ESCAPE to success23 December 2022
/ Continued success and new trends for escape rooms /
It all started in 2004, with a video game called Crimson Room, where players interacted with a graphic environment to solve puzzles and escape to the next level. The game was immediately a hit and was soon followed by a slew of others following the same pattern. Then in 2007 the Japanese company SCRAP decided to try and bring escape games to life putting players in a real room with physical puzzles to solve. That was the beginning of a success story, a craze wave that spread escape rooms through Asia, and then Europe and the rest of the world. There are no definitive figures, but industry sources talk about at least 3,000 escape games in Europe and around 14,000 worldwide.
After a boom in 2014-2015, escape rooms were moving from relatively niche to mainstream in 2019-2020. Then Covid struck, and of course it threw a wrench into the industry’s development: many venues had to close down completely during lockdown, not to mention that new sanitation and management rules (for instance, with mandatory bookings) cut into revenue.
And yet it’s not as bad as it could be: according to data by marketing analysts Seoorb (who ran surveys on the escape room industry in 2018 and again in 2022), the industry has muscled it through the pandemic, with new locations being opened at almost the same rate as old ones were closed, and 3 in 5 escape rooms added at least one new escape game during this period. Also, about half of survey respondents say that bookings have recovered to pre-Covid levels or better than expected, and about 60% said that their revenue has recovered to or exceeded 2019 levels.
It helps that escape rooms were already moving to mainstream popularity pre-pandemic. Big players are in on the trend: a few days ago Universal opened Great Movie Escape on Orlando CityWalk, with 2 escape rooms, one themed to “Back to the Future” and one to “Jurassic World.” Similarly, Warner Bros and DC have partnered with Dama Dreams to create the Batman Gotham City Adventures attraction, which is set to open in 2023 in Paris and will include several escape rooms.
But pop-up escape rooms are also gaining traction, especially for movie and product launches. Sony Pictures Entertainment was one of the first to bank on the idea back in 2017, in anticipation of the release of the movie “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (a perfect IP for escape rooms if there ever was one). In this vein, Ford used an escape room this year to launch its Mustang Mach-E All-Electric: set up as a spy adventure, participants make use of the car’s features (hands-free liftgate, electric seats, headlights, air conditioning system, and so on) to activate game features and trigger various actions at relevant points throughout the gameplay.
Over the next few pages, we’ll introduce a couple of new escape attractions opened in 2022.
Technology and set design
The 2-storey building, with a total area of 250sqm, used to host a bank office. Since last September the venue has become the Cronos Escape Room Florence, the latest addition to a successful franchising network that is catching on throughout Italy.
Players, in groups of 2-8 people, can choose among no less than 5 different escape rooms, each of them with a cap time of 60 minutes: offerings include Dante’s Inferno, where you walk with the great poet to the gates of Hell; Area 51, perfect for science and UFO fanatics; Psycho Hospital 1969, an abandoned psych ward holding eerie mysteries; the School of Magic, with a forbidden forest that you must try to escape from; and Escape from Atlantis, set on board the USS Nautilus submarine.
Together with an especially effective marketing model, the Cronos network focuses on the 2 cornerstones of escape rooms: set designs and puzzles. For both components, the company has chosen top suppliers. “Set designs, which recreate the reality of each room’s themes, are accurate in every detail to offer the best sense of reality to each player,” says Cronos founder Alberto D’Annibale, who chose the set designers of the best Italian theme parks for the company’s decoration. And as for puzzles, the supplier is a dedicated European company which has already created over 200 escape rooms all over the world; with their help, Cronos can offer such features as a laser harp where participants have to play a specific tune to move on with their game.
The link between puzzles and set designs, in Florence as in all other 16 Cronos venues, is highly based on technology: so these escape rooms use room automation and artificial intelligence to create an immersive experience where set elements speak to each other and to users in a smart and automatic manner.
In short, Cronos was able to create a successful escape room business, changing the industry with innovative and technologically advanced venues, which are made unique by their cinema-level set designs and thrilling gameplay. “We believe that quality and state-of-the-art technologies are the keys to stand out from the market,” D’Annibale said, “to offer a realistic and immersive experience that the audience will remember.”
Bigger is better
This was once the location of the biggest “scary maze” in Germany, set around a building on a former coal mine site in Bottrop. After the pandemic had the venue shut down, the managing company decided to transform it completely: now, with an area of 6,000sqm, Eloria Erlebnisfabrik is the biggest escape room venue in Europe.
Eloria currently boasts not less than 7 attractions, including 3 escape rooms proper and one escape game for children, but also a party arena with arcade games and more, plus a bar&lounge inside the historical building and a beer garden. But it’s not the size or the variety alone that make this venue special: its escape rooms also stand out for their unusual concept. One is Metamorphosia, which you play completely in the dark, only relying on touch and communication with your teammates. Another one is Infinitum, defined as a “loop escape room,” where everything is reset every 10 minutes, so you can start over and accumulate hints and ideas from one round to the next until you get out.
But the attraction that takes the cake, in size and uniqueness, is Exploria: a 1,600sqm area surrounding the historical building has been transformed into a 1920s-themed scenario and immersive puzzle room where up to 300 visitors can play at the same time. The theme was chosen in the wake of the success enjoyed by German TV series “Babylon Berlin,” a costume crime series set in Berlin between 1929 and 1934. The Eloria village has a real vintage…
Photos Courtesy: Great Movie Escape, Cronos Escape Room, Eloria Erlebnisfabrik
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