As I look back over the last year, I’m amazed by how rapidly the escape room scene has grown in London. We finished 2014 with 24 rooms hosting 13 distinct games across 8 venues. Fast forward to today, and those numbers have more or less doubled: 44 rooms, 28 different games across 18 venues.
That got me wondering, what’s going to happen over the next year? Will we see a continued growth, or is it going to level off, and so here are my predictions for 2016. Take them with a very big pinch of salt!
We already know of several companies that are planning on joining the mix: Oubliette Escape, AI Escape, the Crystal Maze and the London Maze (more of that on the soon to be released January update). Assuming we count the Crystal Maze as four copies of a single game (based on there being four teams playing at the same time), that’s potentially 13 rooms/10 games/4 venues extra that we can be pretty confident about.
I reckon this is the year where franchises come to London, so we’ll see a couple of new franchises from elsewhere in Britain make their marks jumping in with two or three rooms each. On top of that we’ll have a handful of brand new players. Say 9 rooms/9 games/6 venues extra.
That gives us 22 rooms, 19 different games and ten venues from brand new (to London) companies.
Of course, we mustn’t forget the existing venues expanding. I’ve been really impressed by some of the companies that have opened up in the last year, and I’m expecting some of them to expand across London either by opening a new venue, or by adding new rooms at their existing venues.
- Enigma Escape: I’m pretty sure they’ll open a new room at their existing venue. There were some problems with their existing room, but they showed they can take feedback and improved it. There’s only so many modifications you can make to a game once it’s released, but given a blank canvas I think they’ll be able to combine the immense amount of experience they’ve developed over the last year and create a fantastic room.
- Enigma Quests: From what I’ve heard, they’re planning on two new rooms. I think they were probably rushed into getting their first room out, and didn’t quite get the balance of puzzles right. A less pressured start combined with lots of experience over the last few months should see them produce a couple of great games.
- clueQuest: No prizes for guessing they’ll open two copies of their new room (Revenge of the Sheep) and given their record, I’d expect it to be very good. I’d like to see them do more, but I can’t imagine they’ll move to their fourth venue in two years and as far as I know they can’t fit more games at their current site. Given their experience of hopping round London, perhaps they’ll follow Handmade Mysteries’ lead, and open a second base in the city?
- Time Run: I hope and believe they’ll open a second room, but it may be by removing their existing room which will be a risk given how popular it’s been. For now I’m going to predict a single new game alongside their existing games.
- Lady Chastity’s Reserve: they’ve just opened their second site, but given how popular they are, I think there’s scope for either opening another London venue with an existing game or putting on a sequel. From a selfish point of view, I really hope it’s the latter.
- Escape Rooms: I don’t think they can expand where they are, but I think they’ve been popular enough to warrant a new game, so I’m expecting them to move to a new venue and open a third room.
- Escape Plan Limited: new venue and a second room. Their current venue was always a bit temporary, and while they’re now planning to stay till at least April, I really feel they need to move to a new venue and open up a second room by the end of 2016.
- Agent November have the ability to spin up new games relatively easily since they only require the puzzles and not a full set. I don’t think they’ll want to go overboard, but I reckon they’ll add a new puzzle to their collection to satisfy their hardcore fans.
- Secret Studio: They’ve suggested a second scenario in the same room on their website. Now that Incredible Midtown is done, I’m hoping they’ll make a move here.
- Lock’d: According to their website, they’ve plans for a lot more rooms, but I only expect a couple to open in 2016.
All in all, perhaps a total of ten additional rooms?
Of course all of the above is about opening, but there’s inevitably the risk of closures. I don’t think we’ll lose much though – maybe two or three venues and rooms.
We all hate painstakingly searching for hidden numbers, and then doing mental arithmetic to come up with a final answer… so to save you a little bit of effort, here’s my prediction for the end of 2016. Let me know what you think!
- Rooms: 78
- Distinct games: 58
- Venues: 28
So not quite the doubling we saw this year, but in raw numbers, probably a similar growth.
Escape rooms are our bread and butter, but we like events in some adjacent arenas that involve similar elements – puzzle solving, a bit of interactive theatre, time pressure, team work. So what other things do we have to look forward to?
Number one on my list is Door in a Wall. I’ve had a lot of fun in my two previous outings, so I’m definitely looking forward to what 2016 brings. Expect a month of events in May and October if history is anything to go by. I’ll be aiming to drag along an even bigger group than in previous years.
I think we’ll see a couple more events that fill the gap between immersive theatre and escape rooms. Incredible Midtown proved reasonably popular, and with few costs beyond the actors, I think there’s scope for some of these to be run quite cheaply. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get an amateur dramatic company putting something on!
City Dash will probably rock up with a few games. As well as their existing City Dash and Undercover games, I assume they’ll bring Alice in Wonderland back from the Adelaide Fringe to entertain us and hopefully put on something new.
Kickstarter will undoubtedly feature throughout the year – I’m sure we’ll see a couple of successful projects and a couple of unfunded attempts. Groupon will lead the way though – Kickstarter just doesn’t generate enough in the way of backers, but Groupon’s daily deal notifications really seems to get traction, with hundreds of people signing up when the price is right.
As escape rooms become more mainstream, we’ll start to see a few more popup rooms. Perhaps a couple of library events or maybe festival experiences. I’d love to see an itinerant escape room touring round the outer London boroughs – like a travelling theatre production or circus. And of course, I’m really hoping that Thinking Bob and Yelp put on a sequel to their amazing one night popup escape room event. Wishful thinking? I hope not!
What do you think?
So what do you think we’ll see in 2016? Am I being too optimistic or pessimistic? Do you think there will be other sorts of trends, or new experiences that don’t fit in the categories above? Are you an escape room owner with specific plans in 2016 that aren’t mentioned above? Let me know in the comments below!