The State Of The Escape Room Industry Survey 2022 – (Owner’s Survey)
The context of the survey
During 2019 to early 2020, escape rooms, as an industry, were breaking out from being a relatively niche form of entertainment to a more mainstream option.
Reviews and feedback indicated player tastes were starting to get refined (as in, they were expecting high-quality immersion and well-designed gameplay).
Owners were enthusiastic about expanding operations and exploring ways to up game quality.
And then COVID-19 struck.
Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders made it impossible for physical escape rooms to function.
And even as lockdowns were lifted and the pandemic abated, other world events (like inflation, difficulty finding staff, and so on) have kept the industry on edge.
It is in this context that this survey was run.
The next few sections consist of background information and methodology; if you’d rather skip all that, jump to the survey results.
USE THE BUTTONS BELOW TO NAVIGATE TO THEIR RESPECTIVE SECTIONS
Why we ran the survey; what did we want to find out?
We ran the survey to gain meaningful insight on crucial topics pertaining to the escape room industry, especially in light of the COVID-19 health warnings and shutdowns.
1. Post-COVID overview
While we were definitely keen on day to day escape room issues like which game themes are popular, how many escape rooms are franchises (vs being independent brands) and so on,
A large part of the survey has focused on how escape rooms dealt with the lockdown, how they reopened since lockdowns were eased, and their plans on moving forward.
2. Starting an escape room business
With an eye on all the budding entrepreneurs and game enthusiasts out there, we have included questions on how easy (or difficult) it is to start an escape room.
We had explored this issue in our 2018 survey. In this survey, we have built on that, asking a tad more detailed questions, and comparing the results with what the earlier survey uncovered.
3. Daily operations of an escape room
As an escape room business owner, you KNOW there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the day to day running of an escape room.
That being said, having an idea of global and regionwise trends on issues like what game themes are escape concepts are preferred the most, whether a live actor inside the room is necessary and so on, could prove useful in planning the experience you want to offer your players.
4. Market concerns
We have captured escape room business owners’ point of view on issues like whether the market is starting to get saturated, whether current events like persistent inflation are dampening business prospects and so on.
5. Business model
The final angle we wanted to explore through this survey is the escape room business model. What is the typical pricing structure? What is their typical booking amount? How much of their revenue is spent on things like room maintenance, HR, etc?
We ran the survey from 09/03/2022 to 30/04/2022, asking Escape Room Owners a total of 52 questions.
And this report details what we found.
Some interesting findings:
- The traditional physical escape room game remains the most common escape room offering.
- Physical escape rooms, the most common offering, would be completely shut down during the lockdown. Despite that 4 in 5 escape rooms didn’t shut down a single location during the lockdown.
- Over 90% of escape rooms didn’t file a claim with their insurer despite being shut down during the lockdown.
- Since reopening, bookings have recovered but revenue is behind 2019 levels.
- Mystery, Happy fantasy and historical fantasy are the most common escape game themes.
- Being an adventurer, Escaping an unpleasant place, and Finding or creating something are the most common escape concepts.
- Apart from booking software, the escape room service provider market is highly fragmented. In booking software, Bookeo and Resova have meaningful market shares.
Download this report: (Coming Soon)
We are working hard to create a PDF report. Check back end of July 2022.
How we created and ran the survey; our methodology
Well, we started on the survey in early February 2020. At the time, we had no idea what was going to happen in a month.
Our idea at the time was to build on the State of the Escape Room Industry survey that we had run in 2019. You may be familiar with that one; here’s a link to that report, if you’re curious.
But then the pandemic struck, and we put it on hold indefinitely.
We also kept an eye on developments in the industry, going through the news, talking with escape room owners, suppliers, and others online.
Finally, after waiting for two whole years, we started working on this survey again in February 2022.
Designing the questionnaire
The questions here can be divided into two categories:
- One, queries on intrinsic escape room and industry issues, like which game themes are popular, how saturated that market is and so on…
- For these questions, we built on the survey we ran in 2019..
- Two, queries on how COVID-19 affected the escape room industry, how it recovered, and what future it sees for itself.
- We developed these questions based on our perusal of news reports, and conversations with various industry stakeholders on social media.
Speed run checks: We took the survey ourselves, various times. Our demo runs revealed that it took 14 minutes to complete the survey meaningfully.
This was done with a view to weeding out any responses that took too little time to have taken the survey seriously.
On 5th March, 2022, we finalized the questionnaire and uploaded it to SurveyMonkey.
- Web-scraping mostly Google’s directory and Trip Advisor
- Manual check of ERs from Morty App
- Other ER Directories like World Of Escapes
- Email outreach
- Facebook Groups (Notable mention Escape Room Startups and Owners)
- Direct messaging (Facebook, Linkedin and Discord)
- Leveraged outreach via partners (we reveal who our partners are at the end)
Validating the integrity of the data
Once the survey results came in, we took a few steps to filter out low-quality responses and polish the data.
- Speed run checks: Like I mentioned, we had an idea of how long a meaningful survey response would take. So, as a first step we dropped responses that took too little time.
- Deleting spam: This is a lesson we learnt from the 2018 survey – look for spam entries, such as ones from people who claim to be located “somewhere in my mind”.
With these two steps done, 353 final responses were collated, that we have presented here.
- Cleaning the data: We went through the final responses with a fine tooth comb, bucketing open-ended qualitative responses into categories, converting different currencies (for currency-based responses) into a single regional currency (like converting Pound Sterling into Euros and Canadian Dollars into USD) to get regional estimates.
The survey results
About our respondents
|Country||Count of Respondents|
|Region/Continent||Count (% figures are rounded off to the nearest integer)|
|North America||175 (50%)|
|South America||3 (1%)|
|Australia & New Zealand||24 (7%)|
Compared with our 2018 survey (which got 206 responses), the current survey has clearly got a larger response. And that’s good.
What’s better: As compared to the previous one, where more than 80% of the respondents were from North America, this year, we have had a good response from Europe (175 from North America and 143 from Europe), and also a number of responses from Australia and New Zealand, which makes this survey more diverse than its precursor.
The basics about escape room businesses
Does your escape room game business have/offer:
A: Fixed Location Games (a typical “escape room”)
B: Fixed Location Based (Virtual Reality Escape Room Game)
C: Online/Virtual Games
D: Live-streaming With Avatar Games
E: Small Portable Games (ex: tent based, small group of people)
F: Large Portable Games (ex: tabletop game for corporate, schools, and other large groups)
G: Mobile Games (ex: a trailer or bus)
H: City-wide Games (ex: a game using ClueKeeper)
What kind of business are you?
Independent brands clearly rule the roost, across regions. Only 5% of escape rooms are franchisees, which is the same as we found in the 2018 survey.
Does this mean most escape room owners want to include games of their own choice, instead of being limited by a franchise? At this point, we can only speculate
How many locations do you have?
7 in 10 escape room businesses have only a single location. This is perhaps in keeping with the fact that most are independent brands.
Europe seems to have more of Escape room businesses with 3 to 5 locations than North America and Australia & NZ.
How many years have you been in operation?
The vast majority of escape rooms are between 5 to 7 years old, which means they were set up between 2015 to 2017.
Which ties in with the conventional wisdom that although escape rooms have been in existence since 2007 (the year SCRAP opened the first escape room in Japan), the industry really took off during 2014-15.
What is heartening is that 14% of escape rooms report being around for a year or less.
Which may indicate that quite a few escape rooms were planned and opened during and after the lockdown. More on this in a bit.
How many unique escape games (Including online games if they apply) does your escape room feature?
Compared with 2018,
The number of escape rooms offering between 2-4 unique missions has halved (from 79% to 43%),
While that of escape rooms offering 5-8 missions has nearly doubled (from 16% to 30%).
It’s the same for escape rooms offering 9 or more unique missions – quadrupled, from 4% to 18%.
We can take an educated guess that the bulk of the growth in the number of unique missions offered by escape rooms is online escape games.
Region-wise, single-game escape rooms (i.e. with only one game) are more common in Europe.
Dealing with the lockdown
How many locations were added and shut down by escape room businesses during/since the lockdown?
The vast majority (9 out of 10) escape rooms didn’t add any new locations during the lockdown.
A little over 10% of escape rooms opened one new location during the lockdown.
It’s certainly heartening to see that, despite the lockdown making physical escape games completely impossible, 76%, almost 4 in 5 escape rooms didn’t shut down even a single location during the lockdown period.
In balance, we can claim that the industry has muscled it through the lockdown, with new locations being opened at almost the same rate as old ones were closed.
Did you add new escape games to existing locations during/since the lockdown? If so, how many?
3 in 5 escape rooms added at least one new escape game during the lockdown.
Were you able to access government assistance during the lockdown?
74% – 7 in 10 – escape rooms report having been able to access some form of government assistance during the lockdown. Good news, right?
On the other hand, there are anecdotes and news reports of governments issuing health regulations that simply failed to account for the nature of an escape room business (like classifying them as “amusement parks”).
Clearly, there’s work to be done on explaining the business model to governments, and ensuring that appropriate regulations are issues in future crises.
This issue was also discussed during RECON ‘21.
Regionwise, North American escape rooms were the most likely to have not received any government assistance, while Australia & NZ and European escape rooms were most likely to have received special lockdown assistance.
Did you file a claim with your insurer?
Astoundingly, over 90% of escape rooms reported not filing a claim with their insurer.
Our response reveals that escape room businesses in Australia & NZ were the least likely to have filed claims with their insurer, followed by North American escape room businesses and then European ones.
We will revisit this issue later on, when we take up the question of what kinds of insurance escape room businesses have.
Was insurance payout ______________ than you expected?
|Was insurance payout ______________ than you expected?||Count|
|The same as||9|
|Did not get||13|
If yes, on what kind of policy did you file the claim?
Did you start offering Virtual/Online or Live Streaming games during the lockdown?
Reopening after the lockdown
How are the game bookings and revenue compared to pre-lockdown (2019)?
What has been your biggest cost to run / re-open after the lockdown?
It’s not a surprise that sanitization between games has been the biggest cost to run since the lockdown, followed by staff asking for higher wages (part of the so-called “Great Resignation”).
One pleasant surprise is that very few escape rooms cited capacity restrictions (as in restrictions on how many people are allowed to gather in a closed space) as their biggest cost.
Which of these following insurance policies do you use?
Which insurance provider do you use?
A: Various/Local Broker
B: ESP Specialty Insurance
C: None at this time
D: State Farm
G: Liberty Mutual
|QBE Insurance Australia Limited||3|
|Special Risk Insurance Managers||2|
|Philadelphia Insurance Company||2|
|KBC (BELGIAN PROVIDER)||2|
|American Family Insurance||2|
|The Insurance Company||1|
|The Insurance Centre UK||1|
|The Insurance Centre Lancaster||1|
|The Insurance Centre||1|
|PSC Insurance Brokers||1|
|Northeast Insurance Center||1|
|Michigan Millers and Markel||1|
|Main Street Insurance Agency||1|
|Capital Premium Finance||1|
|Eastern Alliance and American Specialty||1|
|DTRT Insurance Group||1|
Which insurance provider do you use?
A: Shared occupant in a single building
B: Sole occupant in the entire building
C: In a shopping complex with more than one building
Regionwise, escape room businesses being the sole occupant in their building is a lot more common in Europe than it is in North America.
Conversely, being located in a shopping complex is far more common in North America than in Europe.
What theme(s) is/are your escape room game(s) based on?
What concept(s) is/are your escape room game(s) based on?
Do any of your escape room games involve live actors?
Almost 7 in 10 escape rooms don’t have live actors inside their escape game rooms.
This lines up with the 2019 enthusiasts’ survey conducted by The Codex which revealed that live actors weren’t all that important for players.
How does your hint system work?
How many hours does your escape room remain open in a week?
Clearly, most escape rooms prefer to remain open over 40-60 hours a week, which translates to over 7 (in fact, over 8) hours a day (assuming they’re open every day),
But in practice we know that Escape Rooms remain open for more hours on weekends from Friday to Sunday, and for fewer hours on the other days.
Of course, it is possible that this only reflects available time slots, and escape rooms are actually only open for a fraction of that time – when they actually have bookings, while for the rest of the time their premises remain empty/closed.
Pricing & expenditure
How do you structure your tickets?
What is your per player ticket price?
Ticket prices quoted in Canadian Dollars were converted to USD – North American region.
Many escape rooms, across regions, give differential pricing based on a number of factors, like age, day of the week (for example higher prices on weekends), holidays, and so on. Also, some escape rooms offer targeted discounts like students’ discounts, military discounts, health workers’ discounts and so on.
What is your average booking price?
What is your estimate of the percentage of your revenue that is spent on marketing across all your locations?
Between 1 to 5 percent, and between 6 to 10 percent of revenue being spent on marketing is what most escape rooms report, and this trend seems to hold across the regions – North America, Europe, and Australia & NZ.
This is largely due to the fact that most escape rooms are mom and pop operations mostly run by gaming/escape room enthusiasts and they lack the domain knowledge for sales and marketing.
Refer to The Codex’s 2019 Enthusiasts’ Survey and see that social media and internet searches are as important as word of mouth marketing.
What is your estimate of the percentage of your revenue that is spent on Human Resource (HR)?
What is your estimate of the percentage of your revenue that is spent on room upgrades and maintenance?
Which channels of marketing do you use to promote your escape room?(Please select all that apply)
Starting an escape room business
How did you get the funding to open your escape room business? (Please select all that apply)
How did you obtain the space to build your escape room?
What is your estimate of the cost of building one escape room game?
Which aspect did you feel was the biggest challenge in setting up your escape room business?
In your opinion, what is the key challenge in designing escape room games?
Do you order readymade props, or do you create your own props?
How do you design and build your escape games?
Who (people and/or businesses) have you purchased props/designs/games from and would recommend to others?
|Props / Designers / Game Builders||Count||Link|
|Halloween FX Props||22|
|Escape Room Supplier||7|
|Escape Room Techs||6|
|General ecommerce platforms (Amazon, Etsy, Aliexpress etc.)||6|
|Superb (Formerly Studio 1987)||6|
|Sundry Small Vendors||3|
|Creative Escape Rooms||3|
|Gamemasters Escape Solutions||3|
|ARC - Studios||3|
|Escape Room Doctor||2|
|Other escape rooms||2|
|Time Quest Labs||2|
|Art-FX Studios, Inc.||1|
|BearHoHo Escape Room Props||1|
|Chris Bell Creations||1|
|Escape Room Labs||1|
|Escape Room Shop/Knabe Labs||1|
|Escape Empire Designs||1|
|Fox in a Box||1|
|Intrigue and Co.||1|
|Skeletons And More||1|
|Lockdown Escape Rooms||0|
|Paperdice Solutions GmbH||0|
|Super Escape Room||0|
|Ticking Time by Design||0|
|Escape Room International Designs||0|
|Custom Escape Room||0|
|Turn-Key Escape Rooms||0|
What kind of staff scheduling software do you use?
|Staff Scheduling Solution||Count||Notes||Link|
|When I Work||24|
|When To Work||2|
|Jotform (form builder)||1|
Do you have any issues with your existing staff scheduling software? If so, please describe the issue..
What inventory management tools are you using to run your games? (Eg: Telescape)
|Inventory Management Tools||Count|
|Mythic Mystery Master (M3)||7|
|ERCC - Not sure||1|
|Escape Room Management App ERMA - Not sure||1|
|Fibaro Home Center 2||1|
|Mindle - Not sure||1|
|Niceday - Not sure||1|
|Time Quest Lab||1|
Which booking solution do you use?
|Resova (merged with Clubspeed)||69|
|Custom booking solution||26|
|Telephone and Facebook||1|
|Telephone and Email||1|
|OS Services Booking||1|
|Lock.me (Escape room directory)||1|
Which software/service do you use for your liability waivers?
|Escape Games Global||17|
|Print Out (Paper)||14|
|Escape Room Master||7|
|Escape Room Admin||4|
|M3 - Mythric Mystery Master||2|
|Website - Gravity forms||1|
In light of current events (some experts are talking about new waves and/or variants of COVID, the situation in Ukraine etc), are you concerned about business prospects in 2022?
How saturated is your area in terms of the number of escape rooms?
Which, if any, of the following actions are you planning to take within the next year?
Our plans for the future
A shoutout to our partnersThey helped us a lot with outreach, pushing the survey to more and more escape room owners whether through email blasts, or by giving the survey a shoutout through their company social media accounts…or even by enabling us to post about the survey on private groups they’re a part of. Their efforts made it possible for us to get over 400 responses from all over the world (we had to prune it down to 353 to maintain a minimum quality of response).
Alexander Girshfeld, owner of Indestroom and The ER WorkshopAlexander is an enthusiast of escape games, and the owner of The ER Workshop, one of the largest escape room suppliers in the world. Visit their website
Mike Augustine (a.k.a. Auggie) from OKAPIKID
Auggie shared the survey with his vast following on Twitter. I could tell you a bit about him, but I think it’s better you experience him for yourself…
Visit his website
Ray Lane from Impossible Escape LoganvilleYou may know him as Ray The Video Guy. Or as The President of Impossible Escape Loganville. He shared the survey on a private group that proved critical in getting quite a few responses from the US and Canada. Visit his LinkedIn profile
Michael Andersen from ARGNetThe owner and senior editor of the Alternate Reality Gaming Network, and allegedly associated with a Pennsylvania Bar where you can’t get drunk. He gave the survey a shoutout from the official ARGNet Twitter. Visit his profile on ARGNet
Heiner Stepen from Escape Roomers DEHeiner is a leading contributor to Escape Roomers, one of the largest escape room blogs in Europe. He allowed us to share the survey invite in a private Facebook group, which went a long way in getting us the large response from Europe. Visit his profile on Escape Roomers
Andy Bauch from The Morty AppAmong other things, he’s the co-founder and CEO of Morty, an app for “discovering, booking, and tracking escape rooms”. He helped us out by pushing the survey to an enthusiasts’ group. Visit his LinkedIn profile
David Spira from Room Escape ArtistHe’s a lot of things, from a guitarist to a puzzle junkie and technologist. He’s also the co-founder of Room Escape Artist, one of the most authoritative websites on escape rooms in the world. Visit his Room Escape Artist profile
VALUED SURVEY PARTICIPANTS
|1. Jaimie from Albany Escape Rooms|
|2. Tracy Lennox from Mississippi Mind Trap Escape Room|
|3. Henrik Ravn from Escapist|
|4. Darren Espley-Atkins from The Puzzle Room – Cannock|
|5. Amnesia Alive Escape Rooms|
|6. Dean Day from Eltham Escape Rooms|
|7. Andrey Kalinchuk from QuestHunter|
|8. Daniella Johnson from ClueFinders Liverpool LTD|
|9. Cailleaux Helena from Gamelot escape/ Coop escape|
|10. Robert Nelson from Escape Rooms Richmond|
|11. Thomas Dunagan from The Lost Room Escape Adventures|
|12. Tom Hemenway from Time Bandit Escape|
|13. Kat Stegeman from Escape Rooms In VA Beach|
|14. Jason from Steal and Escape|
|15. Chris Lattner from The Room – Immersive Adventures|
|16. David Betts from House of Escapes|
|17. Juan Alfonso Gil Del Pozo from Torrenigma Escape Room|
|18. Acme Wong from NEO Escape Rooms|
|19. Nathanael Auran from Escape Room Alexandria|
|20. Craig Davies from Lock Down Escape E G Ltd|
|21. Dan Davis from Kitsap Great Escape|
|22. Tom Hartnett from Paradox Parlours|
|23. Koen Van Dommelen from The Riddle Room|
|24. Adam Biasi from Diversion Escape Rooms|
|25. Max Haitana from Blyth Breakout|
|26. Adam from Keylock Games|
|27. Gustavo Toledo from Escape Up|
|28. Benn Stoker from Project Breakout|
|29. Rebecca Potvin from Tic Tac Go Escape Room and Games|
|30. Jakal from Kingdom Escape Games|
|31. Angela Frimberger from Facade Escape Room|
|32. Cindy Martin from Perplexodus Mystery Manor|
|33. Albert from Five Cubes Escape Room|
|34. Brandon West from Top Tier Escape Rooms|
|35. Jacqueline Malle from Rembrandt Productions|
|36. Andrew Sturridge from Escape From The 6|
|37. Yusuf Chaudhri from Horror Escape Ltd|
|38. Criss Stanculescu from Escape my room|
|39. Claudia Siebauer from LiveActGames|
|40. Pascal from Deathscape|
|41. Robbie Pott from Unlock Escape Rooms|
|42. Robert Leveille from Niagara Escapement|
|43. Andy Reynolds from Smash Space UK|
|44. Anne-Marguerite Monory from Tactisens Escape Game Toulouse|
|45. Laura Chase from Reed Between The Lines|
|46. Jack Rose from REACT Premium Escape Rooms|
|47. Ken Mccoy from Waxhaw Escape, LLC|
|48. Katrina Mick from Escape Studio|
|49. Scott Norton from Nerdy By Nature Escape Rooms|
|50. David Vinson from Amazing Escapes of Boise|
|51. Dylan Vaughan-Streater from Clue Adventures|
|52. Rick Taylor from Dropbear escapes|
|53. Ben Rudkin from Courtyard Escapes|
|54. Peter Sturrock from Escape Aviemore Ltd|
|55. Tabish Mian from Lost in Melbourne|
|56. Császár Péter from Escape Zone|
|57. Jim from PARADOXsquared Adventure Escape Rooms|
|58. Tihomir from Incognito Escape Room|
|59. Eric Mindiola from Cine Escapes|
|60. Rene from The Gate Escape|
|61. Jessica Phillips from Epic Escapes|
|62. Vincent Rubino from Escape Rooms Chicago|
|63. Joe Panek from Twisted Limits Escape Rooms|
|64. Josh Young from Escape Room Adventures LLC|
|65. Mouchotte from Enigmes et Compagnie|
|66. Rhett Hildebrandt from Quandary Escape Rooms|
|67. Nikki Jaramillo from Hidden Escape|
|68. John Alberghina from MER|
|69. Charles Pitcher from Live Escape Salisbury|
|70. Ashley from time lapse escape rooms|
|71. Kennedy from Deceptive Games|
|72. The Imaginarium|
|73. Jeff Wise from Dead Zone Rising|
|74. Hai Elram from insideout|
|75. German Garcia-Fresco from Xtreme park adventures|
|76. John from EscapeXchange|
|77. Hannaert Maïté from Le Manoir Escape Game|
|78. Neko T Farmer from Lock City Adventures|
|79. Nicolas from Get out|
|80. Kara Simmons from Great Escape Enterprises LLC|
|81. Neko T Farmer from Lock City Adventures|
|82. Jay Lacchani from Escape Rooms Hyderabad|
|83. Sam Fok from Escape Rooms Perth|
|84. Escape Rooms Maryland by Clue IQ|
|85. Christal Ho from Escape Rooms Sydney|
|86. Michaël Lammers Escaperoom Groenlo|