After launching the first virtual escape experience, we developed a new game from scratch that was made explicitly for a virtual audience that allowed us to create a lot more immersive and dynamic elements.
You can’t really “escape the room” when you don’t leave your house. The developments of the past few months left companies whose businesses depend on teams using their wits to solve puzzles together scrambling, so Seattle-based made a hard pivot into the digital realm.
Nate Martin, the founder and CEO, describes how his company adapted to the shift to remote work in the Q&A below.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Nate Martin, the founder and CEO of Puzzle Break, the first US-based escape room company. Puzzle Break is a leader in developing escape rooms for corporate team building. I oversee all aspects of the company from game development recruiting to new business. As the company has rapidly grown, I’m working to bring on more senior talent to continue leading Puzzle Break through this new remote work chapter.
How have you conducted business in the past?
In the past, Puzzle Break focused completely on our physical escape rooms and didn’t have online offerings. Puzzle Break is headquartered in Seattle, and when our physical locations were open, we had more than 25 experiences in New York and Massachusetts, and dozens of Puzzle Break experiences were operated on more than half of the Royal Caribbean cruise line fleet. We also operated a portable business that brought the team-building escape room experience to large corporate events and offsites.
What immediate effects did stay-at-home orders have on your business?
When the stay-at-home orders hit in March, we were forced to close all of our locations with no sense of when we would be able to reopen. We had to furlough most of our staff and our multi-million-dollar business went to $0 in one day.
In order to save the business, in the span of just a few weeks we designed and developed a virtual escape experience based off one of our most popular games, The Grimm Escape. The response was immediate and massive; we were clearly meeting a need for remote team building in a time when a lot of companies were adapting to a new virtual workforce and the game took off from there. Since then we’ve developed new escape experiences for remote teams, with companies from Microsoft to Deloitte using our games for team building, employee engagement, and professional development.
What changes did you make to adapt to our current situation?
We brought our entire escape room experience online, something I’d never seriously considered doing before. As far as game design, our physical games lent themselves well to an online environment so the game creation was fairly straightforward. After launching the first virtual escape experience, we developed a new game from scratch that was made explicitly for a virtual audience that allowed us to create a lot more immersive and dynamic elements. Many more are in active development.