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How mobile app ‘Design Home’ is selling furniture through a video game

Shopping for home decor just got an upgrade with a mobile video game that lets players buy furniture and decor within its e-commerce store.

The popular design-oriented video game, “Design Home,” recently introduced an in-game e-commerce channel that allows players to buy home accessories from the virtual spaces they fashion. At a time when people are more absorbed in their surroundings and home design, induced by the pandemic-driven at-home lifestyle, the app’s intersection of video games and interior design brands is turning more players into consumers.

“The game at its core is about living the life of an interior designer, and our intent is really to blur these lines between app and game,” Glu Mobile’s Executive Vice President Mark van Ryswyk told FOX Business. “What we saw with the pandemic is that it brought in a whole influx of new users, especially since more folks are spending time at home, looking to freshen up the home and buy some decor to make it feel new. We have really been at the cross at all of the things that have been heating up in the pandemic: games, home decor and shopping and e-commerce.”

Glu Mobile, a small-cap, 3D video game developer with such titles as “Diner DASH Adventures,” “Kim Kardashian Hollywood” and “Tap Sports Baseball,” has seen “Design Home” downloaded more 90 million times. Its free-to-play platform allows players to enter “challenges” in furnishing virtual rooms and submit the design to be rated by other players.

The game’s real-life simulation of furniture brands from major chains as well as startups such as Kathy Kuo Home also serves as gamified advertising for its catalog partners. However, its new e-commerce byproduct, “Design Home Inspired,” steps it up a notch by enabling those inventory products to be purchased by players at discounted prices, a first of its kind in the gaming realm.

According to Glu Mobile’s van Ryswyk, home décor e-commerce revenue is up 51% year over year, and consumers continue to purchase non-essential goods in addition to essentials, marking an opportune moment for the launch of “Home Design Inspire.” And the game’s 3D simulations of scenic rooms and high-quality furniture gives players the chance to envision what their own home can look like- and now become.

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“What we found with our users is that they were discovering what their personal tastes and preferences were,” van Ryswyk. “So we thought it would be great to extend that experience into a retail and e-commerce experience. With the shop and real-life component that we’ve added, now not only can you play this game digitally, but you can actually experience it in reality.”

Users can now play the game, receive discounts on products, and even earn digital currency back when they make purchases within the e-commerce store.

The mobile game is picking up more big home retailers — it recently announced a partnership with William Sonoma and its sister brands, West Elm and Pottery Barn — and the potential to play games and sell goods is gaining attention from other major players.

New research from games and e-sports analytics firm, NewZoo, shows that out of all game segments that saw an increase in engagement and revenues as a result of COVID-19 protocols, mobile gaming saw the biggest bump. In fact, the mobile gaming sector is projected to generate revenues of $77.2 billion by the end of the year, up 13.3% year over year.

Certainly Glu Mobile has benefited. Its stock has increased more than 29% year to date.

Mobile gaming may have even more untapped potential for brands and advertisers. A study with Activision Blizzard Media reveals that mobile gamers are not only a very influential group, with two-thirds having some influence on purchasing decisions of their friends, family or colleagues, but they are also more receptive to advertising.

“We will continue looking at ways to delight our players in a world that feels like it’s full of challenges right now,” van Ryswyk said. “That means adding more brand partners, more depth into the product, as well as looking into more ways we can expand Design Home offerings to our players.”

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