Games: Exit Games as a mainstay of the games industry

A cardboard box, cards, an illustrated booklet and a bit of imagination: That's all it takes to transport game fans from the living room table to abandoned shacks or mysterious museums.

Games: Exit Games as a mainstay of the games industry

A cardboard box, cards, an illustrated booklet and a bit of imagination: That's all it takes to transport game fans from the living room table to abandoned shacks or mysterious museums. They can only escape from the locations in the game if they solve different types of puzzles and thereby crack codes. These so-called escape games or exit games have become a board game trend in recent years.

Since 2020, escape games have brought in more money than the classic Monopoly, says Joachim Stempfle from the market research institute Circana. According to him, Germans spend 380 million euros a year on games, 20 percent more than in the years before the corona pandemic. Interest did ebb in the past year, both on the entire games market and very clearly in the area of ​​exit games. Nevertheless, the growth in puzzle games over a number of years is extremely strong.

According to Circanas data, the exit products of the Stuttgart-based Kosmos publishing house have increased by 40 percent since 2019. "That will remain an integral part of the toy sector," estimates Stempfle. Kosmos-Verlag published the first escape games in 2016. Since then they have become an important mainstay for the company. With 18 million copies sold worldwide, the Exit Games are now a core brand of Kosmos. In addition to the classic game Catan, they bring in the most revenue, according to a company spokeswoman.

Popular name catches on

However, the playing field in Escape Games does not only belong to Kosmos. "Actually, everyone in this exit area has brought products onto the market," observes market expert Stempfle. In 2018, for example, the game manufacturer Ravensburger presented the first exit puzzle. Although the name Escape is familiar internationally, according to a spokeswoman, Ravensburger chose the same name as Kosmos in Germany because it is so popular in this country.

At peak times during the pandemic, escape games accounted for more than ten percent of the board game market, estimates Hermann Hutter, chairman of the game publishers industry association. Despite the declining sales figures in the past year, interest is "still at a high level". According to Hutter, cooperative games have been of particular importance for several years. Puzzle and crime games are on the rise independently of the exit games.

The trend is still there, says a spokeswoman for Ravensburger. After the first exit puzzle, the company launched more than 30 other products on the subject. An advent calendar is planned for the current year. Kosmos already has one of these on the market, as well as books and its own jigsaw puzzles. According to the publisher, the 30th classic exit game, which revolves around a prison break, is to be released in the fall.

It started at lunch

According to Kosmos, it all started with an idea at lunch in the college group in September 2014. The game editor Ralph Querfurth gave the impetus for the project, as he says. He was inspired by a newly opened so-called escape room in Stuttgart - a specially furnished room in which the players have to find and decode puzzles and codes together on site. The idea of ​​developing a board game for the home based on this model immediately arose, says Querfurth.

The head of the toy publishing house, Heiko Windfelder, attended the lunch and accompanied the development of the game concept. The publisher spent two years fine-tuning the details, from trademark registration and box size to recurring illustration elements. "From the very beginning, Exit was about: How can you develop this topic, this game world as a brand?" explains Windfelder. Now it only takes six months from the prototype to the finished game, reports editor Querfurth: "That's not normal with games, but with the exits this routine and this rhythm has settled in quite well - but it's by no means relaxed."

Concept developer Querfurth sees the success of the games in the fact that the puzzles have a different focus. Sometimes mathematical skills are required, sometimes language skills, some puzzles rely on optics or dexterity. "It's definitely a big success factor that the gameplay appeals to a lot of talent," suspects Querfurth.

Nobody would have thought that lunch nine years ago would become such a big project, says Querfurth. Game publishing manager Windfelder speaks of a "stroke of luck". Something like this happens once in 10 to 20 years.

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