When pandemic hit most of the world went into lock downs one way or another. For small businesses like escape rooms it was, and still remains, very painful hit. But creativity prevails and the escape room industry continues to find new ways of serving customers, even when being closed for visitors. But will it last? What future has to offer for our beloved entertainment? We don't know, but we have a few strong guesses.
We now know for sure - much has changed in the last year and much more will change until the pandemic will be over. So let's kick-start our fortune-telling with the one that saddens us all.
Escape rooms industry will shrink (again)
Unfortunately, this is not just a guess, as we have seen it before. When troubles come, not everyone is able to adapt. And that's a pretty normal market reaction to any troubles - not anyone's fault.
Some businesses have probably over-invested in new rooms or literally anything else and that investment has no chance to pay back now. Some are probably unlucky enough to live in countries or areas where help for self-employed, small companies is marginal (hello, Poland!). And some will simply be unlucky to be hit by anything bad in their lives that will force them to shut escape rooms permanently.
It saddens us all, but we must talk about it and be aware of it. A number of companies and rooms will go down. Hopefully, it won't be a drastic fall, but surely it will be noticeable. Those that will survive are probably already adapting to...
Many new escape rooms related products will come and stay
We can see it already happening. We will talk about live cam escape rooms later, but for now, let's take a look at other products and activities out there.
For a starter, many new puzzle related initiatives are arising on a daily basis. Those are print and play escape-ish packets to play at home; those are online games for a few bucks; those are virtual treasure hunts; those are even escape rooms in a T-shirt form! Creativity is the only constraint here. And when it comes to being creative - in escape rooms sky is the limit.
The most important question here is - will they stay with us for longer? Surely not all (we've talked about it already), but many will, and many more will come. We already see that enthusiasts love surprising new ways to experience puzzles. And the experience is the keyword here - just solving Sudoku books might entertain some, but when served in interesting factor the entertainment is way better.
This is why we believe many companies will diversify their offer. During a single escape room visit you will probably have the option to buy some escape room game, puzzle book, puzzle T-shirt, or literally anything related. This might include additional services for waiting rooms, like renting interesting games to play before or after the regular games.
But what to do when you cannot visit the escape room in person? Well, you surely know the answer:
Live cam escape rooms are here to stay
Some of you might know that we are great VR experience skeptics. The reason for that is simple - escape rooms are so immersive because they've built around what was available in computer games and moved the experience to real life. VR escape rooms are the opposite of this movement. So what's so different with live cams? How about...
Wait, what? Let me be clear - live cam escape rooms have nothing in common with virtual reality. They are real rooms, run by real people in real locations. The only difference (quite important, but necessary) is that you are viewing it through a video feed. On the other hand - you get an actor animating your game from start to finish. Anyone who played a game with good actors will surely appreciate that!
- But after the pandemic, there will be no market for that! - we hear you say.
We highly doubt that. Some companies will have calendars fully booked and won't need more games. But most rooms have some free slots available nearly every day. Why not fill this slot with a group from another side of the world? That's not a problem once you have a live cam set up in the real world! Just add some light between groups and get in with a camera. That's a great source of additional profit that can even work at night. And players will surely keep coming to see what's in offer on other continents.
We might even risk a statement like...
Escape room globalization will be a fact
With players from all over the world playing games everywhere the market is already becoming global. When traveling we've seen escape rooms in different countries that had different specifics. Even price differences are staggering sometimes - escape rooms in Germany are sometimes 3 to 4 times more expensive than in neighboring Poland for the same experience!
These local differences will not go away quickly. The example given before is great to show that. If escape rooms in Poland would get 3 times as expensive they would probably lose all clients simply because Poland is rather a poor country. But those constraints do not exist in the live cam world. Here if the company can deliver an experience that is comparable with experiences from other countries - their prices will come closer to equal.
We are not economists, we won't get deeper into that as we'd probably make many mistakes and bad assumptions. But the main principle we are certain - rooms from all over the world will compete and cooperate tighter than ever.
Because of that many companies will need to follow quickly. And that brings us to our last prediction...
Adapting rooms to live cam experience will become a professional service
That is another rather sure thing and probably already happening. Just like turn-key escape room building offers available worldwide or plug and play props and systems for rooms. It's just another step. It won't be long till live cam adaptation becomes business in itself. And it's also a good thing! It may help those struggling with going online or be a cheaper alternative for those doing everything by themselves.
Are you sure?
Well, no. But neither are you ;) We don't want to sound arrogant or ever-knowing. Those are just our predictions. We've already made some good expectation reports here in Poland and hopefully, our vision will help some of you.
But we are not the only ones that you might want to hear from on this topic. Below you can find a few materials showing other perspectives. Their order is, as usual, completely random. Enjoy :)
- Interview with Max and Ethan from Escape New Haven
- Escape rooms during pandemic and after by Escape Room L.A.
- Bloombergs view on the topic with insight from stars like David Spira
- NY Times article about going online with a few visions for the future
- Rather depressing view on how escape rooms are trying to survive
- Live cam market predictions by livecamescape.com