Developer interview: EscapeWelt

During the pandemic, we’ve seen a lot of examples of the escape room industry moving towards some very creative takes on the formula to account for the new times we live in. One of the success stories in this area has been Leipzig-based EscapeWelt, who have enjoyed a lot of success with escape rooms they’ve shrunken down to a portable size that you can play from the comfort of your own home. They’re about to release Force of Elements, so we decided to talk with CEO Egor Volvitch to learn more about the company and what to expect. Here’s our interview.

EscapeWelt has a strong physical presence with their escape rooms in Leipzig, but also produces portable puzzles to play at home. Did the market shift in recent years?

Yes, the market changed a lot during the pandemic. Change isn’t a bad thing though, the pandemic actually encouraged the emergence of another type of entertainment: escape rooms in the form of toys people can enjoy at home.

People didn’t have the opportunity to visit and play in quest rooms in-person during the pandemic, so they turned their attention to portable “rooms” they could enjoy from the comfort of home.

Now, people are back and we don’t see any decline in the quest room market. Similarly, we don’t see an exodus of customers from quest puzzles. In fact, quest puzzles are gaining traction and attention from consumers and people are discovering our puzzles in new countries. Today, people have enjoyed our puzzles in more than 30 countries and we know this isn’t the limit of our reach. We believe the market for our puzzles and miniature escape rooms has no borders.

escapewelt - Egor Volvitch Ilya Konotopchenko
Egor Volvitch & founder Ilya Konotopchenko

What are some of the parallels between how a physical escape room plays out versus how EscapeWelt’s physical puzzles work?

The first 3 EscapeWelt toys were originally based on our EscapeRooms. Our first Quest Pyramid toy was based on the Egyptian theme, SpaceBox was based on the space room theme, and FortKnox was based on the bank robbery theme. After those three, we started to develop and create toys that meet the needs of the market. Currently, not all the themes featured in our toys can also be found in our escape rooms.

From a mechanical standpoint, we try to follow principles in our puzzles that are similar to those in our EscapeRooms. Each puzzle has a certain number of challenges that can only be solved with a certain logical sequence. Solving one puzzle leads to solving others. The same principle is used in quest rooms, as this logical sequence is applied to both our puzzles and EscapeRooms.

Classic brain teaser puzzles and toys have always been more geared towards single players. What’s been the design philosophy behind EscapeWelt’s multiplayer puzzles?

When we developed our puzzles we wanted to be different. The market was already saturated with classic puzzles. At the beginning of our journey, we started with our escape rooms and transferred the ideas to the quest toys.

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The idea was to convey a feeling. We wanted to convey the game atmosphere of a quest room, which several people can play in teams. They help each other, sharing ideas and knowledge of how to solve a riddle. The toy evokes a similar feeling and goal, logical puzzles that can be solved in a team. For example, someone twiddles something on our puzzle, another person notices something, shares a hint and they achieve the solution as a team, from the comfort of anywhere.

We wanted to bring people together in one game which is why we transferred the idea from real-life quest rooms into a handheld format.

What are some of the bigger challenges that you face when designing these puzzles?

When we started, the first challenge was producing something that wasn’t on the market. We had to invent mechanisms since the sequence of logic required by our toys didn’t exist yet. We also faced a challenge in determining the size of our toys. We wanted our puzzles to be captivating while finding a balance in their level of difficulty.

Assembly also presented a challenge. We sell the toys in a finished, assembled form. This requires a qualified staff, with a focus on attention to detail, who can carefully assemble our puzzles by hand.

Force of Elements has a brand new plexiglass form factor – a first for EscapeWelt. What have been the main reasons for this introduction to the lineup?

Yes, plexiglass is a new material for us and it’s very special!

Our handmade wooden puzzles were a success but we started to notice that people weren’t just enjoying our toys as puzzles. People started using our puzzles as decorative elements. After they would solve our puzzle, they wouldn’t give it to someone else to solve but they would leave it in their home as a visual aesthetic or decor.

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We’ve noticed many of our customers are proud to put our toys on their shelves. We were thrilled to see this and it led to the idea to create a new line of our puzzles made from plexiglass.

We spent a long time thinking about and determining the new material. We decided that, for decorative purposes, plexiglass would be the best and highest quality. Plexiglass also allowed us to keep the gaming functionality of the toys, while adding the visual aesthetic. In my opinion, it turned out quite well!

The purpose of the new line was to give additional use to our toys, to turn them into something that can decorate the interior of people’s living space. Our toys are beautiful just to put on a shelf or in front of a night light in order to fill the room with their color.

With the holidays approaching, games and puzzles that can be played with the entire family are always popular. How can people involve younger kids when solving EscapeWelt’s puzzles?

Our puzzles have a variety of difficulty levels. The age limit for our puzzle boxes is 14+, but some of our toys are suitable for children aged 10-12, especially if they’re solved with the assistance of parents. Our Quest puzzle and Labyrinth puzzle are unique puzzles. Each piece has a different, interesting shape, which is also fun to solve with kids.

We plan to develop puzzles specifically for kids, younger than 14, which will be great to solve together with Mom, Dad and the entire family.

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EscapeWelt’s recent Kickstarter campaigns and product launches have been a massive success – what else can we look forward to in the future?

Our goal is to release a new toy every three months. And we understand that’s a lofty goal. Right now, our line of our plexiglass puzzles, Force of Elements, is available on Kickstarter.

We hope people will enjoy these puzzles. They are great gifts, beautiful decor, and we hope they continue to make our customers happy!

Looking beyond that, we already have five new puzzles in development. We plan to share those new puzzles with the world by the end of this year and in early 2023. Some of these new puzzles will be pre-released on Kickstarter, as it’s important to us that we share our ideas with our customers and receive their feedback.

To date, more than 300,000 people around the world have enjoyed EscapeWelt puzzles. We are grateful to each and every one of them, and we hope to continue to delight them with new products.

Our goal is to get our message out globally, to one billion people, about how important it is to keep on playing. As Oliver Holmes said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old, because we stop playing”.

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