exit game.

This site considers each of the following to be less likely than not – maybe something like 30% likely each? – but nevertheless these are interesting possibilities.

  • Some company may bring larger-scale live escape events to the UK, with relatively many teams playing the same game at once. (This is inspired by SCRAP’s Real Escape Game events playing in France and Spain as well as other continents, and is surely slightly more likely than last year.)
  • An exit game brand in the UK and Ireland may take over at least one other existing game, or maybe even another exit game brand altogether.
  • There may be a single-day puzzle hunt in the UK and Ireland that is not the continuation of a series run in previous years and that attracts at least a hundred players.
  • There may be some interactive transmedia storytelling (or an Alternate Reality Game, as people called them a decade and a bit ago) to promote a new exit game or a new room at an exit game.
  • This site may become aware of an Irish exit game community; the rooms do exist, as well as the Boda Borg centre at Lough Key and doubtless other things far too cool to exist in the UK yet, so it would be a delight for someone to start a blog with an Irish focus and maybe even get meetings going as is starting to happen in the UK.

This site considers each of the following to be much less likely than not – maybe something like 15% likely each? – but nevertheless these are entertaining outside possibilities.

  • There might be a TV puzzle show made in the UK or Ireland to match up with the best puzzle shows that we’ve had in the past; if someone were to commission a local version of The Genius and it were to live up to its potential, that would count, or if someone were to make a really good exit game TV show, that would count too.
  • There might be a puzzle competition (as opposed to an armchair treasure hunt or puzzle hunt) launched in the UK or Ireland which is designed to be played in teams – maybe even an inter-town league or an inter-university championship. This site really misses the Croco-League.
  • Someone might start an overtly humorous blog about the genre in the UK and Ireland: two-thirds serious content, one-third shtick.
  • Someone might start an attraction just north of Heathrow called The Crystal Hayes or in South Essex called The Crystal Grays

The semester report for late 2015

Tree graphics from the second half of the yearThis site looks at locations’ TripAdvisor performances from time to time; it’s interesting to reflect on how far the industry has come. The Timeline shows that the number of known open exit games in the UK doubled (or, on every occasion but one, more than doubled) over the first half of 2013, the second half of 2013, the first half of 2014, the second half of 2014 and the first half of 2015. (Those numbers: 1 to 3 to 7 to 14 to 30 to 64.) Over the second half of 2015, the number did not double again but rose from 64 to 95. Maybe it’s only 94. It’s in the very high double figures, at least.

It’s worth occasionally looking at trends in popular reviews of exit games in the UK and Ireland, taken from TripAdvisor statistics. This site is using a little more reserve than once it did with regards to what it says, bearing TripAdvisor’s terms of use in mind; the aim is not to laud or criticise particular sites in this regard, more to look at the bigger picture. Besides, if you run a site and care about your performance in this regard, it’s probably not difficult to work out which site is which from context. As usual, there’s more than a hint of truth in xkcd’s snark about online star ratings; in this world, anything other than full marks (and, especially if you’re on eBay, several pluses and stars) is a “diss that don’t miss”. It’s not necessarily a healthy state of affairs for anyone who cares about subtlety, graduation and shades of light and dark – but, with this in mind, are five-star ratings quite as common as they used to be?

Here’s some raw data, aggregated over the universe of TripAdvisor reviews for exit games in the UK and Ireland that this site was able to find.

Time period Number of reviews Number of 5* reviews Proportion of 5% reviews
To end of June 2014 1665 1532 92%
Second half of 2014 2240 1998 89%
First half of 2015 4248 3900 92%
Second half of 2015 6697 6127 91%

From these figures, there has been no measured change in quality over the last six months; a z-test does not suggest any even slightly meaningful degree of significance in the change from the first half of 2015 to the second. These statistics make the considerable (and untestable) assumption that the standard required for a 5* review is the same as it ever was.

It may be closer to comparing like with like to only consider the 52 sites that have been open since before January 2015, where we have meaningful numbers of reviews (10+, and even that’s a stretch) for H1 2015 and for H2 2015.

Site location First half of 2014 Second half of 2015
  Reviews 5% reviews Prop’n 5% Reviews 5% reviews Prop’n 5%
Scotland 66 52 79% 115 95 83%
South 79 70 89% 75 65 87%
Ireland 24 18 75% 20 16 80%
Midlands 11 1 9% 15 0 0%
Midlands 109 108 99% 113 107 95%
North 84 82 98% 69 64 93%
South 22 21 95% 23 15 65%
South 64 60 94% 92 88 96%
Scotland 203 167 82% 103 82 80%
Scotland 103 98 95% 98 96 98%
Scotland 119 113 95% 163 151 93%
Scotland 66 64 97% 148 142 96%
Scotland 122 109 89% 106 90 85%
Scotland 14 12 86% 35 30 86%
Scotland 41 41 100% 111 109 98%
North 36 35 97% 23 23 100%
Scotland 11 11 100% 48 45 94%
North 200 194 97% 176 163 93%
North 156 150 96% 93 86 92%
North 80 80 100% 95 94 99%
North 72 66 92% 104 97 93%
North 28 27 96% 23 19 83%
North 40 37 93% 147 132 90%
North 21 18 86% 89 77 87%
London 189 178 94% 177 163 92%
London 220 207 94% 235 213 91%
London 71 54 76% 62 47 76%
London 23 22 96% 23 23 100%
London 20 19 95% 35 33 94%
London 59 50 85% 115 97 84%
London 31 29 94% 128 114 89%
London 62 60 97% 181 178 98%
London 75 71 95% 202 191 95%
North 31 30 97% 32 32 100%
North 172 155 90% 211 184 87%
North 76 69 91% 258 216 84%
North 190 169 89% 254 195 77%
Midlands 13 13 100% 15 15 100%
North 41 37 90% 37 31 84%
North 65 62 95% 38 29 76%
North 41 41 100% 59 57 97%
Midlands 82 76 93% 148 137 93%
Midlands 46 46 100% 162 158 98%
Midlands 27 20 74% 46 38 83%
South 121 112 93% 104 91 88%
South 71 70 99% 74 74 100%
North 141 134 95% 185 161 87%
North 39 37 95% 34 33 97%
North 210 203 97% 198 190 96%
North 95 90 95% 197 186 94%
Ireland 36 36 100% 85 85 100%
Ireland 22 20 91% 53 48 91%

The first column is classified as Scotland, Ireland, London, and (referring to different parts of provincial England) North, Midlands and South. Be aware that Ireland refers to both Northern Ireland and Ireland as such; this is poor practice that the site does not usually follow, but the alternative would be to let at least one site be individually identifiable, which this site considers to be an even worse alternative. There is further ordering in the table which this site chooses not to make explicit but is not hard to deduce. (If you run a site and can’t work out which site you are, you could always ask.)

So, only among these 52 popular and well-established sites:

Time period Number of reviews Number of 5* reviews Proportion of 5% reviews
First half of 2015 4040 3744 93%
Second half of 2015 5432 4905 90%

That is a statistically highly significant difference over the whole of the population and some individual sites have similarly statistically significant differences as well. Does this mean that those sites have got worse over time? Not necessarily; it may just mean that people are holding well-established sites to an even higher standard still to the one that once they did. Run your own tests!

There’s one other comparison worth running:

Time period Number of reviews Number of 5* reviews Proportion of 5% reviews
52 well-established sites 5432 4905 90%
The other 40+ sites 1265 1222 97%

That too is a statistically highly significant difference. Does this mean that new sites are better than well-established sites? That could be one conclusion. Does this mean that people are holding these less well-established sites to a less exacting standard? That could be another. Certainly some new sites have got off to remarkably accomplished starts. This is excellent news and this site looks forward to seeing whether they can maintain their remarkably high ratings over time. Every site was a less well-established site before it became a well-established one.

There is one very important assumption that this analysis makes: that the reviews that people leave are a genuinely representative sample of participants. Different sites seem to perform more or less effectively at converting participants into reviewers and it is not clear why. Looking at the geographic locations of reviewers, it’s also sometimes possible that more than one member of the same team might choose to leave a review for some games, though there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that; it’s conceivable that different members of one group might leave – say – both a ***** review and a *** review, rather than the group leaving a single **** review. It’s not unknown, in the wider world at large, for there to be such things as fake reviews; this site isn’t aware of it having happened in the exit games it covers, but this site has chosen not to look too hard.

In conclusion: in aggregate, the statistics suggest that exit games were awesome up until the first half of 2015, and have been just as awesome in the second half of 2015 as well.

The 2015/2016 Survey and some events coming up

Abstract survey graphicThis site has just 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. If you see this and didn’t get the survey – either because this site might have used the wrong address, or couldn’t find an address at all in a handful of occasions – then this site apologises and invites you still to send in your responses by e-mail. The views of players and other participants would also be interesting and most welcome (perhaps as a comment to this post?) but only site operators will have their responses tallied for the final results.

All responses are anonymous; if you choose not to mention the name of your site in the answer to a question then nobody will know the answer has come from you.

1. How was 2015 for you and for your business?
2. How do you feel 2015 was for the world of exit games in the UK at large?
3. What can you reveal about your plans for 2016?
4. What do you expect to see happen to the UK’s exit games in 2016?
5. What are your biggest concerns for 2016?

This site hopes to have a few dozen responses trickle in over the next week or so (there have been ten responses within about as many hours so far; credit to the proprietor of Puzzle Room for being the quickest off the mark) and will collate and present the results in an article here. The first place to hear the results will be the The Great Escape UK unconference taking place in Leeds on Wednesday 13th January (i.e., a week tomorrow). There have been at least twenty people sign up for the unconference, and the unconference structure is a tried and tested model, so it should be a really good day. There still are spaces available if you haven’t signed up yet and want to come.

However, if you don’t want to have to wait another week, there’s fun on the agenda this weekend. Scott Nicholson is promoting the first BreakoutEDU Game Jam which invites people to use the BreakoutEDU toolkit of generic exit game apparatus to devise educational exit-like games that might be played in the classroom, library, museum or other educational environments. (While the equipment list is a constraint, it’s also a platform; you can rely on other people having the right equipment to replicate your game.) People are invited to meet up in locations around the world to co-operate on their games. This site isn’t yet sure if there are any locations definitely confirmed for the UK this weekend, but the Facebook events page definitely suggests there’s interest here. For some people who might be interested in creating their own room but know that they aren’t well-suited to making it a business venture, this might be an ideal opportunity.

If that’s not your thing, it’s not the only option! The World Puzzle Federation‘s 2016 Grand Prix competitions start this weekend with this year’s first Sudoku Grand Prix, set by the Dutch team. If 90 minutes of hard but interesting sudoku and variants sounds like your cup of tea, register an account at the WPF site (which is free!) and take a look at the instruction booklet. Then carve out a 90-minute slot this weekend (late Friday through to most of Monday) and go wild!

The League Table: end of December 2015

3-dimensional bar chartThis is the twenty-first 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 December 2015.

The Census

Category Number in the UK Number in Ireland
Exit game locations known to have opened 107 7
Exit game locations known to be open 95 4
Exit game locations in various states of temporary closure 4 2
Exit game locations known to have closed permanently 8 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 six additions and three subtractions; Trapped Up North‘s FAQ page said “We open on 1st August and run various dates till the 23rd Dec“, so this looks like a clean fold and a happy ending, but a Trapped Up North 2016 would not come as a surprise and would be a welcome return. The other subtractions are Lock Down Zone of northern South Yorkshire and Zombie in a Room of Chesterfield, both of whose web sites appear to be temporarily suspended and who seem to be making no progress on social media.

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 3 3 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 5 5 TripAdvisor
Can You Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cipher 0 0 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 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 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
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
Mission Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Mystery Cube 1 1 TripAdvisor
Mystery Squad 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Namco Funscape Escape Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Noughts and Coffees 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 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
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 “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. No obvious changes to the ranking algorithm from the previous month, and not much change to the national rankings; congratulations to the site which remains top of the national list for a fourth consecutive month. Numbers three and four on the chart swap places, one site rises from number ten to number eight and numbers nine and ten are re-entries.

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.

This site was uncertain just how busy December would be – after all, it’s Bank Holiday season and people have all manner of parties and other demands on their time. The second half of the month was particularly busy; maybe it’s the “school’s broken up” effect, maybe it’s people taking holiday time from work, travelling to see family and friends and then wanting to take part in leisure activities with them. One notable trend is that this site has revised down the average team size estimate for some games. Some games are built for large teams, some for smaller teams; some games seem to being played by slightly smaller teams than once they were.

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 December 2015, is 470,000. (This estimate is quoted to the nearest 10,000, but the site would not like to claim more confidence than “between 200,000 and 1,200,000”.) 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!

Reviewing this site’s predictions for 2015

Crystal ballAt the start of 2015, this site made a number of predictions as to what might happen over the course of of the year. The accountability department declares it time to go back, review those predictions and have a good laugh. Expect counterpart predictions for 2016 early in the new year.

There is a 5% chance that an exit game business sufficiently motivates and enthuses its staff to vote it into the top twenty of the next Sunday Times “Best Small Company to Work For” list.

No. Apparently this was never likely to happen in the first place as companies have to be at least three years old even to be eligible for nomination. Companies have won local business awards, though.

There is a 10% chance that the newspapers will find a new style of puzzle that attracts half as much public attention as sudoku. There is a 80% chance that the newspapers will claim they have done, but only a 10% chance that it will actually stick in close to the way that sudoku has.

Not the 10% chance, at least. A quick search for "the new sudoku" points to Hidato in The Guardian, which hasn’t caught on.

There is a 15% chance that the world will gain a second global monthly puzzle event. There’s a definite reason for one to exist: the wonderful Puzzled Pint is for the benefit of the community, which (generally) goes to visit a different venue each month in each city. Suppose there were a second event run for the benefit of the venues; individual bars (etc.) could adopt the event, pledging to host a puzzle night in their location each month. There are places that would find that a compelling attraction!

Not to this site’s knowledge. The closest is Puzzle Night, which has yet to spread beyond Minneapolis – St. Paul in the US.

There is a 20% chance that some company brings larger-scale live escape events to the UK, with relatively many teams playing the same game at once. (For those who get the distinction, think Real Escape Game as opposed to Real Escape Room.)

Couldn’t really say so in the way this was intended. Corporate entertainment companies have games which come close to fitting the bill, but they’re not (to this site’s knowledge) selling team tickets to teams of all-comers. Compare to this Irish event or this Dutch event. On the other hand, exactly those sorts of events are happening in France and in Spain, so it’s definitely possible that they’ll come to the UK at some point.

There is a 25% chance that the 25th anniversary of The Crystal Maze, which will happen on 15th February this year, will see a reawakening of interest and the show will catch the public mood once more.

Yes; yes, with bells on! £927,252 worth of yes!

There is a 30% chance that one of the big players in the leisure industry starts a chain of exit games within its own facilities, or teams up with an existing exit game business which wants to expand rapidly by opening in a number of facilities. For instance, if you’re going to go to either of the branches of the real-snow indoor ski slope Xscape, you know you’re prepared to spend money, and the chance to play “Escape at Xscape” would surely be irresistible…

Not yet proven. The escape room at Namco Funscape would count (though is, perhaps, one-fifth the size of what this site had intended) but this site has not yet seen evidence that it’s available at more centres than the London County Hall centre. If it is available more widely among the chain, then it counts.

There is a 35% chance that the UK team produces its best performance in the next World Puzzle Championship, beating its previous best of sixth from the twenty national “A” teams in Beijing in 2013.

Not quite. As recently discussed, the team were so-o-o-o close to matching their previous sixth place finish, but seventh it will have to be.

There is a 40% chance that another UK city develops a puzzle community like that of London, with at least one regular monthly event and at least one larger annual event – maybe as simply as hosting its own Puzzled Pint and DASH events, maybe something of its own. All it takes is someone willing to be the first onto the dancefloor.

A very honourable mention to the wonderful Exit Games Scotland and their exit game binges, which is something that even the community in London does not have. It would be very prescriptive (to put it far more kindly than it would deserve) to suggest that the community in London is, in any sense, the only way to have a community.

There is a 45% chance that the UK mass media will catch on to just how cool exit games are. Maybe the “The One Show” team will go and play, or someone will take the idea to Dragon’s Den, or The Apprentice might consider them to be sufficiently zeitgeist-y to take an interest. At the top end, this site might dream of a revival of The Adventure Game, which effectively featured (among other things) room escape games a good thirty years ahead of the time.

Only to a very technical extent, what with the UK version of the Discovery channel signing up to show repeats of the US Race to Escape show, and not actually starting to air them until 2016.

There is a 55% chance that at least one exit game will earn the Living Wage Employer mark. Perhaps there is at least one out there which pays the stipulated wage already. This site doesn’t believe that every exit game can afford to pay the stipulated level; indeed, many owners, especially of very new games, will be some way from covering costs, and consistent wage rises might force them out of business outright. However, perhaps there’s a business out there who would take pride from going down this route.

Not as far as this site is aware.

There is a 60% chance that the next World Puzzle Championship will be won by Ulrich Voigt of Germany, which would be his eleventh overall and the first time anyone has ever won four in a row.

While Ulrich was the very clear leader going into the play-off, he was only second place coming out of it, so that prediction pays out on “no”.

There is a 65% chance that the exit game industry continues to grow sufficiently quickly that this site’s estimate for the number of unique players in the UK or Ireland by the end of December 2015 reaches or exceeds half a million… and this site will not attempt to fix the figures just for the sake of proving this relatively weakly-held prediction correct.

You’ll see soon. (SPOILER! Nearly, but not quite.)

There is a 70% chance that at least one exit game will start to advertise itself using a formal endorsement from a reasonably well-known, mainstream national or international celebrity.

Not yet. The Escape Room of Manchester have posted several photos of Manchester United’s Daley Blind playing there, but that stops short of a formal endorsement.

There is a 75% chance that the Puzzled Pint community of London will continue to grow, flourish, with teams getting to know each other ever more closely and look forward to meeting each other at the other puzzle events that exist through the course of the year.

Puzzled Pint in London was getting about 50-60 attendees late in 2014. It has grown so large that it has had to split into two locations and now attracts 90-110 attendees most months. That’s a definite yes.

There is a 80% chance that eleven or twelve of the calendar months of the year will see at least one new site open for business in the UK or Ireland.

Very much so, and any fault here in the prediction was one of a lack of ambition.

There is a 85% chance that there will be a UK-based exit game review blog set up this year, to which this site will very happily link. There are many different sites out there who want the publicity from the reviews that they might get; be any good (goodness knows, this site doesn’t set the bar high) and proprietors will be climbing over themselves to invite you to play!

Yes, hooray! QMSM, Escape Game Addicts and The Logic Escapes Me fill this site with joy every time they post. Still room for plenty more, though!

There is a 90% chance that the London leg of DASH 7 will expand from 8 teams in 2013 and 21 teams in 2014 to at least 25 teams for 2015. The London capacity for 2013 and 2014 was 25 teams, so it’s quite possible that London DASH might well sell out.

The London leg of DASH did indeed sell tickets to 25 teams within the space of about two weeks, so this prediction counts as fulfilled (in an airline sense) even if only 23 teams did turn up on the day.

There is a 95% chance that at least two existing exit games covered by this site will officially call it a day.

Sadly so, ending on a downbeat note, but the strength in depth of the market as a whole is something that causes this site great delight.

The League Table: end of November 2015

Bar chart showing improving performance over time

This is the twentieth 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 30th November 2015.

The Census

Category Number in the UK Number in Ireland
Exit game locations known to have opened 101 7
Exit game locations known to be open 92 4
Exit game locations in various states of temporary closure 2 2
Exit game locations known to have closed permanently 7 1
Exit game locations showing convincing evidence of being under construction 7 0
Exit game locations showing unconvincing evidence of being under construction 11 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.

A rather more orderly month than October; the UK has seen six additions and only House of Enigma has moved to “temporarily closed” pending further investigations. Four of those additions were definitely sites that opened in November, two of them were a shade older but only just made it to our radar. It’s surprising how low-key a new exit game can be these days.

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 4 3 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 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 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 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 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
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 London 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lock’d 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lockdown-Inverness 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lock Down Zone 1 1 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)
Namco Funscape Escape Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Panic! 0 0 (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
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 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. Interestingly, the ranking algorithm on this page seems to have changed somewhat; the site is happy to list (for instance) the #2 game in London ahead of the #1 game in other cities; #1s rub up against #3s, #4s and even a #6. That said, the #1s haven’t changed very much from their previous order, which suggests that the changes have not been wholesale. Credit to the same site that has been top of the national list for a third 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 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. As you might expect from the weather – and November was broadly a windy month – indoor businesses like exit games do particularly well at this time of year, and at least five different sites have pushed on considerably from levels that might be considered “ticking on respectably” to levels that might be considered “ticking on well”. Excellent news!

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 November 2015, is 440,000. (This estimate is quoted to the nearest 10,000, but the site would not like to claim more confidence than “between 180,000 and 1,100,000”.) 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!