State of the Escape Room Industry Report 2018 (Owner’s Survey)

P. Agarwal (2018). SEO ORB. State of the Escape Room Industry Report 2018, Owner’s Survey. Available at https://seoorb.com/state-of-escape-room-industry-survey/

Summary

We ran a survey from 17th December 2018 to 7th February 2019 presenting Escape Room Owners a series of questions to gauge the State of the Escape Room Industry.

This report is the outcome of that survey.

Some interesting finds:

  • A majority of respondents feel that creating durable room elements that won’t break easily is the most challenging aspect of creating a new escape mission as compared to designing the puzzles themselves or integrating puzzles with the narrative.
  • 70% of Escape Rooms have a scheduled debriefing process, which may reflect a globally accepted trend among Escape Room Participants.
  • The average industry pricing per player is $26.5 and per team is $190. 
  • 18.23% of the Escape Rooms, which is just short of 1 in 5 Escape Rooms, reported offering internship opportunities. Increase in more such opportunities will surely affect the awareness about Escape Rooms in educational campuses, allowing escape rooms to reach out to more students, who form 20% of the target demographic of this industry.
  • On the issue of what steps are taken to make props last longer, just over 1 in 12 Escape Room owners said they focus on creating props that last. Over 9 in 10 preferred to keep spares on standby. To be sure, an Escape Room can have more than one strategy to handle prop damage.
  • On the issue of whether Escape Rooms tried to access formal credit to build their rooms, 7.39% of respondents reported they tried and their request was approved while only around 2% reported being denied.

The raw data of the survey can be found here. 

Overview

Scope and Methodology of the Survey

We asked Escape Room owners 60 questions covering

Characteristics of their Escape Rooms
Player demographics
Practical aspects of starting a new Escape Room
Building the team
Creating the room(s)
Daily operations
Business models
Looking ahead

The survey was hosted on Survey Planet and ran for 53 days between  17th December 2018 and 7th February 2019.

Recruitment

We spent around 3 months in data collection and verification to be able to reach as many Escape Rooms as possible.  

We manually searched through Google with queries like Escape Room + City, and also used various Facebook Business groups and used a market research tool called Ahrefs to collect a list of 3342 Escape Rooms globally. We contacted the rooms via cold email outreach.

In the last week the survey was live, we also shared the survey in a few Facebook Groups like Escape Room Enthusiasts, Escape Front, Escape Room Startups and Escape Room Business Discussions. A total of 223 responses were received through these efforts.

Survey respondents were told that, apart from a few mandatory questions, they could skip any question they wanted to and also remain anonymous if they wished.

In keeping with best practices, we had to delete 16 responses due to extreme outliers or nonsense responses, speed runs and incomplete or contradictory data. So finally, we had 206 respondents. We also deleted some specific responses from business owners, whom we felt did not interpret the questions in the right manner.

Some of respondents got back to us, suggesting their opinion on certain topics in the survey, and we will surely keep their advice in mind during the next run of this survey, at the end of this year.

Validating the Integrity of the Data

A few tasks were performed to validate the integrity of the data represented in the survey.

Cleaning the Data: Each Response was manually checked and read aloud to spot any inconsistency. Spelling mistakes were rectified, and general responses to qualitative data were organized into themes (bucketed categories).

Deleting Questions: We chose not to include certain questions in the final report, unfortunately, due to very poor response to those questions. We do not feel confident those results represented a trend. The results of the survey, including the deleted questions in their unaltered form are available with the raw data linked above. 

Speed Run Checks: During our countless demo-runs before the survey was live, we identified 12-15 mins as an average time to fill the survey in its entirety. We removed any respondents who speed-run through the survey (took less than 7 minutes) or tried to skew the data with unrealistic numbers. For example, someone completed the survey in 2 minutes, so we deleted their response because they couldn’t possibly have completed the survey honestly within such a short time.

  Data Compilation: We compiled the data to identify takeaways.

Before We Begin

The aim of this survey is to help identify common trends and bottlenecks that will foster the growth of the Escape Rooms Industry in 2019 and beyond.

With the help of the data presented in the survey, we want to uncover answers to recurring questions that many owners face, evoke discussion in the community around important topics, and help current and future business owners to take  important business decisions.

As popular as this industry is, there remain vast swathes of people who have no clue what Escape Rooms are all about.

So, What are Escape Rooms?

An Escape Room is also known as an Exit Game, Escape Game or Room Escape Game. It involves placing a team of player(s) in a dramatic situation inside a closed space (room), which they have to resolve by finding clues, solving puzzles and taking part in some activities within a specific time, usually 60 minutes.

Despite the name, it is not universal for the theme to be escape-based. Players maybe called upon to solve a crime / murder or even save a fictional character or find something.

Many Escape Rooms don’t actually ‘lock’ the participants inside a space and participants are free to leave the game, any time they want.

Where Do Escape Rooms Belong?

Though rising in popularity, Escape Rooms are not properly acknowledged as a specific part of any one broad industry. Some sources state that they fall under the Entertainment Industry, while some state that they belong to the Themed-Entertainment Industry.

Neither of these two industries do complete justice to Escape Rooms.

The key aspect of an Escape Room is that participants are immersed in a, believably real, but artificial themed situation by introducing certain sensory elements. Because the experience is almost real, we feel that ‘Reality Gaming’ is a proper categorization for Escape Rooms.

What is the Reality Gaming Industry?

Reality Gaming is the application of real-world and/or artificial elements to create a life-like or immersive environment that necessitates participants to partake in activities that are both physically and mentally challenging. Unlike computer or console games, where players can only passively observe the experience, a reality gaming experience would entail them to participate in and be absorbed by such activities themselves.

Other genres that fall within the Reality Gaming Industry, are Questing, Scavenger Hunts, Treasure Hunts, Augmented Reality Gaming and Virtual Reality Gaming.

State of the Escape Room Industry 2018 – Survey Results

About our Respondents

CountryCount of Respondents
Grand Total206
Brazil1
Greece1
Martinique1
New Zealand1
Singapore1
South Africa1
UAE1
Ireland2
Switzerland3
Australia4
Canada12
United Kingdom14
United States156
ContinentCount of Respondents
Grand Total206
Africa1
South America1
Asia2
Australia5
Europe28
North America169
Years in OperationCount of Respondents
Grand Total206
6 year2
5 year6
4 year17
3 year55
2 year63
1 year63

How Many are Franchisee or Owned?

OwnedCount of Respondents
Grand Total195
Brazil1
Greece1
Martinique1
Singapore1
South Africa1
United Arab Emirates1
Ireland2
Australia3
Switzerland3
Netherlands7
Canada12
United Kingdom12
United States150
FranchiseeCount of Respondents
United States5
Australia1
Netherlands1
New Zealand1
United Kingdom2

    Only about 5% of the Escape Rooms are franchisees.

    How many missions do Escape Rooms have?

      206 respondents

      The majority of Escape Rooms have 2-4 missions, with certain operations housing up-to 13 or more. Most start out with 2-3 Missions, and gradually expand to meet the demand in their local market. Which can be seen in the next question. Though there are some Escape Rooms that start our with just 1 mission, we didn’t get any respondents who had only 1 mission. 

      Do Escape Rooms add more rooms after opening?

        204 respondents

        Over 8 in 10 Escape Rooms said that they have added at least one more mission/room since they opened. Which lends credence to our assertion that the market trend is to start small, with 2-3 missions, and then expand as per demand.

        Player Demographics

        How old are Escape Room players?

          Percentage of male and female Escape Room players?

            181 respondents

            We arrived at these percentage figures by averaging the cumulative responses of all the respondents.

            Age-wise, owners reported that just over half (51%) of ER players fall in the 25-30 and 30-44 age groups. On the other hand, less than 3 in 10 (29%) of ER players are younger than 18 or older than 45, making those the least common age groups.

            According to owners, Escape Rooms are more or less equally popular amongst both genders. Male players make up 47% and female players make up 53% of Escape Room Players.

            Which concept is preferred by which gender?

            81 respondents

            According to owners, military-based missions seem to be strongly preferred by male players. Adventure-type missions    also seem to be preferred by male players.

            Missions that just ask players to escape, without having any overarching concept as such are preferred by either gender equally.

            Missions based on investigating a crime, freeing someone, engaging with the supernatural and carrying out a heist also seem to be preferred by men and women equally, although the votes in these cases are much more spread out over all three choices, compared with military-based missions and abstract escapes.

            There seem to be no concepts that Escape Rooms strongly felt to be preferred by women; however, the total number of respondents who answered this question is rather low and this crimps our ability to draw very definitive conclusions.

            Finally, there remains the vexing question whether the owners just guessed the answers to this question or whether they based them on a particular room/rooms of theirs. This is another factor that crimps our ability to draw definitive conclusions.

            What kind of customers do Escape Rooms get?

            203 respondents

            First and foremost, family groups are by far the most common kind of customer type that Escape Rooms received.

            The next most common type of customers that Escape Rooms reported receiving is corporate customers. Over 9 in 10 of them said that they do get corporate customers.

            Earlier, we identified most (95%) of our respondents as small and non-franchisee operations. This means that small and non-franchisee operations can also attract corporate customers.

            Date night and school/college groups are next on the list of customer types, with 8 in 10 Escape Rooms reporting receiving such customers.

            In fact, the number of respondents who said that they do get date night customers was slightly higher (85.22%) than those who said they get school/college groups (80.29%). This also shows the importance of having at least one minimum 2-player playable mission.

            Breaking ground…

            Do Escape Room owners try to access formal credit during inception?

              203 respondents

              Most of our respondents said that they preferred investing their own funds rather than try to access formal credit.

              However, among those (19 respondents) who did try to access formal credit, almost 3 in 4 (15/19) had their request approved while only 1 in 4 was denied.

              There is a common perception that banks refuse credit against Escape Room business plans, mostly because they don’t understand the concept.

              While the total number of respondents who tried at all to access formal credit is very small, the survey does suggest that banks do consider Escape Rooms as a viable business concept and would consider a request for credit on its own merit.

              N.B: There was no option for owners to fill their own response in this question, as such the data may be skewed. For example, one of the respondents who skipped this question pointed that they had crowdfunded their Escape Room.

              Where are Escape Rooms located?

              206 respondents

              Since Escape Rooms can have more than once location, this question was multiple response. The most popular kind of location is a single building shared with others, with almost 7 in 10 Escape Rooms reporting that they have at least one such location.

              Around 2 in 10 Escape Rooms reported having at least one location in a single building with no other tenants or renters. Malls seem to be a popular choice for Escape Room locations due to their potential to attract traffic all around the week, and more so during the holiday rushes.

              How did the owner obtain the space to build the Escape Room(s)?

              204 respondents

              Since Escape Rooms can have more than one location, they may acquire the space to build their rooms in various ways. So, this question was multiple response.

              Renting and leasing premises were the most popular ways to acquire the space to build Escape Rooms with 99 saying they took out a lease, followed by the 88 who said they’ve taken their premises on rent.

              16 based their Escape rooms in property they already owned while only 5 said that they bought the space to build their Escape rooms.

              3 participants acquired their locations through a combination of renting and leasing.

              What rules or hindrances were imposed by the landlord during setup?

                86 respondents

                60.46% Escape Room Owners that leased/rented their space suggested that their landlord was helpful and easy to work with. Only 12.79% of Escape Room Owners stated that they were demanded more rent than usual and the remaining 26.75% respondents stated either one of the following issues:

                • Advance rent was demanded
                • Not allowed to modify walls
                • Landlord didn’t understand Escape Rooms
                • Install fire safety (not previously installed)
                • Lots of construction was needed to be able to use the space
                • No build out allowance was given
                • Responsibility for some or all of the repairs
                • Return the space to its former state upon leaving
                • Shorter lease than required
                • Sound proof the flooring
                • Unnecessary paperwork

                Do Escape Rooms hire external help to design rooms?

                A: Owner / Partners designed the room
                B: Owner got consultation and did it themselves
                C: Bought a turn-key escape from someone
                D: Owner got it done by an Artist

                204 respondents

                81.86% Escape Room owners reported designing some or all of their rooms by themselves or with the help of their partners, which means that most Escape Room owners are enthusiasts themselves who are passionate about game design and creating missions.

                17.15% owners reported availing consulting services to create missions, 6.86% bought turn-key escapes while 3.92% hired artists to do their rooms.   

                In an earlier response it was seen that 95% of Escape Rooms are self-owned operations.

                Here it can be seen that 27.94% of the owners who responded took on some kind of external help – whether that of an artist or a consultant or by just buying turnkey games – in designing missions. This makes services like game design and consulting increasingly mainstream which is evidence of a maturing industry.

                Out of the 10 Franchisees that answered this question, 6 stated that they did it along with their partners, 1 stated that they hired an artist with a background of creating such rooms, and 5 reported taking external guidance and doing it themselves. None, unlike common belief acquired the missions in turn-key form.

                Building the Team

                Are Escape Rooms family owned operations?

                  205 respondents

                  73.17% Escape Room owners stated their business was either completely or partially owned by the family, 26.83% reported their Escape Rooms were self-owned or by external partners.   

                  How many members of staff does an Escape Room have?

                    200 respondents

                    The number of people hired as staff by escape rooms swings wildly, as per our survey response.

                    This could be due to the fact that some Escape Rooms included their part time staff in the count while others didn’t. Some Escape Rooms, of course, may not have any part time staff at all.

                    49.5% of Escape Rooms have five or more members of staff out of which 31.31% of operations have more than 10 members of staff. This means that as Escape Rooms continue to grow, they will become a reliable and more recognized source of career opportunities.

                    Do Escape Rooms offer internships to students?

                      203 respondents

                      A majority – 81.77% Escape Room owners are not offering an Internship Program for their Escape Rooms. Only 18.23% confirmed offering internships.

                      Given the fact that around 20% of the Escape Room customer base is College / School Students (refer to Player Demographics, What kind of customers do Escape Rooms get), there is a huge window of opportunity that may not be properly tapped.

                      Offering internships will help increase visibility on college campuses, allow Escape Rooms to take advantage of low cost, and short-term labor, bring in fresh perspective, enhance social outreach and also help in giving back to the community, thereby making opportunity to run community-based events that help in creating more exposure for Escape Rooms in the local market.

                      Finally, as fields like game design become more formalized and popular, we feel that internship opportunities at Escape Rooms will naturally increase, and demand from students in such fields will rise as well.

                      Creating the Room

                      What are the key challenges in setting up an Escape Room?

                      A: Creating Room Elements, that Won’t Be Destroyed Easily
                      B: Balancing the Difficulty of Puzzles
                      C: Puzzle Creation
                      D: Getting the Timing right
                      E: Integrating the Puzzle and Narrative
                      F: Creating room elements that can be easily reset
                      G: Developing a Narrative
                      H: Play-testing the Rooms 

                      198 respondents 

                      In this question, we averaged the rating for each category, across all the responses to arrive at the final rating of difficulty. A rating of 1 implies that the issue is easiest to tackle, while a rating of 5 implies an issue to be extremely challenging. To present the data, we have converted the averages into percentage. So a difficulty of 2.5 becomes 50%. 

                      The issue of “creating props/elements that won’t be destroyed easily” was judged to be the most difficult design issue in setting up an escape room. It has an average rating of 3.79.

                      “Balancing the difficulty of the puzzles” came second in the order of difficulty, with an average score of 3.36.

                      “Puzzle creation” ranked 3rd, with an average score of 3.20, followed closely by “Getting the Timing Right” (3.14) and “Integrating the Puzzles with the Narrative” (3.11).

                      “Developing a Narrative”, “Creating room elements that can easily be reset” and “Integrating Puzzles with Narrative” were found to be the easiest to tackle while creating an Escape Room.

                      In what era/period do Escape Rooms set their themes?

                      A: Specific place and time (1700-1900)
                      B: Specific place and time (1900-2000)
                      C: Modern Era (2000-2019)
                      D: No era as such
                      E: Another era

                      189 respondents

                      The most common era seems to be the Modern Era, followed by themes set in 1900-2000.

                      Quite a few Escape Rooms also reported using themes set around Prehistoric, Biblical or Futuristic Eras.

                      What themes do Escape Rooms adopt?

                      A: Mystery
                      B: Fantasy
                      C: Science / Laboratory
                      D: Horror
                      E: Future / Technological
                      F: Prison
                      G: Seasonal (Christmas, Halloween, Easter, etc.)
                      H: Military
                      I: Steampunk
                      J: Crime
                      K: School
                      L: Toy Room
                      M: Cartoon/Anime

                      200 respondents

                      The theme most popular with Escape Room owners is asking players to solve a mystery, followed by fantasy-based themes (like superhero-based), science/laboratory and horror.

                      Military, Steampunk, Crime (such as carrying out a robbery, getting rid of evidence), School (find notes to an exam, escape detention and so on), toy room and cartoon/anime were the least offered themes among the owners.

                      Military based missions are least preferred by enthusiasts either (refer to Page 5 of ER Enthusiast Survey 2019, Codex), but themes like Carrying out a Heist are quite popular but, as per our survey, not a lot of Escape Room owners are focusing on Crime based themes.

                      What is the concept on which escapes are based?

                      A: Help Create / Find Something such as a cure, a potion, etc.
                      B: Escape a Specific Unpleasant Place Dungeon, Prison, Preschool, etc.
                      C: Be an Adventurer
                      D: Carry out a Heist
                      E: Solve a murder
                      F: Defuse an explosive device
                      G: Find a missing person
                      H: Gather Intelligence or Espionage
                      I: Just survive!
                      J: Solve a theft
                      K: Engage with the supernatural
                      L: Other
                      M: Conduct Military Operations
                      N: Free another person or animal
                      O: Abstract: There is no overarching narrative other than “Escape the Room”
                      P: Carry out an Assassination

                      199 respondents

                      By far, the Escape Room owners who responded prefer creating missions based on Escaping from an unpleasant place and Creating/finding something like a cure, a potion and so on.

                      Conducting military operations, freeing a person or animal and abstract missions brought up the rear.

                      However, the least used concept, by far, is Carry out an assassination, which just one respondent reported using as a concept in designing their missions.

                      What kind of puzzles do Escape Rooms feature?

                      A: Searching for hidden objects
                      B: Team communication
                      C: Involving vision/light
                      D: Notice something ‘obvious’ in the room
                      E: Assembly of a Physical object (such as a jigsaw puzzle)
                      F: Riddles
                      G: Using something in an unusual way (Out-of-the-box thinking)
                      H: Symbol substitution with a Key (such as looking symbols up in a book)
                      I: Involving touching
                      J: Involving mirrors
                      K: Searching for objects in images
                      L: Mathematical and Algebraic tasks
                      M: Pattern identification (such as visualizing a shape in a set of dots)
                      N: Strategic thinking (like chess)
                      O: Ciphers without a Key (such as letter substitution)
                      P: Involving hearing
                      Q: Involving liquids
                      R: Researching information sources
                      S: Traditional Word Puzzles (such as crosswords or word search)
                      T: Shape manipulation (such as a matchstick puzzle)
                      U: Shooting a target
                      V: Physical agility (like a laser maze)
                      W: Involving smelling
                      X: Sudoku-type games
                      Y: Social engagement with an actor
                      Z: Physical engagement with an actor
                      ZA: Knowledge of facts not provided within the room
                      ZB: Undoing knots
                      ZC: Involving tasting

                      197 respondents

                      Puzzles featuring searching for hidden objects, team communication, involving vision/light, notice something ‘obvious’ in the room feature the most among the missions in the Escape Rooms whose owners responded.

                      On the other hand, social and physical engagement with an actor, knowledge of facts not provided within the room, undoing knots and tasting are the puzzle types that are used the least.

                      How many physical spaces are there in the rooms?

                      206 respondents

                      Respondents were asked what is the maximum number of physical spaces in a single room at their location(s).

                      65.53% reported that their rooms had a maximum of one to three physical spaces (rooms inside a mission) while only 18.93% said that they have rooms with 5 or more physical spaces.

                      Escape Room enthusiasts stated that they love escape rooms with multiple physical spaces, as compared to one or two physical space escape rooms.  (refer to page 4, ER Enthusiast Survey 2018, Codex).

                      Do Escape Room owners order ready made props?

                        146 respondents

                        Among them 54.11% said that they make some of their props and order some, 42.47% said that they make their own props.

                        Only 3.42% reported only ordering readymade props.

                        Combining this response with the response from ‘Did Escape Rooms hire external help to design rooms?’ it is clear that demand for shoulder-services, like prop designers and game design consultants will inevitably increase in the coming days.

                        Daily Operations

                        Prop Maintenance

                        Which factor do Escape Rooms think contributes the most in wearing down props?

                          204 respondents

                          When it comes to prop lifespan, the industry still being relatively young, there is no standard ‘decorum’ of consumer behavior as compared to an experience at a gaming arcade or a bowling alley. As consumers become mature, presumably, prop degradation due to mishandling will decrease.

                          For the moment, Escape Room Owners can only take necessary precautions like making the guidelines thorough, educating players on things they should and should not do during missions, and having a single game master responsible for overseeing a single game at a time.

                          What steps are Escape Rooms taking to make props more robust and resistant to wear and tear?

                          A: I have spare props on standby
                          B: On Call Tech / Operator
                          C: Apply A Special Coat to Make Props Robust
                          D: Create Props That Last
                          E: Refurbish If Required
                          F: Improve Over Time
                          G: Game Master inside Room
                          H: Waiver Makes Guests Responsible for Malicious Damage

                          205 respondents 

                          Our respondents take multiple measures to protect their props.

                          Somewhat surprisingly, only 8.29% of Escape Room owners said that it is better to create props that are ‘bomb-proof’ to start with so they don’t degrade easily.

                          Security and Game Experience

                          Do Escape Rooms have video / audio feed inside the rooms?

                            146 respondents

                            As a majority of Escape Room Owners stated that they had both and Audio and Video Feed inside their rooms, this can presumably depict another industry trend.

                            Since a large number (76.03%) of Escape Rooms have both audio and video feed inside the rooms, it may set expectation among Escape Room players who may feel it is common practice to have such features in a room, and may be let down, or have a bad experience if such basic yet integral features are missing during their experience.

                            How would players exit in case of an emergency?

                              206 respondents

                              As compared to other experiences like VR Arcades and 7D Theaters, where players may or may not be able to leave amidst an event, it is common practice for Escape Rooms to almost always allow players to quit and leave one way or another, during a game.

                              Speaking from the POV of player safety, giving players the option of walking out freely whenever they want to seems to be the safest bet. The concern for player safety is paramount, especially in light of the recent mishap in Poland, which led to the death of five 15-year old girls (refer to The Guardian), we feel that Escape Rooms should always keep the doors unlocked, so such incidents can be avoided.

                              It may seem that not locking the players in may detract from the experience by making it less immersive, or killing the fun for other participants. However, as Professor Scott Nicholson noted in his survey, the concept of having to escape and/or being locked in evokes feelings of horror or danger which many players may not like, and thereby this facility may encourage such consumers to try out Escape Rooms.

                              Gamemaster

                              How does the gamemaster interact with the players?

                              205 respondents

                              There is some overlap between the answers, making it apparent that some escape rooms vary how the gamemaster interacts with players from room to room.

                              However, the gamemaster not interacting with players at all is extremely rare.

                              Generally speaking, we feel that a game-master has a variety of roles to fill:

                              • They can monitor progress and, if allowed, help the players when they get stuck.
                              • They can keep an eye on the props and try to ensure the players don’t damage them whether maliciously or by mistake.
                              • They can guide the players in case of an adverse event, like a power outage or someone getting hurt.

                              However, ER Enthusiasts don’t seem to love the concept of having a game master inside the room as it kills immersion unless it is as an NPC (non-player-character) that is part of the theme, and is an unwanted element during their experience. (refer to Page 6, ER Enthusiast Survey, 2018, Codex).

                              Does the gamemaster provide hints?

                                205 respondents

                                98.05% of Escape Room owners stated that the gamemaster is responsible for providing hints, which is again a common industry practice.

                                Hint Management System

                                  145 respondents

                                  It should be noted that quite a few respondents skipped the question because there was no option, which stated that they provide an unlimited number of hints. Around 12 of them got back to us, explicitly stating this.

                                  What kind of debriefing process have Escape Rooms adopted?

                                    202 respondents

                                    As can be noted, a majority (84.26%) stated that they have some sort of de-briefing process. Creating another anticipation among Escape Room participants. Having no de-briefing process may let down players and result in a bad experience, which may deter them from participating in such activities in future.

                                    A debriefing process is critical for corporate clients as well. One, as Professor Nicholson noted in his 2015 survey, it serves as a kind of ‘cooling off’ period between the (presumably) exciting and stressful Escape Room environment and the more mundane real world.

                                    It also helps the client assess the strengths and weaknesses of the participating team.

                                    How much time does it typically take to reset rooms?

                                    206 respondents

                                    Averaging across the responses of 206 ER owners, we calculate 12 minutes minutes as the mean TTR (Time to Reset).

                                    Practically, most respondents reported a TTR of 10-15 minutes.

                                    However, this does depend on a number of variables like how many members of staff does an Escape Room have. how experienced they are, if there is any automation in place, how many puzzles have to be reset and so on.

                                    Having a low a TTR can be an added advantage for Escape Rooms as it saves time for members of staff to focus on other important things.

                                    From the consumer perspective, a low TTR reduces the time a team needs to wait before they can start on their escape mission.

                                    Are players allowed to take photos inside the room after the games?

                                      206 respondents

                                      It is common practice for Escape Rooms to allow players to take team pictures in their lobby after a game, sometimes holding funny signage and game props.

                                      But some Escape Room owners urge their participants to take photos inside the rooms, or even act in the post-game photos with props, because it gives more perspective and depth to the photos, which may later be shared on social media or among their friends.

                                      Business Models

                                      Daily Business

                                      How many hours are Escape Rooms open per week?

                                        206 respondents

                                        • 36.89% of owners reported being open between 40 to 60 hours a week (which translates into being open between around 7 hours and 10 hours per day assuming one off-day in a week)
                                        • 33.01% of owners reported being open less than 40 hours per week (less than 7 hours daily, assuming one off-day).
                                        • 30.10% of owners reported being open more than 60 hours per week (more than 10 hours daily).

                                        The numbers will greatly vary for Escape Rooms that are based in major metro-cities with more footfall and corporate client access, as compared to operations based in less populated locations.

                                        What is a reasonable average number of players Escape Rooms expect per week?

                                          138 respondents

                                          Of course, these numbers will fluctuate severely depending on quite a few criteria, like location (metro, rural, tourist hot-spots…), time of the year, population, corporate presence, size of the Escape Rooms, number of missions they have etc.

                                          Have Escape Rooms expanded open hours since starting out?

                                            204 respondents

                                            51.47% of Escape Room owners seem to have expanded their open hours since starting out, and 48.53% of Escape Rooms maintain the same hours of operation since inception. 

                                            What is the maximum team size at Escape Rooms?

                                              206 respondents

                                              A total of 15.06% of respondents reported allowing maximum team sizes between 4 to 6 players.

                                              On the other hand, 84.95% of respondents reported allowing a maximum team size of between 7 to 12 players.

                                              Higher team sizes can mostly be attributed to participants looking to engage in team building, majority of which are corporate clients, or local clubs.

                                              Teams and Pricing

                                              What is the average team size at Escape Rooms?

                                                203 respondents

                                                63.05% of owners reported getting team sizes from 2 to 5 players while the remaining 36.95% reported getting team sizes of 6 to 10 players.

                                                Even though 85.04% of respondents reported having provisions for 7 – 12 players at their Escape Rooms, only 11.33% of Escape Rooms actually receive team sizes in that range.

                                                Tapping into more corporate team building opportunities, head to head contests and party celebrations may help in the proper utilization of under-utilized resources at Escape Rooms.

                                                How do Escape Rooms structure tickets?

                                                  206 respondents

                                                  The majority 88.35% reported charging per player while 11.65% reported charging either per team or a base team charge with each additional player being charged separately.

                                                  It is noteworthy to mention that only European Countries (UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, France) stated charging purely per team, as compared to Hybrid Ticketing, which is adopted in some European Countries, Canada, United States and South Africa.

                                                  What is the cost to play/ticket price at Escape Rooms?

                                                  Player / TeamPrice
                                                  Per Player Average$26.5
                                                  Per Team Average$190

                                                  196 respondents

                                                  We asked respondents to state the prices in their home currency and converted it to USD based on the current exchange rates (XE.com USD – US Dollar as on 26.02.2019)

                                                  The standard industry average per player pricing is based at $26.5 and for teams it is $190.

                                                  Some Escape Rooms vary their charges to respond to changes in the business environment, for example,

                                                  • Varying per player charge depending on the overall team size, which means the per player cost decreases with higher team sizes.  
                                                  • Offering reduced prices on lower footfall days of the week.
                                                  • Charging adults more than children.

                                                  However it may be interesting to see where it’s the most expensive and where cheapest to play an Escape Room, relative to the per capita income of the country.

                                                  After taking the cost and dividing it by the Per Capita Income, it came as a bit of a surprise to see that relative to the average income, it’s cheapest to participate in an Escape Room in Singapore and Ireland where the cost to play is a mere 0.03% of the Per Capita Income.

                                                  At the other extreme lies Brazil  and South Africa where the cost to play is 0.21% and 0.15% of the Per Capita Income respectively.

                                                  Most European countries, Canada and the United States all fall in the 0.04%-0.05% range, with the exception of the UK, which has a ratio of 0.07% and Greece which has a ratio of 0.09%.

                                                  CountryCost to play relative to PCI
                                                  Brazil0.21%
                                                  South Africa0.15%
                                                  Greece0.09%
                                                  United Arab Emirates0.08%
                                                  United Kingdom0.07%
                                                  United States0.05%
                                                  Netherlands0.05%
                                                  Canada0.04%
                                                  Switzerland0.04%
                                                  Australia0.04%
                                                  Ireland0.03%
                                                  Singapore0.03%

                                                  Bookings

                                                  What percentage of bookings are made online?

                                                  206 respondents

                                                  On an average, 79.32% of all bookings are made online.

                                                  43.69% of respondents reported less than 80% of bookings online. We selected 80% as the benchmark since that is closest to the average of 79.32%.

                                                  While some Escape Rooms still do handle most of their bookings offline (some reported as little as 10% or 20% of their bookings to have been done online), clearly the trend is towards online bookings.

                                                  Some players may just prefer doing things the old-fashioned way; some may want to check out the Escape Room beforehand, especially if they’re making the Escape Room a part of their holiday plans.

                                                  Escape Rooms located in areas with higher foot traffic are also more likely to have people just walk in and ask to play.

                                                  However, most players clearly prefer booking online, which means they make up their minds whether to book, mostly from the Escape Room’s digital persona. This does imply that like any other local business’, Escape Rooms need to lay stress on their online reputation and overall brand awareness.

                                                  What percentage of bookings occur after-hours?

                                                    206 respondents

                                                    Averaging across responses, we calculate an average after-hours booking percentage of 37.84%

                                                    122 respondents reported 40% or less bookings done after-hours.

                                                    While that does indicate that the bulk of bookings do happen within opening hours, with competition starting to intensify as certain areas start to get saturated (or competitive) it is prudent for Escape Rooms to host an online booking system, as well as a feature for handling customer queries after business hours.

                                                    What percentage of bookings occur on the same day?

                                                      206 respondents

                                                      This may be taken as an industry average – 36.79% of bookings happen on the same day.

                                                      29.61% Escape Rooms receive more than 50% of their bookings on the same day.

                                                      As Escape Rooms are live events, subject to prior reservation. It’s safe to assume that only participants located in the vicinity of an Escape Room may want to book on same day.

                                                      And a high percentage of same day bookings means that an Escape Room regularly gets a large number of players who’re located nearby, implying that such Escape Rooms are located in high foot-traffic areas.

                                                      Which booking solutions are Escape Rooms using?

                                                        146 respondents

                                                        Since online booking systems are an integral part of the back-end processes of Escape Rooms, we wanted to identify the most popular choice in the Industry. Bookeo, seems to be the most popular choice among other Booking Platforms 43.15% votes.

                                                        Around 15% participants stated that they used custom-made solutions for Booking. Other popular choices among participants were Bookify, FareHarbor, Xola and Peek Booking.

                                                        Are all Escape Room bookings private?

                                                          206 respondents

                                                          40.78% of Escape Room owners said that all their bookings are private while 59.22% said otherwise, meaning they allow strangers to pair up to participate in their missions.

                                                          What are the busiest and slowest days of the week?

                                                          185 respondents

                                                          Escape Room Owners were asked to list out 3 most busy and most slow days of the week, on an yearly average. Surprisingly certain Escape Rooms mentioned Fridays and Saturdays as slow days for them, but there isn’t any one Escape Room that marked both these days as slow.

                                                          The overwhelming consensus ranks Monday through to Wednesday to be the slowest part of the week while Friday through to Sunday sees the heaviest footfall.

                                                          In short, the beginning of the workweek sees footfall slowing down while the coming of the weekend sees footfall pick up.

                                                          This is an overall average of an entire year.

                                                          A corporate team building program can surely help in getting more bookings during the slow days of the week.

                                                          Marketing and Promotion

                                                          Which channels of marketing do Escape Rooms use?

                                                          A: Facebook Ads
                                                          B: Search Engine Optimization
                                                          C: Flyers / Posters
                                                          D: Tie-ups with other Local Businesses
                                                          E: Groupon / Coupon Websites
                                                          F: Newspaper / Magazines
                                                          G: Pay Per Click Ads
                                                          H: Radio
                                                          I: TV

                                                          197 respondents

                                                          Online Marketing seems to be more popular than standard forms of marketing.

                                                          Among all the channels, Facebook Advertisements and Search Engine Optimization were rated as the most prominent forms of Marketing for Escape Rooms.

                                                          Theoretically Flyers and Posters may seem more expensive than Facebook Ads and SEO, and less targeted; however, they have a higher lifetime value, as compared to Facebook Ads, but not SEO.  

                                                          Tying up with other local businesses is next on the list. Forming mutually beneficial partnerships with local businesses like coffee shops, restaurants or even other Escape Rooms can go a long way in driving business.

                                                          Somewhat as expected, Groupon and other daily-deal websites don’t rank high up in the popularity table. And few Escape Rooms use them. This may be attributed to the high commission such sites charge. More on this in the next response.   

                                                          The least popular avenues of promotion are newspaper/magazine ads, PPC ads and radio and TV.

                                                          Due to the variety of targeting and display options associated with Pay Per Click Marketing, it is surprising to see that not many Escape Room owners are keen on leveraging this online marketing channel. This could be due to the fact that PPC rates are usually high in areas with more competition, which eats into profits, and thus businesses may start to experience diminishing returns. Television and Print-media advertisements are usually expensive options for local businesses.

                                                          Owners’ opinion about Groupon and other coupon or daily deal sites

                                                          A: I feel they are not a sustainable marketing strategy due to huge commissions
                                                          B: I don’t use them at all
                                                          C: I use them, because I am compelled to compete in my neighborhood
                                                          D: I use them, and I feel they are important

                                                          146 respondents

                                                          24.66% of Escape Room Owners don’t use coupon websites such as Groupon because they feel it is not a sustainable marketing strategy.

                                                          13.70% respondents reported using them grudgingly due to competition in their neighborhood. Proper marketing alternatives can be deployed by Escape Rooms, to capture customers on the lookout for deals and bargains directly, by promoting offers themselves.

                                                          Just over 1 in 20 Escape Rooms use such websites willingly.

                                                          Do Escape Rooms offer gift cards?

                                                            206 respondents

                                                            Over 9 in 10 Escape Room owners – 95.15% – reported using gift cards.

                                                            A gift card is almost the same as a personal recommendation; from the person gifting the card to the person it is meant for; this makes it a great marketing asset.

                                                            Moreover, since the gift card is already paid for, it gives fence sitters extra incentive to become part of the industry.

                                                            Do Escape Rooms have corporate team building programs?

                                                              204 respondents

                                                              72.55% of owners [A] said that they do have a corporate team building program while only 27.45% said otherwise.

                                                              16.18% [B] said they did not get a suitable opportunity, but they wanted to start one, while 10.29% said they did not consider it as important.

                                                              Clearly, 9 out of 10 [A+B = 88.72%] of Escape Room owners consider it necessary to have a corporate team building program and if they don’t have one, may be looking for suitable opportunities to start one.

                                                              A corporate team building program is extremely critical for an Escape Room since it

                                                              • Provides repeat business. Firms with good employee turnover, will want to organize team building activities on a recurring basis. They are a reliable source for repeat sales in an industry whose primary asset yields diminishing returns
                                                              • Builds the brand. Having recognized corporate partners or associations lends credibility to a business.
                                                              • Higher Returns on Investment.

                                                              Do Escape Rooms have a conference room for team building groups?

                                                                146 respondents

                                                                Out of the 146 respondents who do have corporate team building programs, 45.21% said that they do have conference room for team building groups.

                                                                The majority 54.79% – said that they don’t.

                                                                While it may seem natural to have a basic facility to set up the conference room for teams to meet and discuss their strategies pre and post-game, it is not common practice for Escape Rooms to have this feature.

                                                                Absence of this facility may deter companies from participating at these locations, due to the lack of a dedicated space to conduct post game briefing or employee meetings.

                                                                Looking into the Future

                                                                How saturated is the market in terms of number of Escape Rooms?

                                                                  205 respondents

                                                                  79.51% respondents were of the opinion that either their area had just the right number of Escape Rooms or that their area is over-saturated.

                                                                  This clearly points to competition intensifying among Escape Rooms. Room Escape Artist already reported that there is a gradual increase in the shutting down of Escape Room operations due to lack of visibility. Further increase in competition may add to this trend.

                                                                  As consumers become better versed with Escape Rooms, their expectations are also increasing. To remain competitive and keep afloat in this rapidly maturing market, it is imperative for Escape Rooms to stay on top of the game and puzzle design trends and outshine in terms of consumer service.

                                                                  N.B. This questions is perhaps a little subjective since a successful Escape Room that keeps getting more bookings will feel the area is not saturated while an Escape Room in the same area that’s not getting as many bookings may feel that the area is over-saturated.

                                                                  Are Escape Rooms planning to expand within a year?

                                                                  202 respondents

                                                                  59.41% reported having plans to expand within the next one year.

                                                                  Since 79.51% of Escape Room Owners felt that their area either has an appropriate number of Escape Rooms (saturated) or has more Escape Rooms than it can cater (over-saturated), the response to this question came with a surprise.

                                                                  Clearly, either Escape Room owners feel that they are capable of attracting players even if their area is saturated or over-saturated.

                                                                  Or, they plan on opening in a new location where they feel the competition is not so intense.

                                                                  This may also indicate that some Escape Room owners feel that as the popularity of Escape Rooms continues to rise more consumers will flock to Escape Rooms as a form of entertainment, and former players may also turn up to try out their new missions.

                                                                  How often do Escape Rooms plan on expanding?

                                                                    130 respondents

                                                                    3 out of 10 (29.23%) Escape Rooms want to expand within at least a year.

                                                                    Where do Escape Rooms plan on expanding?

                                                                      120 respondents

                                                                      Over 7 in 10 respondents (68.33%) said that they will just add a room/rooms to their current location.

                                                                      Clearly, while Escape Room owners feel their area is saturated in terms of Escape Room viability, they are confident enough that their own business will be able to attract players by adding more room(s) or tap into new consumers who enter the market.

                                                                      Among the Escape Room owners who plan on opening new locations, the important factors are density of Escape Rooms in the proposed location, average income level and rent and utility charges.

                                                                      Some other criteria cited by Escape Room owners in planning their expansion are:

                                                                      • Where they can strike up partnerships with historic buildings or heritage organizations
                                                                      • There is more foot-traffic
                                                                      • They want to create a mobile extension of their business
                                                                      • Shift to a different part of the city with more population
                                                                      • Where they can access more corporate businesses

                                                                      Acknowledgements

                                                                      Professor Scott Nicholson’s 2015 survey, ‘Peeking behind the locked door: a survey of escape room facilities’ was our guiding inspiration throughout this survey.

                                                                      Errol Elumir (from The Codex, Escape Room Divas Podcast) and Professor Lee-Fay Low (from the University of Sydney) both took time out of their busy schedules to review our survey and we’re immensely grateful to both of them.

                                                                      A number of the Escape Room owners who took part in the survey got back to us on Facebook or via email, offering support and suggestions, which we plan on incorporating when we run a survey of Escape Room owners again next year.

                                                                      Out of the total 225 responses, these 107 escape rooms mentioned below were part of the final 206 respondents who diligently took part in the survey. The rest 99 escape rooms not mentioned herein, wished to remain anonymous. 

                                                                      The SEO ORB Team sincerely wants to thank each and every one of the respondents for their contribution. This survey is an outcome of the combined effort of everyone who has participated or helped in anyway to improve it.

                                                                      The End?

                                                                      Well, yes, we have come to the end of this survey, but we don’t want this to be the end of the debate around Escape Rooms.

                                                                      It’s also important to reach out to more Escape Rooms in Asia and Europe. This survey was no doubt technically global in responses but most of the responses are from American Escape Rooms.

                                                                      And in order to get a response that represents Asian and European Escape Rooms better we may need to launch the survey in a variety of languages to reflect the various countries out there.

                                                                      We want to encourage people to continue the discussions around puzzle design, player psychology, the importance of themes and narrative, how to deal with props getting damaged and the role of the gamemaster, and more in the Escape Room Enthusiasts Facebook Group or even join the Secret Escape Rooms Enthusiasts Slack Channel (created by The Codex) which houses some of the brightest minds in this industry.

                                                                      Last but not the least, we want feedback from the community on things that could be added and/or bettered in the survey for example questions that we could have included.

                                                                      Behind the Survey:

                                                                      Research, Outreach and Commentary

                                                                      Piyush Agarwal is the co-founder of SEO ORB and an Escape Room enthusiast. Ever since he set foot inside an Escape Room in November, 2017 he has been hooked. He loves doing research, endlessly talking about marketing and playing video and board games.

                                                                      You can learn more about his initiative here.

                                                                      Crunching Numbers

                                                                      Aritra Gupta is an electrical engineer by training but has found his passion in digital marketing, and big data and spends most of his time doing research and writing for blogs.

                                                                      He is a fan of TV series like Sherlock and Law and Order and feels Escape Rooms to be a natural extension of his television choices.

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