The semester report for late 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s one other comparison worth running:

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

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

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

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

The 2015/2016 Survey and some events coming up

Abstract survey graphicThis site has just sent out 75 e-mails to exit games in the UK, with representing total of 88 locations, inviting them to take part in a survey. If you see this and didn’t get the survey – either because this site might have used the wrong address, or couldn’t find an address at all in a handful of occasions – then this site apologises and invites you still to send in your responses by e-mail. The views of players and other participants would also be interesting and most welcome (perhaps as a comment to this post?) but only site operators will have their responses tallied for the final results.

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

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

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

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

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

The League Table: end of December 2015

3-dimensional bar chartThis is the twenty-first instalment of a (just about) monthly feature which acts as a status report on the exit games in the UK and Ireland, hopefully acting as part of the basis of a survey of growth over time. It reflects a snapshot of the market as it was, to the best of this site’s knowledge, at the end of 31st December 2015.

The Census

Category Number in the UK Number in Ireland
Exit game locations known to have opened 107 7
Exit game locations known to be open 95 4
Exit game locations in various states of temporary closure 4 2
Exit game locations known to have closed permanently 8 1
Exit game locations showing convincing evidence of being under construction 8 0
Exit game locations showing unconvincing evidence of being under construction 8 0
Exit game projects abandoned before opening 2 0

The term opened should be understood to include “sold tickets”, even when it is unclear whether any of those tickets may have been redeemed for played games; the definition of location should be understood to include outdoor locations, pop-up/mobile locations with open-ended time limits and component parts of larger attractions that are played in the same way as conventional exit games. Pop-ups with deliberately very short runs (e.g. Hallowe’en specials, or games run at conventions or festivals) are not counted in this list; games with deliberately finite but longer runs (e.g. Panic!, which awarded a prize to its champion at the end of its sixteen week run) are counted.

This month has seen six additions and three subtractions; Trapped Up North‘s FAQ page said “We open on 1st August and run various dates till the 23rd Dec“, so this looks like a clean fold and a happy ending, but a Trapped Up North 2016 would not come as a surprise and would be a welcome return. The other subtractions are Lock Down Zone of northern South Yorkshire and Zombie in a Room of Chesterfield, both of whose web sites appear to be temporarily suspended and who seem to be making no progress on social media.

The Report Card

Site name Number of rooms The reviews
Site name Total number Different games Find reviews
A Curious Escape 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Adventure Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Agent November 3 3 TripAdvisor
Bath Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Aberdeen 4 3 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Inverness 3 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Liverpool 5 6 TripAdvisor
Breakout Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
Can You Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cipher 0 0 TripAdvisor
Clue Finders 2 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Blackpool 4 3 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Brentwood 2 2 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Sunderland 1 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Warrington 5 5 TripAdvisor
clueQuest 7 2 TripAdvisor
Code to Exit 2 2 TripAdvisor
Crack The Code Sheffield 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptic Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptology 2 2 TripAdvisor
Cryptopia 0 0 TripAdvisor
Cyantist 2 2 TripAdvisor
Dr. Knox’s Enigma 2 1 TripAdvisor
Enigma Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Enigma Quests 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Belfast 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Dublin 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Clonakilty 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Dublin 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Edinburgh 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Entertainment 8 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Game Brighton 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Glasgow 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hour 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hunt 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Land 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Live 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Newcastle 2 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan Live 4 4 TripAdvisor
Escape Quest 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Durham 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Plymouth 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Scotland 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escapism 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escapologic 3 3 TripAdvisor
escExit 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
EVAC 1 1 TripAdvisor
Ex(c)iting Game 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Newcastle 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Strategy 1 1 TripAdvisor
Extremescape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Fathom Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
gamEscape 2 2 TripAdvisor
GR8escape York 2 2 TripAdvisor
Guess House 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Hell in a Cell 1 1 TripAdvisor
Hidden Rooms London 2 2 TripAdvisor
HintHunt 5 2 TripAdvisor
House of Enigma 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
iLocked 0 0 TripAdvisor
Instinctive Escape Games 1 1 TripAdvisor
Jailbreak! 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Keyhunter 3 3 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve Brighton 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve East London 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve South London 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lock’d 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lockdown-Inverness 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lock Down Zone 0 0 TripAdvisor
Locked In A Room 4 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Edinburgh 1 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Games 2 2 TripAdvisor
LockIn Escape 3 3 TripAdvisor
Logiclock 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lost & Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Make A Break 0 0 TripAdvisor
Mission Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Mystery Cube 1 1 TripAdvisor
Mystery Squad 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Namco Funscape Escape Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Noughts and Coffees 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Panic! 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Pirate Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Puzzlair 4 4 TripAdvisor
Puzzle Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
QuestRoom 1 1 TripAdvisor
Quests Factory 0 0 TripAdvisor
Red House Mysteries 1 1 TripAdvisor
Room Escape Adventures 1 1 TripAdvisor
Salisbury Escape Room 1 1 TripAdvisor
Secret Studio 1 1 TripAdvisor
Sherlock Unlock 2 2 TripAdvisor
The Bristol Maze 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
The Escape Network 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Preston 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Gr8 Escape 4 4 TripAdvisor
The Great Escape Game 4 4 TripAdvisor
The Live Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Room 5 5 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Glasgow 2 1 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Leeds 3 2 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Liverpool 2 1 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Manchester 1 1 TripAdvisor
TimeCraft 1 1 TripAdvisor
Time Run 2 1 TripAdvisor
Trapped In 2 2 TripAdvisor
Trapped Up North 0 0 TripAdvisor
We Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
XIT 4 4 TripAdvisor
Zombie in a Room 0 0 (TripAdvisor)

Corrections would be most welcome.

This site supports all the exit games that exist and will not make claims that any particular one is superior to any other particular one. You’ve probably noticed that this table has removed the review summaries; this site has pages with the review summaries for every site in the United Kingdom and, separately, for every site in Ireland.

This site takes the view that if you’re interested in review summaries, you probably care (at least to some extent) about the question of which site probably has the best popular reviews. Accordingly, you might be interested in the TripAdvisor’s “Fun and Games” rankings lists in (picking only cities with multiple exit games listed) Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham or Sheffield.

Additionally, TripAdvisor now has pages entitled Top Escape Games in United Kingdom and Top Escape Games in Ireland. No obvious changes to the ranking algorithm from the previous month, and not much change to the national rankings; congratulations to the site which remains top of the national list for a fourth consecutive month. Numbers three and four on the chart swap places, one site rises from number ten to number eight and numbers nine and ten are re-entries.

You might also be interested in listings at Play Exit Games, a few of which contain ratings and from which rankings might be derived, or ranking lists from other bloggers. Looking at London sites, The Logic Escapes Me have provided recommendations and detailed comparisons; see also this piece at Bravofly and thinking bob‘s comparisons. In the North-West, there are rhe QMSM room comparisons and Geek Girl Up North site comparions as well. If you have your own UK ranking list, please speak up and it shall be included in future months. The next step could be some sort of exit game Metacritic, comparing the reviews and opinions of those who have played a great number of such games; hopefully, this would corroborate the popular reviews, or perhaps point out some inconsistencies.

It’s more laborious than difficult to estimate the number of people who play an exit game over the course of a month, though there are limits as to how accurate it can be. This site uses data available to the public from sites’ booking systems, the number of rooms at each site, any data supplied by the site (either to the public or in private correspondence), and bears in mind trends in the numbers of Facebook likes, TripAdvisor reviews, photos posted and team sizes per site according to team photos. This site won’t necessarily take owners’ claims at face value, but there’s nothing to be gained from turning business away and saying you’re sold out when in fact you aren’t.

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

With all this in mind, this site makes its best estimate that the number of people who have played at least one exit game in the UK or Ireland, at any point in time up to the end of December 2015, is 470,000. (This estimate is quoted to the nearest 10,000, but the site would not like to claim more confidence than “between 200,000 and 1,200,000”.) As ever, if someone plays more than one game at the same site, this figure still only counts them once, and this number is only really meaningful in the context of this site’s previous estimates. The other usual caveat is that this figure may exclude data from locations about which this site is ignorant – and, as ever, this site keeps discovering new locations that perhaps it might have found out about earlier!

Reviewing this site’s predictions for 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not as far as this site is aware.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clue HQ and repeat business

clue-cardExciting times at Clue HQ. The photo above is of their new Clue Card, a loyalty scheme running (to begin with) at their Warrington location only. Every time a team plays, one or two players can have their Clue Card stamped; in each game, one player can use their card to obtain a perk. While the graphic above is small, the perks are public knowledge. Collect a single stamp and you can redeem a simple perk: a starting-point the next time you play. A double-stamped card gets you an extra code within-game. A triple-stamped card earns you extra time, and a completed card with four stamps earns you a chunky discount on another play. The Warrington site has five games, so someone can play their way through the site on a single card. Sites have certainly offered discounts for returning customers, but a fully-fledged loyalty card like this is an innovation, at least to the UK. An exciting development!

((Edited to add:)) Apparently, not quite as much of an innovation as this site thought. Many thanks to the excellent Exit Games Scotland who kindly pointed out on Facebook that Escape Rooms Scotland of Glasgow have had their own loyalty card scheme for some time, though they’re keeping it quiet.

It’s fabulous, you get a card from the lovely people at Escape Rooms Scotland, one card per booking.
One stamp = £10 off your next game
Two stamps = £20 off your next game
Three stamps = Free t-shirt (very exclusive t-shirt!)
The great thing is that you can give the card to anyone to get the discount *grin*

That’s not all Clue HQ‘s good news, though. They have recently announced that they will be opening a new site in Birmingham soon. “We’re thrilled to announce that early next year we’ll be adding a massive site, Clue HQ – Birmingham to our fantastic line up. Some games will be coming from our other Clue HQ sites, however there will also be new games added in time too! ” The address has been published. Like the Warrington original site, it’s in a railway arch; more specifically, it’s in a wide old site that forms part of a railway arch, a very short walk away from Snow Hill station in the city centre. It’s not yet clear quite how many games there will be hosted there, but the site is intended to keep people coming back time and time again – and perhaps Birmingham might yet grow to have its own Clue Card some day.

The League Table: end of November 2015

Bar chart showing improving performance over time

This is the twentieth instalment of a (just about) monthly feature which acts as a status report on the exit games in the UK and Ireland, hopefully acting as part of the basis of a survey of growth over time. It reflects a snapshot of the market as it was, to the best of this site’s knowledge, at the end of 30th November 2015.

The Census

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

The term opened should be understood to include “sold tickets”, even when it is unclear whether any of those tickets may have been redeemed for played games; the definition of location should be understood to include outdoor locations, pop-up/mobile locations with open-ended time limits and component parts of larger attractions that are played in the same way as conventional exit games. Pop-ups with deliberately very short runs (e.g. Hallowe’en specials, or games run at conventions or festivals) are not counted in this list; games with deliberately finite but longer runs (e.g. Panic!, which awarded a prize to its champion at the end of its sixteen week run) are counted.

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

The Report Card

Site name Number of rooms The reviews
Site name Total number Different games Find reviews
Adventure Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Agent November 3 3 TripAdvisor
Bath Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Aberdeen 4 3 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Inverness 3 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Liverpool 5 6 TripAdvisor
Breakout Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
Can You Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cipher 0 0 TripAdvisor
Clue Finders 2 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Blackpool 4 3 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Brentwood 2 2 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Sunderland 1 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Warrington 5 5 TripAdvisor
clueQuest 7 2 TripAdvisor
Code to Exit 2 2 TripAdvisor
Crack The Code Sheffield 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptic Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptology 2 2 TripAdvisor
Cryptopia 0 0 TripAdvisor
Cyantist 2 2 TripAdvisor
Dr. Knox’s Enigma 2 1 TripAdvisor
Enigma Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Enigma Quests 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Belfast 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Dublin 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Clonakilty 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Dublin 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Edinburgh 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Entertainment 8 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Game Brighton 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Glasgow 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hour 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hunt 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Land 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Live 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Newcastle 2 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan Live 4 4 TripAdvisor
Escape Quest 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Durham 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Plymouth 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Scotland 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escapism 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escapologic 3 3 TripAdvisor
escExit 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
EVAC 1 1 TripAdvisor
Ex(c)iting Game 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Newcastle 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Strategy 1 1 TripAdvisor
Extremescape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Fathom Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
gamEscape 2 2 TripAdvisor
GR8escape York 2 2 TripAdvisor
Guess House 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Hell in a Cell 1 1 TripAdvisor
Hidden Rooms London 2 2 TripAdvisor
HintHunt 5 2 TripAdvisor
House of Enigma 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
iLocked 0 0 TripAdvisor
Instinctive Escape Games 1 1 TripAdvisor
Jailbreak! 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Keyhunter 3 3 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve Brighton 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve London 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lock’d 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lockdown-Inverness 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lock Down Zone 1 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In A Room 4 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Edinburgh 1 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Games 2 2 TripAdvisor
LockIn Escape 3 3 TripAdvisor
Logiclock 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lost & Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Make A Break 0 0 TripAdvisor
Mission Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Mystery Cube 1 1 TripAdvisor
Mystery Squad 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Namco Funscape Escape Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Panic! 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Puzzlair 4 4 TripAdvisor
Puzzle Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
QuestRoom 1 1 TripAdvisor
Quests Factory 0 0 TripAdvisor
Red House Mysteries 1 1 TripAdvisor
Room Escape Adventures 1 1 TripAdvisor
Salisbury Escape Room 1 1 TripAdvisor
Secret Studio 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Bristol Maze 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
The Escape Network 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Preston 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Gr8 Escape 4 4 TripAdvisor
The Great Escape Game 4 4 TripAdvisor
The Live Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Room 5 5 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Glasgow 2 1 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Leeds 3 2 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Liverpool 2 1 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Manchester 1 1 TripAdvisor
Time Run 2 1 TripAdvisor
Trapped In 2 2 TripAdvisor
Trapped Up North 3 3 TripAdvisor
We Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
XIT 4 4 TripAdvisor
Zombie in a Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)

Corrections would be most welcome.

This site supports all the exit games that exist and will not make claims that any particular one is superior to any other particular one. You’ve probably noticed that this table has removed the review summaries; this site has pages with the review summaries for every site in the United Kingdom and, separately, for every site in Ireland.

This site takes the view that if you’re interested in review summaries, you probably care (at least to some extent) about the question of which site probably has the best popular reviews. Accordingly, you might be interested in the TripAdvisor’s “Fun and Games” rankings lists in (picking only cities with multiple exit games listed) Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham or Sheffield.

Additionally, TripAdvisor now has pages entitled Top Escape Games in United Kingdom and Top Escape Games in Ireland. Interestingly, the ranking algorithm on this page seems to have changed somewhat; the site is happy to list (for instance) the #2 game in London ahead of the #1 game in other cities; #1s rub up against #3s, #4s and even a #6. That said, the #1s haven’t changed very much from their previous order, which suggests that the changes have not been wholesale. Credit to the same site that has been top of the national list for a third consecutive month.

You might also be interested in listings at Play Exit Games, a few of which contain ratings and from which rankings might be derived, or ranking lists from other bloggers. Looking at London sites, The Logic Escapes Me have provided recommendations and detailed comparisons; see also this piece at Bravofly and thinking bob‘s comparisons. In the North-West, there are rhe QMSM room comparisons and Geek Girl Up North site comparions as well. If you have your own UK ranking list, please speak up and it shall be included in future months. The next step could be some sort of exit game Metacritic, comparing the reviews and opinions of those who have played a great number of such games; hopefully, this would corroborate the popular reviews, or perhaps point out some inconsistencies.

It’s more laborious than difficult to estimate the number of people who play an exit game over the course of a month, though there are limits as to how accurate it can be. This site uses data available to the public from sites’ booking systems, the number of rooms at each site, any data supplied by the site (either to the public or in private correspondence), and bears in mind trends in the numbers of Facebook likes, TripAdvisor reviews, photos posted and team sizes per site according to team photos. This site won’t necessarily take owners’ claims at face value, but there’s nothing to be gained from turning business away and saying you’re sold out when in fact you aren’t. As you might expect from the weather – and November was broadly a windy month – indoor businesses like exit games do particularly well at this time of year, and at least five different sites have pushed on considerably from levels that might be considered “ticking on respectably” to levels that might be considered “ticking on well”. Excellent news!

With all this in mind, this site makes its best estimate that the number of people who have played at least one exit game in the UK or Ireland, at any point in time up to the end of November 2015, is 440,000. (This estimate is quoted to the nearest 10,000, but the site would not like to claim more confidence than “between 180,000 and 1,100,000”.) As ever, if someone plays more than one game at the same site, this figure still only counts them once, and this number is only really meaningful in the context of this site’s previous estimates. The other usual caveat is that this figure may exclude data from locations about which this site is ignorant – and, as ever, this site keeps discovering new locations that perhaps it might have found out about earlier!

Mechanics Monday: sprinting for victory

Ball of clocksLots of great things to read from around the exit game blogosphere at the moment, and you don’t have to be specific to any one country to enjoy it: David Spira of Room Escape Artist writes about playing the Contact Light megagame (and the fact that it’s not about exit games is not unwelcome in the least), The Logic Escapes Me features an excellent article about What makes a good host? and escape.sg dives deeper into Namco and their Nazotomo Cafe games.

Following on from the latter, J at escape.sg points to the Nazotomo Cafe intro video – which, while it has subtitles in Japanese, is perfectly understandable without them and sets the tone. It confirms that their low-end rooms do have a 765 second time limit, as discussed a couple of days ago, but also that they’re playable by teams of one to four. Another video has the 765-second countdown timer sequence available if you’re a big fan of the background music, which isn’t without its merits. Today’s “Turns out there’s a lot of BLANK videos on YouTube; who knew?” is, apparently, countdown timers.

The title of this piece discusses sprint games, but really it’s all about competing on cost. While this site prefers to explore the places that only exit games can go and admires elegant, deep, thoughtful design, suppose you were a business owner who decided to take the opposite route and decided to compete on cost alone. While business owners don’t generally go out to try to destroy whole industries at some degree of cost to themselves in practice, suppose you decided that you decided that you wanted to run a bargain-basement room and make a great virtue of its price, on the thinking that marginal players might only ever want to play a single game and they might as well choose yours on price grounds – with relatively little care as to whether they’re turned off the whole industry at large, though obviously you would want to encourage repeat custom within your business. How might you do it?

The largest ongoing expenses for an exit game are rent and staff. Rent can’t really be avoided, but a hypothetical simpleEscape (if you get the reference) game might go out to run with as skeleton a staff as possible. Could it be possible to design a game so that a single staff member might oversee many games rather than just one? Normally the relevant implicit question is “could it be possible to design a game worth playing” given the constraint, but that’s less important a criterion here.

Imagine a game with a very short time limit and relatively few puzzles to explore, with the constraint that staff are not expected to be following its progress, because they might be looking over as many as ten games at once, or none at all if they’re busy resetting rooms rather than watching them; if they’re watching a room at all, they’re looking more for damage or dangerous play rather than gameplay considerations. As staff wouldn’t be following progress directly, it’s tempting to imagine that the automated timing mechanic might also dispense hints – or, perhaps, that teams might get to choose between a hard level of difficulty in which no hints were offered and easier levels of difficulty that automatically offered some, or more, hints at timed intervals. (Bonus points for letting people press a button to step down a level of difficulty while they’re playing the game, as a good retort to those who don’t enjoy themselves because of their lack of progress at the hard level of difficulty they chose.)

This site doesn’t suggest that this is inevitable, or even likely; the Japanese experience (as far as the escape.sg report hints at) points to this being one level that does not seem to drive out the more intricate, deeper experiences that other companies choose to offer in practice. (Either that, or perhaps the price competition aspect of the marketing has not yet been sufficiently brazen.) That said, if part of the future of exit games is as an attraction within somewhere that offers many different forms of entertainment, then the fact that Namco have chosen to go down that route within the Nazotomo cafes, and one Namco Funscape arcade so far – but who knows if they might replicate it at their other UK arcades? – points to this as a possibility.

Sometimes people want to compare the lifespan of the exit game phenomenon to the laser game boom, in the UK, at the start of the ’90s. (To which this site says “could be much worse, the long-term health of the laser game industry has proven low-key but surprisingly robust”.) One direction that the laser game industry went down was as a secondary attraction at bowling alleys and the like. Could the same thing happen for exit games? If it were to, perhaps this low-interactivity, low-staffing approach might be the approach they choose. Not the one that this site would prefer, but…

The League Table: end of October 2015

Population graphThis is the nineteenth instalment of a (just about) monthly feature which acts as a status report on the exit games in the UK and Ireland, hopefully acting as part of the basis of a survey of growth over time. It reflects a snapshot of the market as it was, to the best of this site’s knowledge, at the end of 31st October 2015. It’s taking longer and longer to produce as the number of rooms increases, but that’s no bad thing.

The Census

Category Number in the UK Number in Ireland
Exit game locations known to have opened 95 7
Exit game locations known to be open 87 4
Exit game locations in various states of temporary closure 1 2
Exit game locations known to have closed permanently 7 1
Exit game locations showing convincing evidence of being under construction 8 0
Exit game locations showing unconvincing evidence of being under construction 7 0
Exit game projects abandoned before opening 2 0

The term opened should be understood to include “sold tickets”, even when it is unclear whether any of those tickets may have been redeemed for played games; the definition of location should be understood to include outdoor locations, pop-up/mobile locations with open-ended time limits and component parts of larger attractions that are played in the same way as conventional exit games. Pop-ups with deliberately very short runs (e.g. Hallowe’en specials, or games run at conventions or festivals) are not counted in this list; games with deliberately finite but longer runs (e.g. Panic!, which awarded a prize to its champion at the end of its sixteen week run) are counted.

What a month it has been! The UK has seen eleven openings and three closures. That said, there was a reopening which has added one to both of those numbers; goodbye to Escape Hunt in London and hello to Escape Entertainment. For the record, the closest thing to this to have happened previously was the rebranding of AK Escape Room to We Escape in Cork, but this site considers that to have been a continuation of a previous site whereas Escape Entertainment has all-new games and there might yet be another franchise of Escape Hunt in London at some point down the line, so this site considers Escape Entertainment to be a new enterprise.

The two additional permanent closures both move from having been listed in the “temporary closure” category last month. The web site for iLocked has apparently gone for good, and the web site for Escape Land is now being used to sell tickets for Hidden Rooms London, in a good demonstration that a web site may still retain some search engine value, and thus be of some financial value, even once the physical location is no more. In Ireland, Escape Clonakilty confirmed on social media that it is closed for the winter and Quests Factory‘s web site is down to the point where it looks like it isn’t coming back.

The Report Card

Site name Number of rooms The reviews
Site name Total number Different games Find reviews
Adventure Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Agent November 3 3 TripAdvisor
Bath Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Aberdeen 3 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Games Inverness 3 2 TripAdvisor
Breakout Liverpool 5 6 TripAdvisor
Breakout Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
Can You Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cipher 0 0 TripAdvisor
Clue Finders 2 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Blackpool 2 2 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Warrington 4 4 TripAdvisor
clueQuest 6 2 TripAdvisor
Code to Exit 1 1 TripAdvisor
Crack The Code Sheffield 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptic Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptology 2 2 TripAdvisor
Cryptopia 0 0 TripAdvisor
Cyantist 2 2 TripAdvisor
Dr. Knox’s Enigma 2 1 TripAdvisor
Enigma Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Enigma Quests 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Belfast 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Dublin 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Clonakilty 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Dublin 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Edinburgh 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Entertainment 8 2 (TripAdvisor)
Escape Game Brighton 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Glasgow 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hour 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hunt 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Land 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Live 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Newcastle 2 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan Live 4 4 (TripAdvisor)
Escape Quest 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Durham 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Plymouth 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Scotland 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escapism 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escapologic 3 3 TripAdvisor
escExit 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
EVAC 1 1 TripAdvisor
Ex(c)iting Game 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Newcastle 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Strategy 1 1 TripAdvisor
Fathom Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
gamEscape 2 2 TripAdvisor
GR8escape York 2 2 TripAdvisor
Guess House 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Hell in a Cell 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Hidden Rooms London 2 2 TripAdvisor
HintHunt 5 2 TripAdvisor
House of Enigma 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
iLocked 0 0 TripAdvisor
Instinctive Escape Games 1 1 TripAdvisor
Jailbreak! 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Keyhunter 3 3 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve Brighton 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve London 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lock’d 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lockdown-Inverness 2 2 TripAdvisor
Locked In A Room 4 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Edinburgh 1 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Games 2 2 TripAdvisor
LockIn Escape 3 3 TripAdvisor
Logiclock 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lost & Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Make A Break 0 0 TripAdvisor
Mission Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Mystery Cube 1 1 TripAdvisor
Mystery Squad 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Panic! 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Puzzlair 4 4 TripAdvisor
QuestRoom 1 1 TripAdvisor
Puzzle Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Quests Factory 0 0 TripAdvisor
Red House Mysteries 1 1 TripAdvisor
Room Escape Adventures 1 1 TripAdvisor
Salisbury Escape Room 1 1 TripAdvisor
Secret Studio 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Escape Network 1 1 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Manchester 5 5 TripAdvisor
The Escape Room Preston 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 3 2 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Liverpool 2 1 TripAdvisor
Tick Tock Unlock Manchester 1 1 TripAdvisor
Time Run 2 1 TripAdvisor
Trapped In 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Trapped Up North 3 3 TripAdvisor
We Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
XIT 4 4 TripAdvisor
Zombie in a Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)

Corrections would be most welcome.

This site supports all the exit games that exist and will not make claims that any particular one is superior to any other particular one. You’ve probably noticed that this table has removed the review summaries; this site has pages with the review summaries for every site in the United Kingdom and, separately, for every site in Ireland.

This site takes the view that if you’re interested in review summaries, you probably care (at least to some extent) about the question of which site probably has the best popular reviews. Accordingly, you might be interested in the TripAdvisor’s “Fun and Games” rankings lists in (picking only cities with multiple exit games listed) Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham or Sheffield.

Additionally, TripAdvisor now has pages entitled Top Escape Games in United Kingdom and Top Escape Games in Ireland. The UK page looks like it lists twelve of the 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. This list is becoming harder to understand; TripAdvisor suggests there are now 24 towns in the UK where an escape game is number one in “Fun and Games” in that town, including one town where two different exit games are number one in “Fun and Games” and number one in “Outdoor Activities” respectively, despite both taking place indoors. (As ever, in the most general terms, 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.) The same site has been top of the national list two months running.

You might also be interested in listings at Play Exit Games, a few of which contain ratings and from which rankings might be derived, or ranking lists from other bloggers. Looking at London sites, The Logic Escapes Me have provided recommendations and detailed comparisons; see also this piece at Bravofly and thinking bob‘s comparisons. In the North-West, there are rhe QMSM room comparisons and Geek Girl Up North site comparions as well. If you have your own UK ranking list, please speak up and it shall be included in future months. The next step could be some sort of exit game Metacritic, comparing the reviews and opinions of those who have played a great number of such games; hopefully, this would corroborate the popular reviews, or perhaps point out some inconsistencies.

It’s more laborious than difficult to estimate the number of people who play an exit game over the course of a month, though there are limits as to how accurate it can be. This site uses data available to the public from sites’ booking systems, the number of rooms at each site, any data supplied by the site (either to the public or in private correspondence), and bears in mind trends in the numbers of Facebook likes, TripAdvisor reviews, photos posted and team sizes per site according to team photos. This site won’t necessarily take owners’ claims at face value, but there’s nothing to be gained from turning business away and saying you’re sold out when in fact you aren’t. October was slightly stronger than September, but many of the new sites opened fairly late in the month and so contributed relatively little to the overall total, though their contributions in November onwards may well be rather more voluminous. Close to half of the sites seem to do (at least close to) half of their weekly business on a Saturday.

This site quotes some fairly broad error bars for its estimate of the number of players below and it’s worth explaining why. If sites tend to sell very many games on the day or very close to the day, the true number will tend to be higher in the range. If sites tend to pretend that they have sold more games than is the case when really they are closing the rooms for staff training, the true number will tend to be lower in the range. There’s a factor accounting for repeat players; asking figures among self-selecting fans who choose to visit a site like this would be unrepresentative, but the assumption is that a considerable majority of players play only one game and that the outliers don’t bring the average up very high yet. Different games cater for different group sizes, which is factored in, and the assumption made here is that it’s reasonable to take average group sizes per game based on each site’s group photos.

With all this in mind, this site makes its best estimate that the number of people who have played at least one exit game in the UK or Ireland, at any point in time up to the end of October 2015, is 400,000. (This estimate is quoted to the nearest 10,000, but the site would not like to claim more confidence than “between 160,000 and 1,000,000”.) As ever, if someone plays more than one game at the same site, this figure still only counts them once, and this number is only really meaningful in the context of this site’s previous estimates. The other usual caveat is that this figure may exclude data from locations about which this site is ignorant – and, as ever, this site keeps discovering new locations that perhaps it might have found out about earlier!

The League Table: end of September 2015

Silhouette in front of a graph

This is the eighteenth instalment of a monthly feature (slightly delayed by an annoyingly persistent cough as the aftermath to a very minor cold) which acts as a status report on the exit games in the UK and Ireland, hopefully acting as part of the basis of a survey of growth over time. It reflects a snapshot of the market as it was, to the best of this site’s knowledge, at the end of 30th September 2015.

The Census

Category Number in the UK Number in Ireland
Exit game locations known to have opened 84 7
Exit game locations known to be open 76 5
Exit game locations in various states of temporary closure 3 2
Exit game locations known to have closed permanently 5 0
Exit game locations showing convincing evidence of being under construction 8 0
Exit game locations showing unconvincing evidence of being under construction 11 0
Exit game projects abandoned before opening 2 0

The term opened should be understood to include “sold tickets”, even when it is unclear whether any of those tickets may have been redeemed for played games; the definition of location should be understood to include outdoor locations, pop-up/mobile locations with open-ended time limits and component parts of larger attractions that are played in the same way as conventional exit games. Pop-ups with deliberately very short runs (e.g. Hallowe’en specials, or games run at conventions or festivals) are not counted in this list; games with deliberately finite but longer runs (e.g. Panic!, which awarded a prize to its champion at the end of its sixteen week run) are counted.

An unusual degree of turnover this month; six openings in the UK, four closures. One of these is a deliberate satisfying closure; Panic! announced a sixteen week run and stuck to it. (That said, the infrastructure will be used for Panic! Unlocked, one of the attractions – though, presumably, not in an exit game format – within the same company’s Hellfest scare attraction.) The other news is less good: Guess House said goodbye on Facebook, whereas Escape Land and iLocked have just made themselves unavailable for booking. The former looks pretty permanent; the latter two look temporary, until more evidence arrives to point the balance one way or the other.

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 0 0 TripAdvisor
Clue Finders 2 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Blackpool 1 1 TripAdvisor
Clue HQ Warrington 3 3 TripAdvisor
clueQuest 6 2 TripAdvisor
Code to Exit 1 1 TripAdvisor
Crack The Code Sheffield 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptic Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
Cryptology 2 2 TripAdvisor
Cryptopia 0 0 TripAdvisor
Cyantist 1 1 TripAdvisor
Dr. Knox’s Enigma 2 1 TripAdvisor
Enigma Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Belfast 1 1 TripAdvisor
ESCAP3D Dublin 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Clonakilty 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Dublin 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Edinburgh 3 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Game Brighton 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Glasgow 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hour 3 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Hunt 10 3 TripAdvisor
Escape Land 0 0 TripAdvisor
Escape Live 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Newcastle 2 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Plan Live 4 4 (TripAdvisor)
Escape Quest 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Durham 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escape Rooms Plymouth 2 2 TripAdvisor
Escapism 1 1 TripAdvisor
Escapologic 3 3 TripAdvisor
escExit 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Ex(c)iting Game 2 2 TripAdvisor
Exit Newcastle 1 1 TripAdvisor
Exit Strategy 1 1 TripAdvisor
Fathom Escape 1 1 TripAdvisor
gamEscape 1 1 TripAdvisor
GR8escape York 2 2 TripAdvisor
Guess House 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Hidden Rooms London 2 2 TripAdvisor
HintHunt 5 2 TripAdvisor
House of Enigma 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
iLocked 0 0 TripAdvisor
Instinctive Escape Games 1 1 TripAdvisor
Jailbreak! 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Keyhunter 3 3 TripAdvisor
Lady Chastity’s Reserve Brighton 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Lady Chastity’s Reserve London 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lock’d 2 2 TripAdvisor
Lockdown-Inverness 2 2 TripAdvisor
Locked In A Room 4 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Edinburgh 1 1 TripAdvisor
Locked In Games 2 2 TripAdvisor
LockIn Escape 3 3 TripAdvisor
Logiclock 1 1 TripAdvisor
Lost & Escape 2 2 TripAdvisor
Make A Break 0 0 TripAdvisor
Mystery Cube 1 1 TripAdvisor
Mystery Squad 2 2 (TripAdvisor)
Panic! 0 0 (TripAdvisor)
Puzzlair 2 2 TripAdvisor
Puzzle Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)
Quests Factory 0 0 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 Escape Room Preston 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
Trapped Up North 3 3 TripAdvisor
XIT 4 4 TripAdvisor
Zombie in a Room 1 1 (TripAdvisor)

Corrections would be most welcome.

This site supports all the exit games that exist and will not make claims that any particular one is superior to any other particular one. You’ve probably noticed that this table has removed the review summaries; this site has a page with the review summaries for every site. Fair warning: that page will probably end up being split into separate pages for the UK and Ireland soon.

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. Brighton should hopefully get added to that list soon, too.

Additionally, TripAdvisor now has pages entitled Top Escape Games in United Kingdom and Top Escape Games in Ireland. The UK page looks like it lists fifteen of the 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 four 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 (highly arguable) and a third is listed as “other fun and games”, and a fourth is listed as top for their town and doesn’t make it onto the national list for no clear reason whatsoever. (As a genreal consideration, 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.) The same site has been top of the national list three months running.

You might also be interested in listings at Play Exit Games, a few of which contain ratings and from which rankings might be derived, or ranking lists from other bloggers. Looking at London sites, The Logic Escapes Me have provided recommendations and detailed comparisons; see also thinking bob‘s comparisons. In the North-West, there are rhe QMSM room comparisons and Geek Girl Up North site comparions as well. If you have your own UK ranking list, please speak up and it shall be included in future months. The next step could be some sort of exit game Metacritic, comparing the reviews and opinions of those who have played a great number of such games; hopefully, this would corroborate the popular reviews, or perhaps point out some inconsistencies.

It’s more laborious than difficult to estimate the number of people who play an exit game over the course of a month, though there are limits as to how accurate it can be. This site uses data available to the public from sites’ booking systems, the number of rooms at each site, any data supplied by the site (either to the public or in private correspondence), and bears in mind trends in the numbers of Facebook likes, TripAdvisor reviews, photos posted and team sizes per site according to team photos. This site won’t necessarily take owners’ claims at face value, but there’s nothing to be gained from turning business away and saying you’re sold out when in fact you aren’t. September was even stronger than August, with growing sites continuing to contribute ever more strongly to the overall total – and at least four sites adding new games in the next fortnight or so. October may be close to prime time for exit games, particularly those which aim to scare, then it’s all downhill to Christmas party season.

With all this in mind, this site makes its best estimate that the number of people who have played at least one exit game in the UK or Ireland, at any point in time up to the end of September 2015, is 360,000. (This estimate is quoted to the nearest 10,000, but the site would not like to claim more confidence than “between 150,000 and 1,000,000”.) As ever, if someone plays more than one game at the same site, this figure still only counts them once, and this number is only really meaningful in the context of this site’s previous estimates. The other usual caveat is that this figure may exclude data from locations about which this site is ignorant – and, as ever, this site keeps discovering new locations that perhaps it might have found out about earlier!

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.