Real Room Escape Games
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Interview with Gottfried Amtmann, Owner and CEO of ETR Betriebsmanagement & Personalservices GmbH

Interview with Gottfried Amtmann, Owner and CEO of ETR Betriebsmanagement & Personalservices GmbH

Hello Gottfried, how did you get across this solution?

I am a Franchisee of Exit The Room, running 6 different escape room locations in Austria. I was contacted by the Owner of the company, Gabor Retfalvi, he told me that they have developed a brand new solution for live online escape games. With this solution I would be able to reopen my venues, and asked if I am interested. I instantly fell in love with the idea, and said yes!

How do you set up such a game?

It does need some development if you want to make a good escape room experience for your customers. First of all you need to have the ideal hardware solution at your location so that you are able to video stream with good quality. Secondly there are some puzzles which can not be solved with one person, or can not be seen nicely through a camera. We usually needed to change 2-3 puzzles per escape room game, and the guys in Budapest developed a feature into the software so that we can share pictures of the room, and puzzles, controlled by the game master throughout the game, this way solved the majority of the occurring problems.

Were there any other problems?

We had some problems at the beginning, as all developments do, but we were able to solve majority of them, and we had not one unsatisfied customer asking for a refund. There were 2-3 teams who weren’t able to play, and we rebooked them. As it turned out, it is usually the players mistake and lack of hardware from their side, but by now the software has a pretesting solution, which is required for all participants before the game. We had no problems with those teams who used this solution.

And how is the business side?

Unexpectedly good! Gabor told me, that we will be able to sell normal full-price tickets based on what he experienced in Hungary. I didn’t believe at first, but as I had no other possibilities because of the government regulation that forced us to close all of our venues and remain without revenue, we gave it a try, and it was a hit! In the first week we had a 90%+ occupancy rate with pull price tickets! I instantly decided to open other rooms in my system. On the weekend of the first week of opening, I already opened my second online escape game, and 2 others on the week after. It has been 2 weeks since we opened and all the games that we make available are booked full price. We still run with a 90%+ booking rate. I tell you a secret: We haven’t spent 1 EURO on marketing yet, we receive this traffic organically. It seems, that people really can’t do anything from home, and they really love it if they run across a new experience possibility. And not to forget my favorite part is that now I sell games to all German-speaking territories. Even to those where we or other branches Exit The Room, has never opened any escape room game. From Graz instead of the 300k population, my potential market now is 88million users, all Austria and Germany!!!

How much does it cost?

The Remote Escape Room software, as far as I know, is free for everybody since purchased the rights of licensing this software. They are probably using it to generate B2B database and partners for themselves with whom they can cooperate with the aggregator site in different fields after the crisis. The only cost occurring is the cost of the live video streaming that is used by the software. It is on average around 3 EUR/game. In the last 2 weeks I have generated almost 10k EUR income and I can see that I have 428 EUR costs regarding the software use. And testing was also involved in this cost!

Where to go now, what are your plans?

First of all, I would like to open as many games possible. I plan to have 12 games on my 6 locations operational in the next 2 weeks. For now, I only open 2 escape games/venues, because we haven’t tested if the internet can take more than 2 games running parallel, 2 games are okay technically. I am also planning to have native English speaking game masters from University, and with them, I would be able to go to all English speaking markets, UK, the USA, Canada, Australia… That is half a billion potential customers, so that is something I am really interested about, but only focus on when I reached my potentials here on the german speaking markets. I am also looking at the possibility for reopening the normal escape room games too, and we are working on how to slove running 2 different products, online escape rooms, and normal escape rooms, from one place, and how we can solve that on our home page because I expect these online escape rooms to stay with us on longer-term.

Worst thing?

It is definitely that the game master can’t use a cell phone for the game, and has to have a cable connection with a laptop. As we tested basically everything possible, this was the best quality and most stable solution for far, so in 2020 the world is still working through cables…

Best thing?

The creativity of the idea, and that the guys at the back office of Exit The Room have developed a special software for this. Otherwise we would have to use ZOOM or Skype-like other companies, which are very far from a good escape room game experience, and they have very limited possibilities, which we all were able to develop a solution for. Players enjoy the game and are keen on returning online and in real life too.

How long do you think this will stay with us, and what will be after the COVID crisis?

In my opinion this COVID crisis will stay with us for a quite long time, I expect it to be around a year or so. Sadly escape rooms will be the hardest hit by regulations, because these places are where different teams go into a game place after each other and touch everything… Just not something that sounds promising nowadays, even if we are allowed to open, who knows when we have to close again, or customers would come at all. Afterward, I think popularity will have a fallback, but I am also pretty sure by seeing the games played so far, that this solution will be a new product on the escape room market, and there are plenty of opportunities for development too, but I would like to keep those in secret for now. I also plan to have my not so well going venue, hosting the online games, while my nicely running venues will be reopened when possible, and only unsold slots will be sold as online games, to places where I am not even present physically. I heard that Gabor himself has a venue that they are having problems with regulations of the given city, so they plan to transform that place to hosting only online escape rooms.

What would you recommend for other escape room owners?

To do it asap, but be sure to have enough testing, otherwise they can easily lose their belief after a few bad games. We had some problems at the beginning, but with enough work and energy invested anybody can be amongst the first and the best in this newly developing part of the escape room industry. There will be companies, who will be first and become big and can grow faster than others, while others who miss the fast possibility of start, will be latecomers and that will need much more work and investment. In the long term I expect this to be also an extra product for escape room operator companies but with way more possibilities than mobile escape rooms, or outside escape games.

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