How Most Everyone Gets it Wrong on Private Versus Public Ticketing

As I did last post, I’m going to spend a moment to correct an alarmingly prevalent misconception amongst many in the room escape community. But first, some quick definitions:

Magnifying glass probably not required.

Magnifying glass probably not required.

Public ticketing: Individual tickets are sold for a room escape event. Example: Game’s capacity is 10. You buy individual tickets for $30 each, up to 10. If you buy fewer than 10, other folks might buy tickets to the same game and you will be teamed up.
Private ticketing: One ticket for the game. Example: Game’s capacity is 10. You buy the entire room for a single ticket of $300, sometimes with discounts. You are guaranteed to never play with strangers.

Now, there is a dangerous myth being propagated by many in the enthusiast community: “Private ticketing is better, I hate playing with strangers.”

It’s certainly true that if you cannot stand strangers, you’d probably prefer a private ticketing system. Or, if you’re able, simply round up a full group and buy out a room at a public ticketed room. “But Nate!” you exclaim, “I am unable to round up a full group to play a particular public ticketed room, therefore private ticketing is best for me!” My reply: Your scenario is exactly why private ticketed events are often completely un-accessable! This is the exact place where many folks stop thinking, so let us continue thinking.

If you cannot round up enough folks to buy out a public room, you have the option of being teamed up with strangers. If you cannot round up enough folks to play a private room, you do not have the option of being teamed up with strangers. If you cannot assemble a team of sufficient size, privately ticketed rooms are literally unplayable. I see players trying to overcome this hardship constantly not even realizing it’s a huge burden. “Hey my significant other and I are going to be in City X this weekend and I bought a private room and you need at least 6 people to play, will someone please play with us!!”

Don't have a full team? You're locked out of most privately ticketed games.

Don't have a full team? You're locked out of most privately ticketed games.

There are multiple privately ticketed room escape experiences all over the country that I have literally been unable to play because I don’t have the time to assemble a local team myself. I hear they’re great, guess I’ll never know.

Now, a couple notes on the above:

  • The smaller the room’s player capacity, the more successful a private ticketing system can be. Take a look at my discussion on big versus small rooms for more information.

  • On that point, there certainly exist greedy companies out there billing their "small" rooms incorrectly as "large". Selling up 16 tickets to a game designed for 4 is a separate problem we unfortunately see.

  • Neither ticketing system is objectively better than the other.

  • Historically at Puzzle Break, our rooms have been absolutely massive with enormous amounts of content. A public ticketing system has been the best option for our players.

  • That said, our next two rooms are going to be much more intimate, and we will be using a private ticketing system for those experiences. This way, our players will have many options to find the experience right for them.

Last but not least, I have watched thousands of groups play Puzzle Break. The groups that have the most fun? Strangers. The groups that do the best? Surprisingly, strangers. The groups that forge new friendships that last a lifetime? Take a wild guess. =)



Nate Martin
Dubbed the "Founding Father of Escape Rooms," Nate Martin is the Co-Founder and CEO of Puzzle Break, the first American escape room company. Puzzle Break is headquartered in Seattle with locations in Long Island, Massachusetts and on Royal Caribbean ships. Prior to Puzzle Break, he was a senior executive at Microsoft and Electronic Arts. He has shipped software used by billions of users as well as some of the most beloved video games of a generation. @GuyFromTomorrow on Twitter.

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