5 Trends in the Escape Room Industry and How to Make the Most of Them

escape room industry trends

Escape games are suitable for people of all ages and genders. They give the unique opportunity of practicing teamwork and problem-solving which makes them perfect for corporate or team building events too. 

And while playing the escape game is an immersive and fun experience, the actual process of running an escape room business requires a lot of hard work and attention, too. In order to remain competitive, it’s important to stay on top of industry developments.

Here’s a look at 5 escape room industry trends to keep in mind and how to make the most of them. 

1. The market is still growing

Since the first escape room opened doors in 2007, the industry has grown to reach people from all over the world. According to recent data, there are over 3,000 escape games in Europe and around 14,000 worldwide.

And while nothing goes up in a straight line forever, the escape room market is still on the rise. According to the State of the Escape Room Industry Report 2018, 59% of escape room owners reported having plans to expand within the next year. 

Also, almost 7 in 10 respondents (68.33%) said that they will add at least one more room to their current location. This not only indicates that many owners feel that the popularity of Escape Rooms continues to rise but also shows that the supply has yet to overwhelm the demand. 

The industry is still very profitable and entrepreneurs report that the cost of launching their first venue pays off within a year.

2. Higher competition

Escape games took off but the market is getting more stabilized and mature rather than growing exponentially. We all know how every flourishing industry attracts a number of entrepreneurs to invest in. Escape rooms are not an exception. 

In some cities, especially capitals, the amount of rooms is getting very high, which makes this market more and more competitive. In general, it is now more difficult to launch new ones, but also to grow and maintain existing games. 

The competition is rising and so are people’s expectations. The July 2018 Escape Room Industry Growth Study finds a substantial increase in the number of room closures in the USA last year.

The main issues we can outline are:

Price competitiveness:
The more competition you have, the more your pricing usually goes down. However, making a lower quality room to decrease your price is not always the solution to differentiate your business from your competitors. 

As some escape room owners say, it’s occasionally required to increase the price in order to benefit from higher margins and compensate for the decrease in bookings due to competition. 

The pricing elasticity in this sector is quite important and interesting. You won’t necessarily choose a room in Paris because it’s €10 cheaper, you will be more appealed by the theme, availability, and reviews. Plus, higher pricing can have a „higher-quality“ cognitive effect on your customers.

Marketing expenses:
More games around you also mean growing customer acquisition costs. You need to reinforce your marketing and make sure you meet the demands. You can see this mainly when it comes to the cost per click from Google Ads campaigns. 

For some keywords such as Escape game + name of your city, you probably saw a cost increase compared to 2-3 years ago.

3. Saturated Market

The traditional escape game is no longer a novelty and everyone requires high-quality sets, props, and technology. People want a real challenge and an engaging experience like no other. Below are some ideas that will help you differentiate in a saturated market.

Be more innovative:
Spice your experience up and diversify your offer. Some escape game owners are opening VR games, mobile and outdoor games. Since the escape game is a one-time-thing, it becomes important to release new themes and activities on a regular basis.

Best quality is not the key:
Don’t get me wrong – you must create a “wow” effect and make your customers happy. However, it doesn’t mean you need to increase significantly your investment by creating high-class rooms. 

Customers will remember how you treated them, how friendly you were, and generally the theme and puzzles they went through – not that the decoration was pure marble.

New Channel Development:
The Escape game industry was the victim of its success. The concept was trendy, everyone wanted to try it and everyone was talking about it. Therefore Escape room owners stayed in their comfort zone and focused on only one channel – B2C. 

To be more precise, the main and unique revenue stream for some of the providers was direct end-consumer sales with a strong online share.

However, given the maturity of the market and the reduced “new-trend” effect, it’s required to innovate also commercially speaking and develop new channels like Business-to-Business (team building, corporate retreats, etc.). 

B2B can also be online thanks to all e-commerce marketplaces dedicated to leisure activities and new ones even specialized in Escape games. 

Movie-inspired escape rooms:
More and more theme inspired rooms open, all of them providing innovative activities aimed at particular audiences.

From Harry Potter, Lost and Prison Break, to Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, escape rooms take the excitement to the next level by letting ordinary people experience the characters’ challenge first hand. 

Creating a movie-inspired room seems to be a great way to be different and guarantees a high level of engagement. By giving a new life to some of the all-time favorite stories and characters you can accommodate a large subset of customers. 

According to The Top Escape Rooms Project, researching escape games all over the world, the majority of the most successful venues are inspired by some horror movie motives. 

So if you want a proven formula for doing well in the escape room business, choose a great movie and build a concept around it, making sure to check with the copyright holders to avoid infringement. 

4. Big focus on safety

We see more and more escape rooms prioritizing health and safety to prevent accidents and comply with government regulations.

There are various ways in which escape rooms can be made safer. For example, installing panic buttons and fire alarm systems (if you haven’t already) are a good first step. 

So make sure to check with your local authorities about all the safety requirements to avoid fines and potential accidents.

5. Increasing reliance on online bookings

Offering the most unique experience out there is definitely not enough. The 2018 Escape Room Industry Report found abundant evidence indicating the crucial impact of an escape room’s website. 

According to the results, more than two-thirds of escape room reservations came in from the business website. Having a responsive website that offers custom and user-friendly online booking experience is a great way to make a difference. Our two tips for success are:

1) Improve Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
SEO will be more than ever the best long-term investment for an escape game.  So pay attention to your site structure and don’t hesitate to hire a good Freelancer or Consultant to help you out. Furthermore, read, read and read; keep yourself updated about new algorithm changes from Google and adjust as needed. 

2) Work Hard on Your Brand:
One of the most important things for your success is to develop a great and memorable brand. You should make sure to create awareness of who you are. Which is why reviews are not solely important for SEO, but also to streamline a good word of mouth effect. 

Same with blog articles. An excellent best practice is to ask bloggers that you would consider as influencers to invite them for free to play your games. In exchange, they can write about your experience and hopefully in a good manner. It can be an important source of traffic and an affordable marketing channel that makes your brand well-known.

Don’t forget to register your business on social networks and launch campaigns on Google Ads, so your offers are both easy to book and easy to find!

Conclusion

Escape games are now a big part of the leisure market – and a very profitable one

If you want to remain competitive in the escape room industry, it’s important to stay on top of the latest trends and market developments.

While the market is still on the rise, competition is getting tougher and you need to work extra hard in order to gain an advantage in the eyes of your customers. 

Given its growing popularity, innovation needs to play a good role in terms of product development like VR integration, mobile escape rooms or outdoor ones, as well as developing new sales channels in the B2B space.

Many rooms find success by theming their experience using movie concepts. This is a good way to differentiate, provided you have consent from the copyright holders. 

In addition, there’s a growing concern about safety when it comes to escape rooms and it’s important to comply with your local regulations to prevent accidents and avoid hefty fines. 

Lastly, as most escape room bookings are now made online, it’s crucial to have a great buying experience on your website and other online sales channels. 

About Angela Bolchinova
All posts by Angela Bolchinova