Update: 2017 predictions

Peering into a Crystal Ball

Oh, we’re halfway there… so for a bit of fun I thought I’d have a quick look at how the 2017 forecast is faring. Back in January I made 10 predictions of things I thought would happen this year plus the big one: how many rooms will be open on 31 December 2017. Let’s see how we’re doing…

Prediction: Escape rooms will appear in more than half of the following locations: Falkirk, Stirling, Basingstoke, Bolton, Carlisle, Cheltenham, Colchester, Luton, Northampton, Shrewsbury, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bridgend, Derry, Limerick

Of the 14 towns I named

  • 6 already have games: Stirling, Bolton, Colchester, Northampton, Shrewsbury, Derry
  • 3 have announced games (although, in this industry, that doesn’t mean they’ll open by year end): Basingstoke, Stratford-upon-Avon, Limerick
  • No progress for Falkirk, Carlisle, Cheltenham, Luton, Bridgend

A pretty good start, I think – not only are we already pretty close to making that target of eight rooms but it doesn’t look like I was overly cautious. It seems unlikely we’ll get to, say, twelve of them.

Prediction: Escape rooms will appear on a UK made soap opera or equivalent.
Prediction: Escape rooms will appear on a UK made nationally broadcast reality TV show.

I’ve not heard anything along these lines. The closest I’ve come across was some Arsenal footballers taking on a custom escape room for a Betfair advert. Still plenty of time for these to come true!

Prediction: A new escape-room-like venue will be announced in the UK similar to Boda Borg, the Crystal Maze or GoQuest.

We’ve already had Never Give Up in Newcastle open and Crack it Bolton announced so I think we can safely put this one to bed but I’ve heard tell of at least one other so this might be a prediction which over-achieves.

Prediction: At least four overseas franchises not currently in the UK and Ireland will open a room.

At the moment, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this one has failed miserably with not a single overseas franchise appearing on these shores BUT there’s a silver lining. Claustrophobia look likely to open in a couple of months, There’s the vaguest suggestion that Escapology might open up in Manchester and, of course, Escape Hunt are looking to open a couple of venues in the country. If all three of those were to put down roots it would only take one more company to hit the UK for the prediction to come true.

But wait, who’s that rushing to my defence? SCRAP, the original escape room company [citation needed], came to these shores this month albeit only for three days. Yes, it would be a bit cheeky to count them but I’ll take my victories any way I can come December 😉

Prediction: At least one theme park operator will open a permanent escape room

Again, we’ve got a semi-victory with Merlin opening an escape room at the Dungeons in Blackpool. Whether you count that as a theme park is up to you but, by the letter of the law, it is being opened by a theme park operator…

Prediction: At least one company will have 50 rooms running across the UK and Ireland by the end of the year

Escape have moved halfway towards the target, Clue HQ have been shadowing them pretty closely but probably aren’t moving quite fast enough to overtake the leader. Breakout have been expanding fast in their existing locations with over 30 rooms now open and another few planned for the next few months. The big surprise, which I called as a long shot at the beginning of the year, is Escape Reality, who’ve gone from almost nothing to 29 already and have plans for a bunch more games in the next couple of months. I definitely wouldn’t it past them to hit 50 by 2018.

Prediction: At least 50 venues will close in 2016

Looks like this will be incredibly wrong, and if I had to be wrong about one prediction then this would most definitely be my choice. At the time of writing, I know of ten venues that have closed this year. Of those, half were always intended to be temporary rooms (Escape Mobile, Clockwork Dog, Escape this Room, the Portsmouth Naval Museum and the Eden Project) so, really, we’ve had very little attrition.

Prediction: At least ten new play-at-home escape rooms will launch and be available in the UK

This seems almost certain to come true however you look at it but if you’re willing to count multi-packs of games separately (such as Unlock from Space Cowboys) then we’ve already had ten launched this year and expect to have a good few more.

Prediction: At least 100 people will gather for an escape game industry related event

So far this hasn’t happened in the UK but there’s a very good chance we’ll hit that later in the year with a London conference.

Prediction: At some point during 2017, 1000 escape rooms will be open across the UK and Ireland.

This was a deliberately bold statement which I chose partly because we’ve continually underestimated the numbers of rooms and partly because 1000 was a round number. I stand by it though – I still think there’s a 50% chance of us exceeding 1000 by the end of the year. During the first half we’ve moved from 600 to 800 games, or a growth of 33%. Even if that drops off slightly, to, say, 25%, we should just scrape over the finish line. It’s hard to be sure in this industry but it still feels like a reasonable estimate. 1000 rooms. It’s a pretty good number.

Looking ahead to 2017: predictions for the year

Peering into a Crystal Ball

This site ran prediction features over the last three years, albeit penned (so to speak) by a different author, with varying levels of success. Time for this new author to put a stake in the ground so that in a year’s time we can look back and laugh at his naivety. It’s always hard to predict the future and even harder to put some level of certainty on those predictions but the following predictions are based on things that fall somewhere in the 50-75% likelihood range.

Prediction: Escape rooms will appear in more than half of the following locations:

  • In Scotland: Falkirk, Stirling.
  • In England: Basingstoke, Bolton, Carlisle, Cheltenham, Colchester, Luton, Northampton, Shrewsbury, Stratford-upon-Avon.
  • In Wales: Bridgend.
  • In NI: Derry.
  • In Ireland: Limerick

At this stage, there are very, very few obvious gaps in the UK market. This site is aware of possible companies starting up in three of the above locations, but the rest have no activity.

Prediction: Escape rooms will appear on a UK made soap opera or equivalent.

We’ve seen them appear on The Big Bang Theory, The Middle and various other US shows but it feels like they’ve become mainstream enough in the UK that they’ll appear in some context on a nationally-aired soap.

Prediction: Escape rooms will appear on a UK made nationally broadcast reality TV show.

There are plenty of UK escape room companies looking to expand rapidly and what better way than to get themselves into the limelight via reality TV? There are any numbers of ways that could happen but a few that spring to mind:

  • The Apprentice: Creating their own pop up escape room would be a great set of property/production/marketing challenges with the opportunity to laugh at contestants for coming up with outlandish ideas or not understanding the solution to simple puzzles.
  • Dragon’s Den: Plenty of companies are looking to expand rapidly so perhaps one of the smaller players in the market will look for seed funding and a fair amount of exposure?
  • TOWIE or similar: Want to see human interactions at their worst? Then throw people who don’t get on well into an escape room.

Prediction: A new escape-room-like venue will be announced in the UK similar to Boda Borg, the Crystal Maze or GoQuest.

Boda Borg’s recent expansion to Boston is proving popular while the Crystal Maze has shot to success in London and has a new location opening in Manchester. It seems almost inevitable that a company such as Boda Borg will attempt to expand into the UK.

Prediction: At least four overseas franchises not currently in the UK and Ireland will open a room.

It’s hard to predict which companies might find these shores attractive, but it feels like that at least a couple of the Russian franchises will choose to target the UK and Escape Hunt making a reappearance seems almost inevitable given its recent acquisition by a UK-based holding company. Perhaps SCRAP will see fit to bring one of their games across from the US or one of the other major US players will put some feelers out on this side of the Atlantic (where Escapology from Florida seems like a good bet).

Prediction: At least one theme park operator will open a permanent escape room

We’ve had a couple of Hallowe’en escape rooms open in the past in Alton Towers and Thorpe Park but this year feels like the one where they’ll go mainstream enough to open a permanent attraction.

Prediction: At least one company will have 50 rooms running across the UK and Ireland by the end of the year

Escape currently have 30, Clue HQ are on 28, Locked in a Room have 21 and The Escape Room have 19. It seems just possible that one of those (or maybe as a long shot, Escape Reality?) will open enough venues to pull themselves across the line.

Prediction: At least 50 venues will close in 2016

It can’t all be happy news, not that all closures are necessarily unhappy. We’ve seen around 20 venues shut their doors in 2016 but as the market hots up and the big players start throwing their weight around, this site expects to see a few companies decide to close the doors. Some will be sudden closures but I expect a fair number to just see out the end of their leases and then call it a day.

Prediction: At least ten new play-at-home escape rooms will launch and be available in the UK

With ThinkFun’s offerings proving reasonably successful and various other companies getting in on the act in 2016, it feels likely that the trend will expand in 2017 with new versions from the existing companies but also brand new companies piggy backing off the existing success.

Prediction: At least 100 people will gather for an escape game industry related event

Specifically, not an escape room experience but some sort of event that is aimed at owners and enthusiasts – a conference or unconference or just some sort of fun meet up. The UK unconference in London in July of last year saw around 50 people gather and next week’s looks likely to have around 70 so, assuming expansion continues and a suitable venue can be found, it seems reasonable to assume the industry can bring together 100 people.

And finally the big one:

Prediction: At some point during 2017, 1000 escape rooms will be open across the UK and Ireland.

1000 escape rooms across the UK and Ireland. Yes, One thousand. Last year saw the market more than double. I think we’ll see a similar level of new rooms opening but I think we’ll also see a huge number of rooms closing with the result that we’ll just scrape over the line in the last quarter. I don’t think the market will quite have peaked and I certainly don’t expect the bubble to burst. Sadly, for enthusiasts, I suspect a significant proportion of those games will be franchises expanding across the countries so there won’t be anything like as many as 1000 experiences. Perhaps “just” 700?

Looking back on 2016: predictions for the year

Peering into a Crystal Ball

In early January of 2016, this site posted an article predicting what would happen in 2016. It didn’t attempt to predict the results of the referendum or the US presidential election but it did talk about puzzling and escape rooms. Since then, Chris, who ran the site at the time has moved on to exexitgames.co.uk but that doesn’t stop us taking a look at how those predictions panned out. Since the site has taken a fairly firm focus on escape games since his departure, this article looks at the escape side of those predictions.

Prediction: “This site will become aware of more than 51 exit game openings in the UK and Ireland in 2016.”

Actual: In case you were in any doubt, this prediction came true. In much the same way as “Leicester City won’t be relegated from the Premiership” came true last season. On 1 January 2015 there were, to this site’s knowledge, 103 venues across the UK and Ireland. As 2016 draws to a close there are now 238 venues open. All in all, there were 152 venue openings in 2016 – almost exactly three times the prediction. Wow!

Prediction: “This site will become aware of more than 13 exit game closures in the UK and Ireland.”

Actual:  A total of 16 escape rooms closed in 2016, although (as the prediction made clear) it’s not always lack of business that prompts the shutters to come down. In fact, since this site is often asked why escape room closure occur, it’s worth going into a bit more detail.

  • 1 owner emigrated (Fathom Escape)
  • 1 lease expired (Enter the Oubliette)
  • 4 temporary hiatus – expected to re-open (Clockwork DogClue CrackerEnd GameTime Trap Escape)
  • 4 planned closures – game was temporary (A Curious Escape, Hide and Shriek, Code-X, Milestones Museum)
  • 6 permanent closures – reason unclear (Hidden Rooms London, The Lock and Key, Dr. Knox’s Enigma, EVAC, Sherlock Unlock, A Great Escape)

Prediction:  “At least one brand will have at least nine locations open in the UK and Ireland in 2016.

Actual: Achieved. In fact, two separate brands made it to nine locations:

  • Clue HQ with nine locations in: Warrington, Brentwood, Blackpool, Sunderland, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leicester and Coventry
  • Escape with eleven locations in: Glasgow, Edinburgh (two), Blackpool, Hull, Doncaster, London, Chester (Escapism), Livingston, Newcastle and Dublin. Even if you argue that Escapism is branded separately and Edinburgh is just a single location that’s still a healthy nine.

For the record, no other company made it past five locations.

Prediction: “Crowdfunding will get harder; no reasonably traditional exit game based in the UK or Ireland will attract more than £5,000 in funding in 2016 unless the people behind it have an established track record in this or another closely related industry.

Actual: Several companies launched crowdfunding campaigns this year with varying degrees of success but this site couldn’t have seen Hugo Myatt on the horizon which helped catapult Bewilder Box’s campaign to £5216, just breaking the prediction.

Prediction: “At least one exit game will open in 2016 within eight miles of the main train station in at least four of the seven following locations: Reading, Portsmouth, Milton Keynes, Hull, Middlesbrough, Coventry and Peterborough.”

Actual: Well, given that the prediction for the number of new escape rooms opening was beaten by a factor of three, it’s perhaps not surprising that this prediction was also beaten, and some! In fact, of the seven locations suggested only one of them failed to open two venues and, even there addresses have been confirmed for a couple more that would fall inside the eight mile radius specified in the predictions.

Prediction:  “The exit game industry will continue 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 750,000.”

Actual: This site has stopped making predictions but it’s safe to say that this has been beaten unless the slots at all these additional venues are being filled by experienced players!

Prediction: “There will be a meeting in the UK or Ireland in 2016 with exit games as its focus which attracts more than 50 attendees.”

Actual: The biggest meeting, to this site’s knowledge, was in London with just under 50 participants. Within a couple of weeks of the new year, this site is confident that the 50 will be achieved with the unconference in London.

Prediction: “This site will become aware of someone that it does not already know at the time of making this prediction running an exit game for friends and family on an amateur basis within the UK and Ireland in 2016 using something more elaborate than, say, a Breakout EDU kit or similar.”

Actual: No one that this site is aware of but it would be great to hear otherwise.

Prediction: “This site loves stories of marriage proposals taking place at exit games and there have been at least ten customer proposals on record. A more interesting prediction is that by the end of 2016, this site will become aware of at least one proposal between a couple who got to know each other by both working at the same exit game.”

Actual: Escape game staff couples definitely exist – this site isn’t aware of any proposals but would love to be contradicted!

Prediction: “Some company may bring larger-scale live escape events to the UK, with relatively many teams playing the same game at once. (This is inspired by SCRAP’s Real Escape Game events playing in France and Spain as well as other continents, and is surely slightly more likely than last year.)”

Actual: Sort of. Locked in a Room opened up in London with up to 8 teams playing the same game in parallel. That isn’t quite like SCRAP but, under the letter of the law, it probably meets the above prediction.

Prediction: “An exit game brand in the UK and Ireland may take over at least one other existing game, or maybe even another exit game brand altogether.”

Actual: This looked like a possibility with both A Great Escape in Milton Keynes and Enter the Oubliette in London closing their doors but neither appear to have sold on their game to another company (STOP PRESS: There’s a strong hint on A Great Escape’s site that a sale may have taken place!). When Escape Land in London shut up shop, Hidden Rooms took on some of their IP but since then the roles have reversed with Escape Land re-opening and Hidden Rooms closing their doors for good.

Prediction: “There may be some interactive transmedia storytelling (or an Alternate Reality Game, as people called them a decade and a bit ago) to promote a new exit game or a new room at an exit game.”

Actual: Sadly no, as far as this site is aware.

Prediction: “This site may become aware of an Irish exit game community.”

Actual: Still none that this site is aware of.

Prediction: “Someone might start an overtly humorous blog about the genre in the UK and Ireland: two-thirds serious content, one-third shtick.”

Actual: Not that this site is aware of.

Prediction: “Someone might start an attraction just north of Heathrow called The Crystal Hayes or in South Essex called The Crystal Grays.”

Actual: Again, sadly not. We’ll have to make do with the Bristol Maze.

Looking ahead to 2016: predictions for the year

Peering into a Crystal Ball

This site has ran predictions features over the second half of 2014 and over the whole of 2015, assessing the accuracy of the predictions each time so that the world can have a giggle at just how wrong the guesses were in the first place. Let’s have another go for 2016, more because it’s fun than for any other reason. (Compare to the 2016 predictions for London by The Logic Escapes Me.)

That said, predictions are only so-o-o-o interesting. It’s more fun to think about plausible edge cases; it’s more fun to predict a long shot than something more obvious, but who’s to say what’s obvious and what isn’t? This list of predictions will also attempt to minimise the extent to which it covers previously-trod ground, as “this was an entertaining long-shot that didn’t happen last year and remains an entertaining long-shot this year” isn’t particularly exciting. A couple of other starting-points for predictions: this site will steer clear of predicting things it believes to be foregone conclusions already, and this site will attempt to make the most ambitious predictions that it feels confident making; this site would set over-under lines for the numerical predictions only a little above the figures quoted.

This site considers each of the following to be at least slightly more likely than not:

  • This site will become aware of more than 51 exit game openings in the UK and Ireland in 2016. (Not part of the prediction, but this site suspects that at least 40% of the openings will come from brands and people already in the business in 2015, with a decreasing number of people starting from scratch. Deliberately short-lived pop-up games are not included in the count.)
  • This site will become aware of more than 13 exit game closures in the UK and Ireland. Not every closure is a catastrophe: some businesses have decided to deliberately run a game with a finite duration, possibly with later sequels in mind.
  • At least one brand will have at least nine locations open in the UK and Ireland in 2016. (This is perhaps the most marginal of predictions, but eight seems just a little too safe to predict.)
  • Crowdfunding will get harder; no reasonably traditional exit game based in the UK or Ireland will attract more than £5,000 in funding in 2016 unless the people behind it have an established track record in this or another closely related industry.
  • Many of the biggest gaps in the market will close. At least one exit game will open in 2016 within eight miles of the main train station in at least four of the seven following locations: Reading, Portsmouth, Milton Keynes, Hull, Middlesbrough, Coventry and Peterborough. (This site has heard people talk about possible sites in two of these, but that’s far from a done deal. Other possible cities have been rejected from the list for being too safe a prediction.)
  • The exit game industry will continue 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 750,000.
  • There will be a meeting in the UK or Ireland in 2016 with exit games as its focus which attracts more than 50 attendees.
  • This site will become aware of someone that it does not already know at the time of making this prediction running an exit game for friends and family on an amateur basis within the UK and Ireland in 2016 using something more elaborate than, say, a Breakout EDU kit or similar.
  • London and at least two other UK towns will each hold at least four Puzzled Pint events in 2016. (This site has six possibilities in mind.)
  • There will be a UK DASH event and it will sell at least 25 team spaces – or sell out completely if the organisers choose a lower capacity – within 12 days.
  • There will be at least 18 locations in at least three countries around the world at this year’s DASH.
  • Ulrich Voigt will win the World Puzzle Championship this year for his eleventh victory in seventeen years.
  • David McNeill of Northern Ireland will defend his over-50s title in at least one of the World Sudoku Championship and the World Puzzle Championship; hopefully both!
  • This site will finally predict the WPC winning team after picking second place for the last two years.
  • This site loves stories of marriage proposals taking place at exit games and there have been at least ten customer proposals on record. A more interesting prediction is that by the end of 2016, this site will become aware of at least one proposal between a couple who got to know each other by both working at the same exit game.

This site considers each of the following to be less likely than not – maybe something like 30% likely each? – but nevertheless these are interesting possibilities.

  • Some company may bring larger-scale live escape events to the UK, with relatively many teams playing the same game at once. (This is inspired by SCRAP’s Real Escape Game events playing in France and Spain as well as other continents, and is surely slightly more likely than last year.)
  • An exit game brand in the UK and Ireland may take over at least one other existing game, or maybe even another exit game brand altogether.
  • There may be a single-day puzzle hunt in the UK and Ireland that is not the continuation of a series run in previous years and that attracts at least a hundred players.
  • There may be some interactive transmedia storytelling (or an Alternate Reality Game, as people called them a decade and a bit ago) to promote a new exit game or a new room at an exit game.
  • This site may become aware of an Irish exit game community; the rooms do exist, as well as the Boda Borg centre at Lough Key and doubtless other things far too cool to exist in the UK yet, so it would be a delight for someone to start a blog with an Irish focus and maybe even get meetings going as is starting to happen in the UK.

This site considers each of the following to be much less likely than not – maybe something like 15% likely each? – but nevertheless these are entertaining outside possibilities.

  • There might be a TV puzzle show made in the UK or Ireland to match up with the best puzzle shows that we’ve had in the past; if someone were to commission a local version of The Genius and it were to live up to its potential, that would count, or if someone were to make a really good exit game TV show, that would count too.
  • There might be a puzzle competition (as opposed to an armchair treasure hunt or puzzle hunt) launched in the UK or Ireland which is designed to be played in teams – maybe even an inter-town league or an inter-university championship. This site really misses the Croco-League.
  • Someone might start an overtly humorous blog about the genre in the UK and Ireland: two-thirds serious content, one-third shtick.
  • Someone might start an attraction just north of Heathrow called The Crystal Hayes or in South Essex called The Crystal Grays

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.

Looking ahead to 2015: predictions for the year

Crystal ballThis site ran a predictions feature over the second half of 2014 then assessed the accuracy of its predictions. More strictly, the piece was a series of probability estimates, which is not quite the same thing. This year, to make things more explicit, this site will split its estimates into challenges, which represent interesting predictions that have an outside chance of happening but this site considers to be less likely than not to happen in 2015, and actual predictions, which this site considers to be more likely than not to happen in 2015.

CHALLENGES

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.

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.

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!

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.)

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.

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…

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.

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.

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.

PREDICTIONS

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

There is a 95% chance that at least two existing exit games covered by this site will officially call it a day. These don’t have to be unhappy endings; for instance, Oxford Castle are listing their Jailbreak event as happening until the end of January only, then presumably they will put the game cleanly back in its box. Fingers crossed that they choose to get it back out again at some point.

Reviewing this site’s predictions for the second half of 2014

Crystal ball iconAround half-way through the year, this site made a number of predictions as to what might happen in the second half of the year. It’s time to go back and review those predictions. Expect counterpart predictions for 2015 early in the new year.

There is practically a 0% chance that the whole exit game industry proves a fad that goes as quickly in 2014 as quickly as it came in 2013. Nothing lasts forever, but there’s no reason why the industry – or, at least, its best sites – shouldn’t be in it for the long haul.

Happily, this did not come to fruition.

There is a 10% chance that the UK mass media will catch on to just how cool exit games are and base a series around them with properly integrated puzzle solving, rather than the merely disguised quiz of, say, the US Exit show.

No joy so far on this one, but who can know what the channel commissioners of this world are being offered?

There is a 20% chance that one of the big players in the leisure industry – perhaps a chain of bowling alleys, or cinemas, or maybe even gyms or similar – will get on board and bring a corporate, commodified approach to the exit game business to compete with all the plucky independents this site loves so much.

This site is not aware of any progress on this issue.

There is a 30% chance that there will someone will hide a treasure in the UK with a hunt that really catches the public attention. Perhaps Masquerade must be a one-off in its impact, but there have been plenty of worthy successors. Maybe the clues will be shared in a book, maybe it’ll follow the tradition of Alternate Reality Games promoting mass media works, maybe it’ll be something new.

The biggest hit in this regard, to this site’s knowledge, was Gold Hunt London, and the success of that seems to be more likely to be measured in the hundreds or thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands.

There is a 40% chance that existing exit game sites continue to grow and grow – as just one example, clueQuest is set to open its second Operation BlackSheep room on August 1st! – and that there is a single site which manages to serve forty teams on the same day. Thirty a day seems like a very unambitious target, forty a day pushes it to the “40% chance” category.

This site clearly didn’t see Escape Hunt coming, which serves forty a day – and the rest! – on a regular basis, and has had many days in which they have sold all seventy slots. Other than that, the next busiest site would appear to be clueQuest, which opened a fifth room and serves thirty-five teams on Saturdays.

There is a 50% chance that the next World Puzzle Championship will be won by Ulrich Voigt of Germany – after all, he’s won two of the last four! (Maybe this is underselling him; the full story is that he’s won 9 of the last 14, but surely the opposition is getting stronger as well.)

Indeed he won. On reflection, saying there is a 50% chance does not really count as a prediction either way.

There is a 60% chance that the monthly party that is Puzzled Pint will keep growing and growing in London, exposing more and more people to the puzzle hobby… at least, once autumn comes around and the nights start to draw back in.

It was attracting 10-11 teams in April-June and 13-14 teams in October-November, though the distributed Puzzled Pint experiment for December was less successful.

There is a 70% chance that at least one existing exit game covered by this site will officially call it a day, in addition to those which just might fade from sight. (And, still, the exit game industry would compare favourably with so many others when you think about startups failing quickly.)

This one is probably more of a miss than a hit. One site has been on a long-term “break between seasons” with no sign of a second season and a second site is up for sale, with bookings suspended, but neither have officially closed down. Could you count the Lock and LOL misfire in the category? Probably not quite.

There is a 80% chance that there will be a day where this site can list at least twenty sites open for business in the UK and Ireland, with at least five in the London area.

You’ll see the stats in a couple of days; this came true and then some to the point that the prediction proved rather conservative.

There is a 90% chance that the 23rd World Puzzle Championship and 9th World Sudoku Championship, scheduled for Croydon here in the UK on the 10th to 17th of August, will go with a bang and be a success to be proud of for years.

Arguably this is difficult to measure, but this site is not aware of ill-feeling towards the event and is aware of high compliments paid to it, which would seem to be a reasonable metric.

There is practically a 100% chance that something incredibly cool, of which this site was not previously aware, will make itself known. Maybe it’ll be… not just any exit game, but the exit game of all exit games; maybe it’ll be a puzzle game like of which nobody has seen before; maybe it’ll be the hottest new puzzle trend since sudoku. Be sure that this site will really, really enjoy telling you about it.

Again, this is so vaguely-defined as to be only subjectively judgeable. However, this site would offer Boda Borg and the CUCaTS puzzle hunt at Cambridge University as extremely strong candidates for the category. This site’s absolute highlight of the half-year was the Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play puzzle hunt; incredibly cool, sure, but this site did have an inkling that it was coming.

Thinking big: what would a million players a year look like?

A heart marked "1,000,000"One of this site’s writers was talking to one of his co-workers the other day and the co-worker said “So do you know about this (name deleted) escape game in (city), then? My wife played it the other day and she loved it.” Yes. Yes, it’s possible that one or two things about it might be known. This site considers it great news, as more and more evidence, albeit anecdotal, that the word is getting out to the masses. Fingers crossed, some more enthusiasm may well get them to play the others that exist as well.

One of the bigger questions that this site wonders about from time to time is just how big exit games can get. (For the sake of expediency and laziness, let’s stick to the UK here.) A million players a year is a big, splashy number to talk about; by comparison, UK Paintball claims “over a million paintball players per year in the UK”, with one brand alone claiming half a million players in a year. (Another reputable source estimated about 1,100,000 players +/- 150,000 players.) These figures count one person playing once a month as twelve players, which seems like a reasonable basis. (This site’s monthly player count estimate differs by factoring to count unique players.)

There are some hobbies which lock their players in by incentivising, or even requiring, players to spend very considerable sums of money on specific equipment for that hobby alone. This site contends that it’s to the exit game industry’s credit that that isn’t a factor; the low barrier of entry makes attracting new players easier. Granted, the games themselves are often not cheap, but the habitually high reviews provide evidence that almost all players consider that you do get what you pay for. (There are other parts of the puzzle hobby, particularly online, which do not have a price tag.) On the other hand, the lack of commitment and the lack of replay value for an individual room means there’s a challenge for the industry to go from “this is something fun I did once” to “this is one of my regular hobbies”. Sites with more than one different game are a step in the right direction.

In round terms, one million players a year is 20,000 players a week, which might mean 12,000 players during the week and four or five thousand players on a Saturday. To keep the numbers simple, let’s say that a busy Saturday might see as many as 1,200 teams play, and let’s assume that each room can service an average of six teams per day on a Saturday. Then, all as an order of magnitude calculation, a million players a year might feel like 200 rooms all fully booked out every Saturday. (And most of Sunday, and fairly heavily on weekdays as well.)

The last time The League Table was computed, it estimated 55 open rooms (not sites!) in the UK, plus more in the Republic of Ireland. The total has gone up since then. Nevertheless, we would looking at roughly a trebling in size of the industry, plus an increase in utilisation of the less popular sites to approach that of the most popular sites. Escape Hunt in London has ten rooms, ClueQuest and HintHunt each have five these days, Breakout Manchester have four and some others have three. Some sites have plenty of room for expansion; many others may not have much space to get past 4-5 rooms within a single site, others limiting themselves to as few as two rooms, or one. If the current average is 2.5 rooms per site, and if that average might rise towards 3 rooms per site, we might expect 70 sites to be required (and Escape Hunt not to be the only mega-site).

You might choose to create an immediately familiar, but very crude, model of this as one centre located at a town for each Premier League or Championship football team, 16 more dotted around locations with lower league teams, plus 10 more dotted around Scotland – again, perhaps in line with football powerhouses – as well Northern Ireland and the rest of Wales. This provides some basis for modelling big conurbations featuring both more and (in some cases) better-used locations than smaller conurbations. A slightly less crude model might emphasise tourism destinations more highly, with business destinations and dormitory towns emphasised less highly. (Question for site owners: which football team do you identify your site with? Silly analogies are fun!)

Is a million players a year realistic? The population of the UK is something like 64 million, so (again, keeping the numbers very simple) this might roughly be looking at 1% of the population playing at least one game a year, a substantial proportion of those being “hobbyists” who play more than one game, and tourists from outside the UK playing in UK sites as well.

Getting as high as 1% is far from easy, though. While there will always be some very young players, some very senior players and some players with disabilities, all of whom will be at least as welcome as others, it’s not unrealistic to knock – say – 30% of the population out straight away as considering themselves to be too young, too old or too impaired to be interested in playing. We can then factor out those who identify as being without disposable income, when everybody is struggling, and those who identify as having no interest in intellectual activities. Maybe that’s another 30% right there. (That’s a pretty wild guess, but compare to video game player stats.) So you’re looking at a target market of perhaps 40% of the population, thus the industry is looking to get 1-in-40 of those to play in a year. Does that seem reasonable? Alternatively, considering how popular these games are with the early adopters who have tried them, does that seem low?

Another point of reference is that in 2013, there were something like 170 million paid admissions to UK cinemas. (The trend over time dipped to about 70 million in the early ’80s at its lowest and has been broadly recovering, with fluctuations, ever since.) Might half a percent or one percent of that seem a reasonable aspiration?

This site is bullish about these estimates. If you are, too, then it’s clear that the market has plenty of room to grow and it’s not close to being too late to get involved. Perhaps a million UK players in 2017 is not out of sight; a real optimist might see a seven-digit year being reached sooner still.

Predictions for the second half of 2014

Crystal ball iconWe’re into the second half of 2014, this article has taken far longer to write than was planned, but by way of looking forward to the second half of the year, this site estimates that, at some point during the second half of 2014:

There is practically a 0% chance that the whole exit game industry proves a fad that goes as quickly in 2014 as quickly as it came in 2013. Nothing lasts forever, but there’s no reason why the industry – or, at least, its best sites – shouldn’t be in it for the long haul.

There is a 10% chance that the UK mass media will catch on to just how cool exit games are and base a series around them with properly integrated puzzle solving, rather than the merely disguised quiz of, say, the US Exit show.

There is a 20% chance that one of the big players in the leisure industry – perhaps a chain of bowling alleys, or cinemas, or maybe even gyms or similar – will get on board and bring a corporate, commodified approach to the exit game business to compete with all the plucky independents this site loves so much.

There is a 30% chance that there will someone will hide a treasure in the UK with a hunt that really catches the public attention. Perhaps Masquerade must be a one-off in its impact, but there have been plenty of worthy successors. Maybe the clues will be shared in a book, maybe it’ll follow the tradition of Alternate Reality Games promoting mass media works, maybe it’ll be something new.

There is a 40% chance that existing exit game sites continue to grow and grow – as just one example, clueQuest is set to open its second Operation BlackSheep room on August 1st! – and that there is a single site which manages to serve forty teams on the same day. Thirty a day seems like a very unambitious target, forty a day pushes it to the “40% chance” category.

There is a 50% chance that the next World Puzzle Championship will be won by Ulrich Voigt of Germany – after all, he’s won two of the last four! (Maybe this is underselling him; the full story is that he’s won 9 of the last 14, but surely the opposition is getting stronger as well.)

There is a 60% chance that the monthly party that is Puzzled Pint will keep growing and growing in London, exposing more and more people to the puzzle hobby… at least, once autumn comes around and the nights start to draw back in.

There is a 70% chance that at least one existing exit game covered by this site will officially call it a day, in addition to those which just might fade from sight. (And, still, the exit game industry would compare favourably with so many others when you think about startups failing quickly.)

There is a 80% chance that there will be a day where this site can list at least twenty sites open for business in the UK and Ireland, with at least five in the London area.

There is a 90% chance that the 23rd World Puzzle Championship and 9th World Sudoku Championship, scheduled for Croydon here in the UK on the 10th to 17th of August, will go with a bang and be a success to be proud of for years.

There is practically a 100% chance that something incredibly cool, of which this site was not previously aware, will make itself known. Maybe it’ll be… not just any exit game, but the exit game of all exit games; maybe it’ll be a puzzle game like of which nobody has seen before; maybe it’ll be the hottest new puzzle trend since sudoku. Be sure that this site will really, really enjoy telling you about it.