The League Table: end of June 2015

Graphs suggesting growth

This is the fifteenth instalment of an occasional feature to act as a status report on the exit games in the UK and Ireland. On its own it means little, but by now hopefully it can be 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 June 2015.

The Census

Category Number in the UK Number in Ireland
Exit game locations known to have opened 68 7
Exit game locations known to be open 64 6
Exit game locations in various states of temporary closure 2 1
Exit game locations known to have closed permanently 2 0
Exit game locations showing convincing evidence of being under construction 7 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 and component parts of larger attractions that are played in the same way as conventional exit games.

Four known openings since May, all at the start of the month – and all July’s known openings are at the start of the month as well, which is noteworthy. Specifically considering the UK only, looking at the half-year trends for the last five half-years (for a half-year is practically a generation in UK exit games) the trend has been that the number of known open exit games has slightly more than doubled every half-year. 64 now, 30 half a year ago, 14 a year ago, 7 a year and a half ago, 3 two years ago and 1 two and a half years ago. OK, 14 is exactly double 7, rather than “slightly more than double” 7, but that’s within tolerance for a rough trend.

This site will go on the record as expecting the “slightly more than doubling” trend not to continue in the UK for another half-year. It might well be the case that future months see the rate of expansion continue to grow, but it doesn’t expect to see the 64 grow to 130+ by the end of the year, which would require another ten-plus locations open per month, on average. On the other hand, this site didn’t expect the trend to continue for this half-year, either, though it didn’t say so explicitly – “economists have correctly predicted nine of the last five recessions” and all that – and another sixty-plus locations in half a year could well be possible if a major chain (say, cinemas or bowling alleys) were to get on board.

The Report Card

Site name Number of rooms The reviews
Site name Total number Different games Find reviews
Adventure Rooms 1 1 TripAdvisor
Agent November 3 3 TripAdvisor
AK Escape Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Bath Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Aberdeen 3 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Inverness 3 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Liverpool 4 5 TripAdvisor
Breakout Manchester 7 6 TripAdvisor
Can You Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cipher 1 1 TripAdvisor
Clue Finders 2 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Blackpool 1 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Warrington 3 3 TripAdvisor
clueQuest 4 2 TripAdvisor
Crack The Code Sheffield 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptopia 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cyantist 1 1 TripAdvisor
Dr. Knox’s Enigma 2 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Belfast 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Dublin 2 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Clonakilty 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Dublin 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Edinburgh 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Glasgow 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hour 2 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Hunt 10 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Land 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Live 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Newcastle 2 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan Live 4 4 (TripAdvisor)
Escape Quest 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Plymouth 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escapism 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escapologic 2 2 TripAdvisor
Ex(c)iting Game 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Newcastle 1 1 TripAdvisor
Exit Strategy 1 1 TripAdvisor
gamEscape 1 1 TripAdvisor
GR8escape York 2 2 TripAdvisor
Guess House 3 3 (TripAdvisor)
Hidden Rooms London 2 2 TripAdvisor
HintHunt 5 2 TripAdvisor
iLocked 1 1 TripAdvisor
Instinctive Escape Games 1 1 TripAdvisor
Jailbreak! 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Keyhunter 3 3 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lock’d 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lockdown-Inverness 2 2 TripAdvisor
Locked In Games 2 2 TripAdvisor
LockIn Escape 3 3 TripAdvisor
Logiclock 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lost & Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Make A Break 1 1 TripAdvisor
Mystery Cube 1 1 TripAdvisor
Mystery Squad 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Panic! 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Puzzlair 2 2 TripAdvisor
Puzzle Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Quests Factory 2 2 TripAdvisor
Room Escape Adventures 1 1 TripAdvisor
Salisbury Escape Room 1 1 TripAdvisor
Secret Studio 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Gr8 Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
The Great Escape Game 4 4 TripAdvisor
The Live Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Room 5 5 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Glasgow 2 1 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Leeds 2 1 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Liverpool 2 1 TripAdvisor
Time Run 2 1 TripAdvisor
XIT 4 4 TripAdvisor

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 a page with the review summaries for every site.

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, Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham or Sheffield.

Additionally, TripAdvisor now has a page entitled Top Escape Games in United Kingdom. It looks like it lists the thirteen escape games that are both #1 in “Fun and Games” in their town and listed as an escape game first, in some order, then the escape games that are #2, then the escape games that are #3 and so on. The “listed as an escape game” criterion is a bigger one than you might think; at least three very highly-regarded exit games spring to mind that don’t appear on that list, for one is listed as an outdoor activity when it isn’t, a second is listed as a scavenger hunt (arguable) and a third is listed as “other fun and games”. (It also remains arguable whether you would choose to rank – say – “#1 of a very small number” ahead of “#2 of a very large number”, that sort of thing.) This list is dynamic but slow-moving; a new national number one “best-reviewed game” has been crowned compared to last month, though the previous champ was still on top as recently as June 27th.

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 (for instance, thinking bob‘s comparisons, the QMSM room comparisons and Geek Girl Up North site comparions). There was also Buzzfeed’s list, though it’s not clear that that had any sort of deliberate ordering. 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 optinions 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 not actually very difficult to estimate the number of people who play an exit game over the course of a month, though it does take a fair bit of work and 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.

What would a thousand players per day look like? There are two very popular sites in Manchester that give extremely convincing evidence of hosting sixty groups per day between them, on a bad day, and five very popular sites in London that, combined, must sell tickets to over a hundred groups per day, even taking into account that two of them are closed on Mondays. On top of that, there are also popular sites in Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol and more. It all soon adds up.

So with 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 June 2015, is 260,000. (This estimate is quoted to the nearest 5,000, but the site would not like to claim more confidence than “between 100,000 and 700,000”.) 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 this site keeps discovering new locations that it might have found out about earlier!

4 Comments

  1. Any reason you’re not tracking total number of game rooms as the main metric up top? It seems irrelevant to me whether a city has two escape venues with a room each, or one with two rooms. It might be relevant whether it has two separate games, or two identical games, but overall I think it’s the number of rooms that really counts. In fact, what probably counts more is the average occupancy.

    I agree that the rate of growth will slow. It seems to me that the vast majority of venues were fully booked days (if not weeks) in advance a year ago, whereas now it seems normal for weekdays to have availability. Given the (I’d guess) six month lag between deciding to open a room and actually opening it, I’m assuming that we’re just reaching the end of the gold rush (at least in London). That said, you look at Toronto, Singapore and Budapest and you’ve got to believe that there’s a long way for us to go – I just think it won’t be continuing the same exponential growth. Most people I talk to still haven’t heard of escape rooms, so there’s still an untapped market out there. Interested to see what the Crystal Maze does for escape rooms too.

    Reply
    • Tracking location openings rather than room openings seems to be the international standard – and, frankly, it’s a lot easier. 🙂 In principle I agree with what you have to say about the importance of the various factors, but pragmatism must get in the way.

      Reply
  2. BTW – ClueQuest has six rooms now. I’m pretty sure that was true by the end of June, although I can’t be certain.

    Reply
    • Oh, that’s interesting, because it’s something I deliberately checked. However, I didn’t realise that they only opened two of those rooms on Friday to Sunday, and thought that they were all opening for the first time on a forthcoming Friday and then would be staying open all week. Good to know!

      Reply

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