With new seasons of Veep and Silicon Valley premiering in April and Game of Thrones scheduled to return for a 7-episode season in July, HBO used South by Southwest to promote all three with a themed escape room that was surprisingly awesome.
Escape rooms are mystery games where you have to solve puzzles to get out of a locked room. They’re popping up all over the country, and HBO jumped on the bandwagon by turning a downtown Austin event space into what looked like a television set. The set had three rooms, each a replica of a space from HBO’s three most popular shows. We had to find clues and solve them to “escape” each room in less than five minutes. Hilarity ensued. No prior knowledge of the shows was necessary to solve the puzzles, but fans were delighted by the details (when they weren’t scrambling to unlock each door in the allotted time).
HBO usually shows up to South by Southwest to promote Game of Thrones, and its activations draw hordes of people. I guess the allure of a selfie in the Iron Throne is strong. HBO brought the Iron Throne again this year, but taking the opportunity to promote three shows was smart. Brands often show up to SXSW with half-hearted, barely relevant attempts to promote their products, but HBO’s escape room was both clever and interactive—a SXSW highlight.