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Escape rooms could see business boom in 2019

Abigail Fenton
It’s elementary: officially branded rooms will take things mainstream, say experts. Source: Buzzshot
It’s elementary: officially branded rooms will take things mainstream, say experts. Source: Buzzshot

Escape rooms could see a big boom in business in the UK in 2019, fuelled by an emerging trend of brand-approved immersive experiences, according to experts.

Software distribution company Buzzshot has predicted a sharp rise in the popularity of escape rooms, as Sherlock: The Game Is Now and Doctor Who escape rooms, to launch in early 2019, open up the industry for wider investment.

Buzzshot founder Tom Parlsow said he believes intellectual property (IP) approved games in the US notably a Mission Impossible escape room that have failed to live up to brand promise, are the reason media companies have been slow to “connect to the opportunity”, but that Sherlock: The Game Is Now won’t have that problem.

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“Having worked on the project, I’m supremely confident that won’t be the case with Sherlock: The Game Is Now,” he said. “It’s lifted the global escape room bar to another level entirely.”

Buzzshot’s administration system was the software of choice for Sherlock: The Game is Now, and Parslow whose business reported 400% growth in 2018 is enthusiastic about the effects a run of officially branded escape rooms will bring to service providers in a leisure industry already on the rise. The number of escape rooms in the UK increased by 147% on average year-on-year between 2013 and 2017.

Industry commentator and founder of website The Logic Escapes Me, Ken Ferguson, has documented the evolution of European escape rooms since 2013 and is equally optimistic about future opportunities across the industry.

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“Sherlock: The Game Is Now is the most eagerly awaited game in the history of escape rooms,” he said. “With the inevitable success of this themed immersive experience, it’s likely we’ll see a rapid increase in the number of officially licensed rooms of well-known entertainment brands opening up worldwide.”

Both economic and cultural factors have contributed to the continued growth of the escape room industry. A considered approach is all it will take for IP approved experiences to strengthen entrepreneurial opportunities across the board, according to Parlow.

“Immersive experiences traditionally have had low-cost barriers to enter and run, often seeing profit in a shorter period of time than other leisure activities,” he said. “With game popularity largely driven by two demographics corporate groups and millenials careful pricing is the key to ensuring adequate footfall.

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“The millenial market is vast but has a much lower cost sensitivity threshold than corporates, so as long as the industry can keep its prices affordable while increasing sophistication it will continue to reap the rewards.”

Buzzshot predicts the market will reach maturity in 2019, driven by the emergence of escape room franchises and an increased focus on health and safety. The company said this will likely take the industry from a “relatively self-defining community of enthusiasts” to a more regulated and competitive arena.