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Coming soon to Brighton: Lady Chastity’s Reserve

lcr-brightonIt’s been pushed back ever so slightly at least once, but Brighton is going from zero exit games to getting its second in double-quick time when Handmade Mysteries launch their second venue at which Lady Chastity’s Reserve might be sought. The team have described their game as a “racy rush“, a beautiful double entendre in a game where the nudge and wink are stock in trade… and probably the only one that is suitable for participants who have not yet reached legal drinking age. This site is glad that the above graphic cuts off where it does; a few pixels further south and… well, the beautiful, busy and evocative graphic has more to it than first meets the eye.

The location in Brighton will be a pub called The Black Lion within the town’s Lanes, which will only add to the atmosphere. The game is proving so successful in London that its run keeps getting extended and extended; hopefully the Brighton game can have at least as big an impact. There is one challenge to be faced, though; many of the reviews of the London location refer to Gabriel the host as standing out and contributing to the atmosphere and fun. Perhaps Gabriel might be the MVP (or, at least, the Most Valuable Host?) in exit games, but he can only be in one place at once! If both locations can have their own top-notch host, then Brighton is in for a real treat.

It’s a sixty-minute game for teams of two to five, though teams of 2-3 might be matched up with others to help their chances. Both London and Brighton branches charge £15.50 per player during the off-peak (before 6pm on weekdays). The Brighton branch is starting off by taking Mondays and Tuesdays off to recuperate from the customarily filthy weekends.

Coming soon to Glasgow: Escape Rooms Scotland

Escape Rooms Scotland logoAnother large site, with some unusual-looking twists, is coming to Glasgow and opening for business on Thursday. Escape Rooms Scotland will be a javelin’s throw away from the Clyde, near the St. Enoch shopping centre and associated station on the city’s subway.

The site will be opening with two games, both with sixty-minute time limits, designed for teams of two to six and charging a flat £60 per team. That said, a third room is under construction, which will host teams of four to ten; this bigger game will attract a bigger price tag of a flat £100. The descriptions of the rooms are rather concise but easily sufficient to let you know which game you’ll want to play first. Hints will be provided when the teams appear to be stuck; teams taking three of them or fewer will be eligible for monthly and all-time leaderboards for each room.

The stakes in the Jail Break game are a little higher than in most, for A crime you did not commit has landed you on Death Row. Are you smart enough to escape before the guards return? The Zombie Quarantine room strictly applies a lower age limit of 16 and asks if you can survive the quarantine, warning that there is a real live (or, at least, undedad!) zombie in the room. If you have a group of over six and all want to play together, the room under construction for the larger groups will be the Bank Heist room, which suggests You have 60 minutes to steal the diamonds locked away in the managers office. Can you rob the bank before the manager returns?

On Facebook, the site has posted an opening offer for the Zombie Quarantine room; book by the end of September to play in October and November and your team will get to experience the zombie for just £40!

Autumn 2015: where are the gaps in the UK market?

Regions of the UK

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

Every six months or so, this site looks at a snapshot of the UK market for exit games and analyses where the gaps are at that time. (See the older versions from March 2015, September 2014 and March 2014.) Six months is practically the duration of a geological era considering how quickly the exit game market moves. This site says “six months or so” because the regular schedule had gone out of this site’s mind and a stray check reveals that it’s slightly more than six months since the last installment. Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?

It’s possible that some of the first exit game room proprietors might have started business in the closest big city to where they happened to already live. However, if you had a choice as to where to set up business, where are the most obvious gaps in the market? Alternatively, where might people expect to see exit rooms coming soon? In late 2015, now that some of the most successful operations have started two or more locations in different towns, where remains up for grabs?

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

Metropolitan economy Sites operating Also consider
1. London 15 3 sites under construction, 2 sites recently closed
2. Birmingham 2 1 site nearby (Nuneaton), 1 site under construction, 1 site recently closed
3. Manchester 5 2 sites nearby (Macclesfield and Warrington), 1 site under construction
4. Leeds-Bradford 3 1 site nearby (York), 1 site recently closed
5. Liverpool 5 1 site nearby (Warrington)
6. Glasgow 3 2 sites under construction
7. Nottingham-Derby 3 1 site nearby (Mansfield), 1 site nearby under construction
8. Portsmouth-Southampton 0 2 sites nearby (Bournemouth and Salisbury)
9. Bristol 3 1 site under construction
10. Newcastle 3 1 site nearby under construction
11. Sheffield 3  
12. Cardiff-Newport 0 1 site under construction
13. Edinburgh 5 1 site under construction
14. Leicester 0 1 site temporarily closed for 17 months
15. Brighton 1 2 sites under construction

For comparison, the Dublin metro area with three sites open and one site temporarily closed would come just below number three in the above list.

Six months ago, this pointed to South Hampshire and Wales as being the biggest gaps in the market. Today… you’d probably conclude the same thing. In the last six months, it’s probably reasonable to characterise the majority of growth as having taken place in known, successful markets, with a limited extent of growth in smaller markets. It’s surprising that Portsmouth and Southampton lie fallow, though Bournemouth and Salisbury both have their own rooms and are convenient from Southampton, at least. The sites under construction in Cardiff and Swansea would also seem to have large chunks of territory to themselves; this site occasionally checks the TripAdvisor charts for North Wales and South Wales and finds nothing.

Let’s pick some other names out of the hat. Perhaps it’s surprising that Birmingham only has two sites; noting a site in Nuneaton, there might be scope for games in Wolverhampton and Coventry too. This site also tends to wonder about other home counties towns; there are so many tech companies and smart people in Reading that that must surely have a chance. This site also hinted at Watford and Southend, to which it would seem reasonable to add Milton Keynes. Hull might have a shot. This site is bullish about the potential of seaside resorts: Blackpool may well yet have untapped potential and surely it’s not alone. (Could a Dracula-themed game in Whitby kill all year round, or would it only draw during the Goth weekends?) Bradford must surely be worth another go rather than being the next site in Leeds. It’s arguably a slight surprise to see so many sites in Nottingham and so few in Derby and Leicester, as well.

Now the obvious rejoinder to that is that Nottingham is known as a tourist destination whereas Derby and Leicester aren’t, and that does suggest another reasonable approach; don’t think in terms of where the economies are, think in terms of where the tourists go. After all, exit games are firmly part of the leisure economy. Happily, the Office of National Statistics will furnish us with Travel Trends statistics that can inform our views, though it tends to focus on overseas tourists to the UK rather than tourists travelling within the UK. If you have access to reliable statistics about tourism in the UK from UK tourists, please let this site know.

The chart in figure 14 at the bottom of the overseas residents’ visits page is particularly interesting. Oxford and Cambridge get hundreds of thousands of visitors per year; perhaps they have scope to feature exit games more prominently as part of their tourist operation. Northern Scotland tourist visits are definitely popular – and if you’re going to the Highlands, you’re very probably going to visit Inverness. To its shame, this site was a little leery that a town with population of under 80,000 might support two exit games; however, with so many tourists, it makes a lot more sense.

All that said, this site is definitely considerably more cautious about the market than it was six months ago. There’s been a track record of the number of UK (specifically) exit games roughly doubling (or slightly-more-than-doubling) every six months. That is finally slowing down in the second half of 2015, though not by much. A notable trend is that a substantial proportion (say, perhaps, half?) of new sites are deliberately concentrating on opening outside the traditional Monday-to-Friday office hours. That’s sensible enough; a popular site can always expand if the tourist market shows that it has the demand to fill slots for games during afternoons or even mornings as well. That said, there are still very many (probably millions, certainly many hundreds of thousands) people who might only ever play an exit game once who are yet to play their one game, as well as those who might enjoy their first game enough to come back to play more, and those – who this site salutes! – who know the genre’s capability to thrill and devote themselves to seeing all there is to see.

Late September news updates

Newspaper graphicA few short news stories and they’re all good news, so without further ado:

  • Escape Plan Ltd. report that their lease has been extended until late January 2016, so there’s longer to enjoy their current game in its present location. Celebrate this good news by using the launch discount code, which will spiral into infinity for good when business closes on Friday night.
  • Excited to see Play-it-Real, an English language blog on exit games by the owner of one in Amsterdam. It’s only two posts old, but Exit Games UK really loved the Play-it-Real recap of attending the convention in Germany three weeks ago. Not much has been written about what happened there, making this article a must-read.
  • Only four days to go for the crowdfunding campaign for the Red House Mysteries exit game in Exeter. The campaign has come on in leaps and bounds over the last two or three days and is now well past 90% funded. While you can’t take anything for granted, you would be disappointed if your ticket pre-orders at extremely attractive-looking prices weren’t to come to fruition from this point.
  • Good news about new games coming at sites in Nottingham: Escapologic are opening their third room, E.P.I Centre on Saturday; it’s a game about compound interest, or at least about an interesting compound. Alma City has just been hit by an earthquake. There’s panic on the streets. Chaos and devastation. Buildings are collapsing. Fires are raging. People are screaming. Cars are crashing. Your team is the disaster cleanup crew. You have one hour to save billions of pounds of chemical research from the Edward Palamate Institute. Stabilise the systems. Save the priceless chemical sample. Get out before the contents of your cryogenic case disperse and it’s all over. Elsewhere in the city, the second room at Cryptology, which is set to put the crypt into Cryptology, “will be ready for an October launch”. Good times!
  • And finally, Agent November used Twitter to confirm the announcement that the intellectual property for the well-known large-scale zombie chase game 2.8 Hours Later has been bought from the sadly insolvent Slingshot. The zombies may yet run again; it will be rather exciting to see what a company that is used to smarter games might do to refresh the familiar concept!

Two plus two for Clue HQ

Clue HQ logoFollowing up on the hint left last week, the Clue HQ web site has changed rather substantially very recently. The new look is extremely smart, whereas the previous site was fun and slightly cartoon-y. (Not so wild about the close-up of the slightly bloodshot eye used to advertise the The Experiments Hallowe’en special, but that’s just the cowardice talking.) Most excitingly, the new web site suggests that Clue HQ will be expanding from their well-established Warrington and Blackpool locations to add new locations near Brentwood, in Essex, and in Sunderland, on Wearside.

The Brentwood location, more specifically, will be at the Kelvedon Hatch Secret Bunker site. (You may recall the Top Secret cryptic Treasure Hunt held at the same location last year.) The plan is to launch the site for the Autumn half-term, so that’s about a month or so away. The site will be launching with two games, Bunker 38 and Detonation. These are reckoned as two-star difficulty games, but Clue HQ’s difficulty scale tends to skew more challenging than most, so both games can still be expected to put up a fight. Both games have a one-hour time limit and host 3-6 players; the pricing structure is constant across the brand, with teams charged £63 for three players, £76 for four, £85 for five or £90 for six.

The Sunderland location, very interestingly, will co-locate with the local branch of Laser Quest; the opening is quoted elsewhere as “no later than December”. This site, too, will feature Bunker 38, but also the unusual high-score-table game The Vault. It’s particularly interesting to see a laser game facility add an exit game – and the laser game is said to have stunning visuals as the genre goes. Sometimes people reference the laser tag boom-and-bust in the UK between about 1989 and about 1993 in terms of one possible trajectory for exit games; the laser tag industry is quietly doing very well for itself in a reinvented form (specifically, an increasing number of soft play centres feature laser games these days, for the price of the equipment has come way down) and there could be far worse paths for exit games to tread. Is co-location with laser games, or with other entertainments that might be found in a family entertainment centre, the future? It’s likely to be part of it.

Two exciting developments for one of the most dynamic brands in the industry!

Talking marketing

"Internet marketing" computer keyboard graphicA site owner, who probably wouldn’t want to be named at this point, recently expressed to this site an opinion that they thought a specific competitor of theirs had one of the most interesting and best-produced games in town, but observed that this competitor seemed to attract very little custom and wondered how they could afford to remain in business. It’s not the first time that there has seemed to be occasional degrees of disparity between what might be considered critical opinion (see, for instance, bloggers’ “favourite game” charts), popular opinion (see, for instance, TripAdvisor charts) and apparent levels of custom. Having the most interesting game, that operates really reliably and provides a consistently really strong experience, counts for little if people don’t know about it.

Whether you’re in the business or not, this site wholly recommends the Escape Room Enthusiasts Facebook group, modulo some people’s standard objections to the site. It has over a thousand members and is far busier than most Facebook groups, without being overwhelming. The content often has valuable insights from around the world – and when so many businesses are local or national, people are often really happy to help out those who they’re not going to rub up against. There have recently been a couple of comments on marketing issues, often quite specific in detail; Josh Nekrep wrote on advanced data collection through Facebook and Shaun Collignon shared three strategies that worked for him. Huge gratitude to Josh and Shaun for sharing them, of course!

Further to that, another exciting initiative is the RoomEscapeist monthly conference call for those in the business or looking to get started. The September call’s topic is marketing; the Facebook announcement suggests more specific topics might include dealing with the press and the use of Press Releases (bonus tip for UK and Irish sites: please include this site on your distribution list!), social media, social buying sites, e-mail marketing, video marketing, pay-per-click advertising, word of mouth and more. The detailed announcement suggests that the call will take place tomorrow night at 11pm UK time (late, but it’s hard to pick a time that’ll suit everyone between Vienna and Vancouver) and suggests a UK freephone number to call to get involved.

This site gets the impression that there may well be more to come from Paul at RoomEscapeist between now and the next monthly call, but time will tell!

Late September new game news

"+ NEW GAME" graphicNew exit games are coming, both as additions to existing sites and to brand new sites of their own.

  • Liverpool’s gamEscape‘s Facebook page shows day after day with their single room in heavy utilisation, so a second room is a logical addition. Their second room is entitled Prison Cell and booking is currently available for it from Wednesday 23rd September onwards. “You have been locked up for a crime you did not commit! You are in lockdown, where many prisoners of the inescapable prison have tried, and ultimately FAILED to escape, there is a rumour that one inmate has successfully escaped. They left many clues, use the clues, solve the puzzles and become the first (officially) to escape before the warden comes back and shuts you in FOREVER.” Hopefully this will prove as popular as their first Golden Cage room!
  • The Room of Glasgow have two pieces of exciting news: the nights of Thursday 29th October to Sunday 1st November will see a temporary Hallowe’en Thrill. As they say on Facebook, “Remember how we always promise there’s nothing scary in our rooms? Well, for our Halloween event, we can promise the exact opposite!” The room asks “Do you have the courage to enter a haunted house? When all is pitch black and you cannot know what you would face? Do you have what it takes to handle the paranormal? If you do, book our special Halloween experience, a multi-room escape event with a haunted house twist! The game lasts about 40 minutes, available for groups of 2 to 5.” Fifty pounds per scream. Er, per team.
  • Staying with The Room, from November 11th, teams of two to four can pay £66 (or £55 with coupon code MYRMSP1) to play the new Mystic Room at the same location. “The oracle was found dead in her room. What happened? Why police is reluctant to investigate? What fortune was told to whom? Did the prophecy come true? What clues did the oracle leave behind, and are you able to read them? Can you use your wits and your senses to crack the case? You have one hour to find the answers and your way out of the mystery. Clairvoyants read the stars, and communicate with the afterlife. You might also need to do it for the truth may well be out there….
  • At the other end of the country, thanks to Ken for notice that new rooms are a-poppin’ at Escape Plan Live of Chatham, which opens at weekends only. A new Nuclear Winter sixty-minute game for teams of up to eight will be available from 11th October. Notably, it turns the usual premise completely on its head; you’re looking for a key, but not to unlock a door. “The inevitable has happened – as the bombs rained down, the initial blasts wiped out most of humanity; starvation and the extreme cold caused by the lack of sunlight took care of the rest… almost. Of the few survivors, radiation has ensured most have become ravenous zombie-like beings who are now just an hour away from your hideout – a kitchen where the cupboards may now be bare, but it does have what you really need… a door that locks! Can you find the key and use it to keep the cannibalistic hordes out?” November sees the addition of festive-themed games Mission: Save Christmas and The Naughty List for up to six. Cutely, you can specify players’ names to appear on a letter from Santa, or to be put in place on the titular Naughty List for the players to seek to remove. Presumably these will only be available at the appropriate times of year; 2016 will see the addition of an eight-player Arctic Freeze game, possibly inspired by the admitted notorious coldness of the location where the games take place!
  • It looks like Lock’d of London are opening their third room, Perpetuum Mobile, on Friday 25th September. In this game, rated at 4/5 keys of difficulty, “In just one hour, the world will be plunged into eternal darkness. And there’s only one person who can stop it. You. The planet’s delicate energy resources are about to run dry. And Professor Richter, the only man with the knowledge to save the world, has disappeared. The future of humankind is in your hands“. Looking at all the games listed as coming soon, might the site have plans to expand to nine different games? That would be mightily impressive.
  • There’s not really been enough information to talk about Escape Rooms Cardiff yet; their web site is currently still a placeholder, though their Facebook page is up and running. (Honesty kudos points because it doesn’t yet feature five-star reviews before the site has opened.) What the world does know is that there is a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help scale up their plans – very strongly recommended for those who know they’re going to play and want to secure an early bird discount. If you’re local and want to know more about what they’re about, they’re running an event called The Quest on Thursday 24th September at an adults-only after-hours event at the Techniquest science theatre and planetarium.
  • Should these not be enough for you and leave you asking “What are we going to do next?“, e-mail has arrived suggesting that Invitation To events, known for their Treasure Hunts in London, are set to release a book with possible answers to just that question, filled with the sorts of answers that readers to this site would enjoy!

Now open in Brighton: Escape Game Brighton

Escape Game Brighton logoLet’s start with a history lesson. In the beginning, there was HintHunt. At least, in the beginning for this country.

The second exit local game project that this site ever knew about – the one that raised the suggestion that the exit game might be a genre, rather than a glorious one-off – was Live Escape Game of Brighton. If you investigate with WHOIS servers, the domain registrations for XIT of Dublin, clueQuest of London and ESCAP3D of Belfast precede that for Live Escape Game, and there may be others as well, but Live Escape Game was the second to catch attention here. Accordingly, it was one of the eight games listed in the first version of the Exit Games UK map. It was “coming soon” then, and it’s still “coming soon” now. Is it still coming soon in practice? Hard to say, but the domain was renewed in August, which points to at least a passing degree of aspiration. The site for Brighton Escape Room has come and gone and investigation at the quoted physical location showed no evidence, so that is to be considered to have been a misfire.

For a while, it looked like Brighton was haunted, when a city so cosmopolitan and creative must surely be as promising as any in the country. However, happily, it looks very much like a project has managed to stick. This may well prove to be a theme that crops up time and again; might Brighton prove to be the new Liverpool, going from no sites and an obvious gap to five in short order? Time will tell.

So, at last, Brighton is getting its first exit game, Escape Game Brighton, opening today on Regency Square, which is on the other side of the town’s big shopping centre to The Lanes and its gorgeous library. Be careful with the address; as you might hope for from Brighton, if you get the digits in the street name the wrong way around, you end up at a fetish bar. (No, the exit game site doesn’t have a room set in a dungeon. Yet.) More practically, it’s well within reach of car parking.

The location is opening with a single mission, Murder at Brighton Pier, which has a 60-minute time limit and caters for temas of two to five. A woman has been found dead. Her cause of death and her assailant are unknown. Your team will take on the role of a group of world famous investigators in this Agatha Christie style murder mystery. Hidden at the scene of the crime are the clues needed to unlock the truth behind this gruesome murder. Your task is to discover who is the guilty culprit before the time runs out. You will have to use a combination of logic, intuition and good old fashioned detective work to solve this case. Further missions are coming soon.

The site will start off by opening at weekends and on Monday evenings, then it will add Wednesday to Friday evenings as well in October. The price is £45 for a team of two, or you can add up to three more players for £15 each – so a full five will cost £90. However, it’s possible to beat that; bookings by the end of September will attract a 15% discount. Even better still, the limited availability of this Groupon social buying deal may not have expired by the time you look, and may permit a discount of over 50%; terms and conditions apply – notably that you must use your voucher within 14 days of purchase to book a game within 90 days.

Enjoy exit games, Brighton; fingers crossed, you’ll find them well worth the wait!

Mid-September news round-up

News round-upToo many news items for a single post, so let’s leave news of new rooms and a new site until a second news post, hopefully within the next two or three days. Eyes down and let’s go go go…

  • Canadian exit game blogs Escape Room Addict, Escape Games Review and Escape Games Toronto have teamed up with a crew of their very talented friends to put on three performances of one-night theatrical live exit game Canadian Caper tonight. In the theatrical tradition, this site wishes them all broken legs and hopes to read more about the event’s glorious success soon.
  • Exit Games UK thoroughly recommends the talk given at VideoBrains by Mink Ette on exit games, one of the team behind Spark of Resistance in Portland (and any excuse to plug the masterclass that is their talk about its design principles is welcome). The end of the talk hints at Mink teaming with Gareth Briggs of last year’s MOLE game on a project to be announced later; enter the Oubliette on Twitter if you want to be among the first to learn more in time.
  • Escapism of Nuneaton have announced on Facebook that they’ll be running a one-off game at midnight on Hallowe’en, and are auctioning the spot for the team of eight to play it. This site gets the impression that Escapism might be marginally more… aggressive? than most, based on its disclaimer, and no holds would surely be barred if you give your informed consent to a Hallowe’en witching hour game. A few sites are ramping up for that time of the year, but it’s not clear if any of them will be able to do so quite so magically.
  • A very interesting-looking business undergoing the crowdfunding process is Legend Quests, which aims to put on theatrical fantasy adventure experiences for teams of thirty, or immersive costumed experiences for teams of ten. The person behind it has an unimpeachable record in fantasy photography and videography, as well as a popular fantasy podcast, and the project has absolutely the right people involved – from voiceover by Tom Baker down to design by experienced fantasy gamebook designers. There have been LARP-for-the-masses efforts before, often taking the tricky role-playing parts out. Rules-light, acting-and-emotion-heavy freeform role-playing is doing at least as well now in the UK as it ever has done, but that’s another matter. Consider contributing to the crowdfunding campaign if that’s your cup of tea.
  • Finally, and most on-topic, the Escape exit game chain (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Dublin and licensees elsewhere) have announced that they have been shortlisted for the Scottish Business Awards in the Emerging Business of the Year category. Congratulations on the nomination; judging by the line-up of presenters at the award ceremony, it’s clearly a big deal!