Every country has its own customs. The database perspective
Each market has its own rules - of course the escape room industry isn’t any exception. We may talk here about the aspect of the market, which due to its specificity always requires an individual approach - also even when it comes to building a database.
As a person at Lockme, among other things, building databases of companies, I come today with an article that will show the specificity of each country in terms of database building. Perhaps you are not aware of many things or have never thought about them before - meanwhile, when building a base, you can draw broad-based conclusions about the specifics of a given market. You will find here some interesting facts and some knowledge about this aspect of the industry in it.
The given article omits the Polish database - because Poland was our first base ever, there could appear a kind of "centrism" in it - other databases may refer to it, so a separate publication will be written about it.
In the case of Germany you may notice the phenomenon of franchise rooms, which often appear on the map of this country. They are mainly found in smaller towns, and the companies themselves are called just “ESCAPE ROOM” together with the name of the city in which they operate. Interestingly, based on a conversation with one of the franchisees, I was able to find out that the owners of such franchises cannot interfere with the decor or the puzzles - everything must be “untouched” in accordance with the franchise agreement. The game master/owner cannot even move the item, if the clients suggest that it should stand in a more visible place, for example. Maybe it's not a division of every franchise company, but it may appear very often in the German market.
The franchise tendency is also visible in the outdoor rooms, which Germans love. Although most of the scenarios for games outside are thematically the same, there are field games tailored to given landscape architecture, such as those related to city games combined with visiting the old town or the most important monuments.
There is a clear gap on the map of Germany - it is Pomerania and the surrounding area, or more specifically - Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Brandenburg. This is most likely due to the geographical location of this part of the country - the inhabitants of the north-east prefer trips to the seaside as a form of entertainment, and if they want to get to know the world of escape rooms, they are close to Berlin, which abounds in rooms, including those of the top ranking lists.
And what do Germans like as gamers? First of all, adventure rooms, with a leading plot and historical elements (although they are not dominant, we will often find rooms referring to the history of Germany). Many of them - apart from franchise rooms - have the same theme. We are much less likely to encounter a room with an original theme than a scheme such as Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, horror films such as “Saw” or ancient Egypt.
Austria is interestingly built in terms of the location of companies offering escape room services throughout the country. The escape room companies are located rather close to the borders, so on the map we may see the empty center of the country. This situation is certainly influenced by the geographical location of Austria - the vicinity of the Alps, mountainous areas or numerous national parks (and other areas related to nature protection, which are not conducive to running a business like that). It is no surprise that the main centers are Vienna and Innsbruck - escape room life is definitely concentrated in these cities.
The location of companies so close to the country's borders may also have a second, less obvious reason - Austrians often travel to Germany or Switzerland for the purposes of escape room tourism. There is practically no language barrier here (except for the French-speaking districts of Switzerland), which allows them to freely explore this part of Europe in terms of escape rooms. Overall, in Austria we won’t find too many companies offering escape room games, at least compared to the size of the country. However, there are masterpieces like the "Going Underground'' room (Crime Runners, Vienna), which has won many awards such as Top Room TERPECA 2020 or Travelers' Choice Tripadvisor 2021.
Although Switzerland is predominantly German-speaking, geographically it is made up of districts with different official languages. In some of them, it is very difficult to communicate in a language other than French - although more and more Swiss people speak English, there are places on the map of Swiss escape rooms where a person who doesn’t speak French simply will not be able to play. This is quite a specific case of a linguistic exclusion, but it seems to be reflected in our database - rooms located close to the French border will largely not be marked with "English" or "German" in the language section.
What is surprising, however, is the progress that the Swiss market has made in recent years. We update the database of companies every now and then. No other country on lock.me has added that many new companies between database updates. Interestingly, most of these rooms are from the French-speaking parts of Switzerland.
There are empty regions on the map of Switzerland - as in the case of Austria, this is due to the geography and proximity of the Alps. This doesn’t mean, however, that the common feature with its neighbor are also centers only in larger cities. On the contrary - many companies in Switzerland are small, local businesses, lying "in the middle of nowhere", away from the main cities.
This is the only country in our database where a different "administrative" division was applied by us - everything for logistical reasons related to the geographical division and local tendencies. All the Swiss districts play the role of a city in our database and the cities or place names are included in the names of branches. There are so many districts that such a division facilitates their organization in the base (for example due to multilingual cantons, small distances within them and the number of cities in administrative terms).
In terms of quantity, Croatia does not stand out with anything - except with a really small number of companies. Escape rooms are located mainly in the south and south-west of the country, where there are tourist resorts - with some exceptions, rooms can be found only in cities such as Dubrovnik, Zagreb or Split. The statistical client of the Croatian escape room is a foreign tourist, not a Croat. This also explains the languages of the home pages with their booking systems - except companies strictly for children only, the percentage of home pages available in the English version is 100%. This is a significant difference to, for example, Poland, where a website with an available English version is rare.
Since we have already mentioned children's rooms, it is worth marking that before the pandemic, Croatia had the highest percentage of escape rooms for children, compared to all other countries on lock.me. Unfortunately, now, after the outbreak, there’s not that many.
While looking for the perfect room during a trip to the Czech Republic, one thing must be remembered - do not use the phrase "escape room".
This is a slight exaggeration, but it didn’t come out of nowhere - Czechs rarely talk about escape rooms, and if they do, then in larger cities (Prague, Olomouc, Brno or Hradec Králové), they use the term únikové hry much more often, or a slightly less frequent one, but still more frequent than the escape room phrase, místnosti. This is due to nothing else than the language - if we want to play in English in a given company, the phrase "escape room" may turn out to be useful and eliminate those rooms that are only available in Czech. However, if we want to get to know all the facilities of Czech rooms, we should keep the únikové hry in mind. It is estimated to increase the search results by as much as 70%.
Based on information from the company homepages, many rooms offer "language-free" games - scenarios, where there are no activities that require knowledge of any language. However, it should not be forgotten that the whole experience gained in the puzzle room is another matter. The employee must speak the chosen language to guide the group through their visit - from entry to exit. If they don’t speak English, the whole experience may be difficult to understand - even if the room is language-free.
It will come as no surprise that the largest accumulation of Slovakian escape rooms is in Bratislava - the capital city. However, it is not the only city with more rooms in its area - if the user is looking for a large number of rooms in a limited area, it is also worth considering Košice or Žilina. The structure of the base is very similar to the above-mentioned Czech base - a few larger towns with larger clusters of rooms, the rest is located as individual companies in smaller cities.
Slovaks approach the issue of the escape room phase very similarly to the Czechs - Únikové miestnosti or hry are more often used than escape rooms, although in general not as completely eliminating as in the case of Czechs. All because of the linguistic similarity, which apparently found its outlet also in the local culture of escape rooms.
We can also look for similarities with Austrians, at least in terms of the proximity of the border - many companies are located close to the Czech or Polish border, which makes them easier targets for escape room tourism. We can confidently conclude that due to the linguistic similarity, a Pole will get along with a Czech or a Slovak, also in an escape room - that is also confirmed by Slovak groups that visit Polish rooms in increasing numbers.
The Irish market is built in a very simple way - the rooms are located rather in larger towns, and the distribution of companies throughout the country is very even. This is an opposite trend compared to, for example, Austria, which, due to the facilitation of its German-speaking neighbors, concentrates rooms close to the borders, thus facilitating escape room tourism - but it’s not even strange, because Ireland is an island that for geographical reasons, it is naturally governed by a different specificity.
As part of the historical fun fact, we can mention that the first foreign Partner of Lockme is from Ireland - it is a company offering stationary rooms and in the live cam version, which this partnership is about.
Even though Australia is an island and is not adjacent to any other country, the trend towards the location of er-type venues is “borderline” - rooms are mostly built along major resorts, not far from the coastline. This is of course justified by the geographical structure of the country - the presence of rainforests and deserts in the central part of Australia means that life in any way related to escape rooms takes place in several designated places near the ocean. We will not solve puzzles in the north and north-west of the country.
The perspective of the person in charge of the database is certainly different than that of the ordinary user. This analysis showed some interesting observations related to the geographic, cultural and technical aspects of the escape rooms. Certainly, new markets will bring even more information on the resources of escape rooms. There’s still so many dependencies to discover!