Japan

STARTING POINT

When it comes to escape games industry in Asia, Japan is definitely the place if origin! SCRAP founded in year 2004, it was a magazine publishing house back then. Until year 2007, they held the very first puzzle game in Japan called “The Riddle Banquet”, it was an event to celebrate their three-year anniversary, and more than a hundred people participated in this one-night event, the event was pure riddle solving without a main storyline. The same year, SCRAP registered the trademark for “Real Life Escape Games” (Japanese: リアル脱出ゲーム), and became the only company in Japan to be able to hold games and events using this name. After 10 years development of the industry, according to Japan IGDA-ARG puzzle-game association’s statistics in year 2015, Japan has nearly 5 million players and bringing up to 40 billion¥(yen) market value per year!

謎解きの宴nazotoki-utage

2007, “The Riddle Banquet” held by SCRAP (Resource)

SCRAP's introduction of "What is REAL ESCAPE GAME?" 

HOW MANY COMPANIES ARE THERE IN THE INDUSTRY? HOW IS THE COMPETITION GOING?

The market of escape games in Japan is quite complicated, there are different forms of games must first be clarified to go deeper analysis. Games can roughly be divided into three  types:

  1. Event Based: This type of games are based on “Paper-puzzle solving”, and is also the main type of Real Escape Games SCRAP tend to hold. The players will gather around a table with clue packs, and they look at hints on the wall, then they try to link it altogether to reach the final answer. There will be at least 10 groups of players in a event, and if they can hand in the final answer within the time limit then they pass. This sort of games are usually “event-based”, and are usually held within a time period or periodicity on weekends. (Please refer to the video clip above)
  2. Go Around-Puzzle: Just like its name, these sorts of games are played by walking and solving puzzles at the same time. Players will need to order “puzzle packs”, and they can choose any time to get to the location where the puzzle game is held, usually there will be a website for players to enter the final answer to pass. The game will use items provided from the puzzle pack, and solve the local scenery-based puzzle. The most classic case was held by SCRAP and Tokyo Metro called “Tokyo Metro: The Underground Mysteries”. The puzzle pack included a Tokyo metro one-day pass, and players need to observe the different items and sceneries at each station to solve the puzzle. This game was first held in 2014, and until year 2016 the game contents were still continuously in update. It also provides English and Chinese version for foreign tourists, it is one of the most popular puzzle game ever! Below is the experience sharing of YouTuber Kyde and Eric on Vlog (beware of spoilers):
  3. Room Escape (also called “Shanghai-type): This is the most commonly known type across the globe, and usually there will be a store that provides gaming spaces. In Japan, this type of games emphasizes immersive experience more than puzzle solving, such as the SUPER ESCAPE held at Harajuku that promotes its “Laser Trap” and “Escape From Prison” themes where emphasizing more on movements than brain-work. The reason why it is also called Shanghai-type games might be because these big chain stores are mostly opened by Chinese people. These types can also be known as Coffee shops, due to the stores usually provide drinks for customers. This is the experience sharing of YouTuber GGirls FLASH on Vlog (beware of spoilers)

Other than these three types of escape games, you can also see many puzzle solving games in amusement parks of Japan, but since it’s in an amusement park, it will be categorized under amusement facilities, which is not part of our discussion. Most Japanese firms tend to hold the game by the Event-Based style, below are statistics provided by IGDA-ARG puzzle-game association that relates to the number of new firms in this field that are registered in Japan each year until year 2015:

 Year New Firm Founded

2011

51

2012

76
2013

144

2014

135

2015

70 (to June)

Though we only got the statistics from 2015, we can still tell that the market in Japan is nearly saturated, between years 2014 and 2015 the numbers have dropped at least 50%. Here shows the tables of the Go-Around-Puzzle type:

 Year New Firm Founded

2011

2

2012

7
2013

22

2014

38

2015

12(to June)

The figures are much less compared to the Event-Based puzzle games, and are still lack of data regarding Room Escape type, we will update it here as soon as we get hands on related information.

CONSUMER BEHAVIOR

Japan industry has developed for nearly a decade, and the market is quite mature at the moment. The market is in progress from its high peak down to steady. The customers in Japan not only include youngsters thorough the age 20 – 30, but have also expanded the range to high school students and middle age people, meaning customer’s age now range from 15 – 50. And the three types have a customer proportion of 40:20:1 (Event-Based : Go-Around-Puzzle : Room Escape). New coming players are still increasing, and old customers now start to travel far cities for playing newer or fresher experience.

Because of the thriving effect of Event-Based games, local players are perfectly used to teaming up with strangers during game, or playing Go-Around Puzzles in a team of 1-2 people. Mostly people still attend games with friends, and tickets are usually bought at official websites.

參考資料:
1. SCRAP wiki (Japanese)
2. 成長を続ける謎解きイベント業界の今〜謎解きイベントカンファレンス2015夏
(IGDA japan SIG-ARG national conference 2015) -2015/07/21
3. 在日打工族的絕望日記-2015 (Taiwanese Escape Game Blogger who works in Japan)
4. 脱出宝探し謎解きゲーム.com (Japan Escape Games directory)

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