Design Home Monetization: Why Do People Spend On Dream Homes?
When I was a kid, I liked decorating my dollhouse. A little bit later, I was doing the same in The Sims.
Today, I like decorating in the Design Home game. And apparently, I’m not the only one.
Design Home is a very successful game with an interesting monetization strategy.
In this article, you’ll learn all about Design Home monetization and much more.
Let’s get started!
How Successful Is Design Home?
Design Home is an interior design game that falls into the simulation genre. The game simulates this popular real-world activity in a virtual space.
It was published by CrowdStar in November 2016. At about the same time, Glu Mobile, best known for celebrity-licensed games, acquired control over their games.
Design Home is one of the pioneers of interior design games. Until a few years ago, it didn’t have a lot of competition. Other titles that make the top charts today like Redecor, House Flipper, or Property Brothers, all showed up over the last three years.
Let’s put the game’s success into numbers.
During its lifetime, Design Home got 92,3 million downloads and reached $410,2 million in revenue. As you can see from this revenue chart, this game was a coronavirus escape for many people in 2020.
A huge — huge — part of the total revenue was generated by US players — 75.7%. This might be related to numerous popular interior design tv shows this audience has been exposed to. The other factor is simply that the US players are traditionally big spenders.
The game’s success is driven by a lot of things, from its advertising strategy to its gameplay and monetization strategy.
We’re here to talk about how the game works and monetizes, so let’s begin.
Let’s be real — everyone has a dream house they could never afford.
This is exactly what this game offers — a chance for players to create perfect homes by filling out blank spaces on their smartphones.
When they first start playing, players receive plenty of in-game resources to get them started. This creates a positive first-time user experience. The players don’t feel anything is lacking and get an impression that the game is completely free-to-play.
When players start playing, they start decorating right away.
They are thrown into three different design challenges where they learn all about the rules of the game.
In other words, the game’s tutorial works as a contextual lesson. The tutorial is separated into pieces and organically included in the gameplay. After all, the easiest way to learn something is by looking and engaging with it.
This game is all about visual user experience. For this reason, it has to be able to deliver it in the best possible way.
Design Home did a great job here. When designing a room, all players need to do is tap a piece of furniture, and its preview appears. Switching it up is equally simple. Most importantly, there is nothing complicated and frustrating to this process.
The game’s user interface is inspired by social media networks.
Its design includes social media feed features such as a home, like, inbox, and user buttons. Oh, and let’s not forget red notifications next to them.
All of this creates a familiar feeling and makes players feel like there is always something new and exciting going on — just like on social media.
How Does Design Home Work?
Design Home’s core loop consists of three co-dependent parts: designing, competing, and voting.
Let me explain how they all work together.
The main part of this game is participating in time-limited Design Challenges. Here, players decorate rooms by purchasing virtual furniture with either diamonds or cash.
Next, they submit their designs to a PvP competition. The competition is based on peer reviews — random players rate others’ designs.
The more successful players are in the competition, the more rewards (cash and diamonds) they earn.
Wondering what motivates players to vote on others’ designs? Well, this earns them Keys. And they need to collect Keys to enter new Design Challenges.
Finally, if players lack any sort of resources (cash, diamonds, keys), they can always purchase them.
Design Home Monetization Strategy Breakdown
One of the most important steps towards successful game monetization is knowing who your players are.
Once you know this, you can start thinking about ways to approach them.
User Behaviour and Monetization
Design Home players are mostly female (77%) and their average age is 31.
This data tells you a lot about this game’s player base.
First, it tells you that Design Home primarily targets women. The reason is simple — women are usually more into interior design than most men.
Besides this, the game is especially popular among one particular age group — Millennials. This might have something to do with how this generation lives. They “settle down” way later in life than their parents did, many of them live in rentals and aren’t able to afford homes of their own.
Some of the main motivations for playing Design Home are a passion for interior design, escaping reality, and the need for creative release.
Now, the key to making the game profitable is making money off different player groups. The question is — how?
The answer lies in player behavior.
A big part of this game’s user base is highly competitive. These players will do anything to be successful in the PvP system. For this reason, they are very likely to make in-app purchases.
Next, some players are simply perfectionists. Oftentimes while designing a room, players will run out of resources to buy desired items. If they can’t afford a perfect piece they had in mind, this may frustrate them. This is another reason a lot of players open their wallets.
Both of these motivations originate from the same thing — player emotions. Both of these player types are emotionally attached to their designs, which makes them the perfect monetization targets.
Which Monetization Models Design Home Uses?
Design Home monetizes with two proven monetization models: in-app purchases and in-app ads.
There is also one model specific to this game — brand partnerships. This game actually works like one big ad for different brands.
The thing is, all the furniture in this game is real and purchasable. Unfortunately, we have no data on how much the game earns from these partnerships, but we’re guessing the numbers are decent.
Design Home In-App Purchases Strategy and Setup
In this game, diamonds really are a girl’s best friend.
Diamonds are the game’s hard currency. They are the only currency that can be purchased with real money. Once players have diamonds, they can use them to buy furniture or exchange them for keys or cash.
They come as six different offers at price points ranging from $1.99 to $99.99. With this range of prices, the game covers different player groups, from low spenders to whales. It’s interesting that most of their players don’t spend much on a single purchase — the game’s bestseller is the $1.99 pack.
Besides this standard offer, the game offered three time-limited bundle deals. One was the game’s starter pack ($7.99) and the other two were furniture packs ($2.99). Bundle deals are a great way to attract players’ attention because they are exclusive. They bring items at a lower price than usual, but only for a set amount of time.
Almost every game offers valuable starter packs, and for a good reason. These packs are intended to become a player’s first purchase. Once they overcome this barrier, they are more likely to become returning buyers.
How Design Home Monetization Really Works
I played this game actively for a week to find out exactly what triggers Design Home players into making in-app purchases.
As it turns out, there were multiple situations that made me want to make in-app purchases.
I was participating in a Challenge for which I needed to include two outdoor items in my design.
I was already low on currencies and was planning to use my existing inventory. However, when I was almost done with my design, I realized I am lacking one required item. At this point, I had two choices:
- abandoning the design and waiting for in-game rewards
- buying a few diamonds and continuing playing
Now, the problem with waiting for in-game rewards is that Challenges are time-limited (1 or 2 days). This means the challenge might end while I wait for in-game rewards.
This is called micro-level monetization. It relies on in-game requirements and time restrictions. Therefore, if players want to finish and submit their designs in time, they are likely to make just-in-time purchases.
A few days into playing, I was very engaged but low on cash and diamonds.
When I was about to submit a design for a modern living room, I wasn’t completely satisfied with it. It didn’t have that one perfect couch that I couldn’t afford. Hence, I felt lousy for even submitting a design without it.
This type of situation could be defined as monetizing on emotion and perfectionism. After all, players’ designs represent them as designers, and they want them to be perfect. For this reason, they might make purchases to afford all the items they want. These types of players are likely to make multiple purchases.
After a while of playing the game, I was becoming more and more concerned about my rating. Just like all players, I started off with a 2,0. and wanted my rating to go above 4. The progress was easier at the beginning, but somewhere around 3,5, it all slowed down significantly.
To be able to reach a higher rating, I needed to constantly get high scores. This is when I felt the need to expand my furniture collection by making in-app purchases.
Players that care about their ratings are the ones with the highest monetization potential. They want to keep their ratings high all the time. For this reason, they may feel a constant need to make in-app purchases.
Putting these types of players in such a situation is the game’s macro-level monetization goal. This is the same reason why the game slows player progress down, especially in the long run.
Design Home In-App Ads
No matter how hard you try, most of your player base will always be non-paying.
This is nothing to be desperate about. It is something to utilize.
For this reason, Design Home included in-app ads into its monetization mix.
Which Ad Formats Are Used in Design Home?
The biggest problem with in-app ads is that they can be perceived as disruptive and annoying.
For this reason, publishers carefully pick out the ad formats that they use.
CrowdStar decided on two ad formats for this game: rewarded video and offerwalls.
Rewarded video ads are the most popular ad format among players. Offerwalls, on the other hand, are much less popular and common.
Players can find these ads in the Design Home in-game store.
Watching rewarded video ads brings players free diamonds. However, they only bring a small number of diamonds. In this case, players would have to watch an ad 200 times to reach the value of the $1.99 offer.
I would rather pay…
Yes, rewarded video ads always bring low-value rewards. However, here it seems like the reward value is very low on purpose. This can either make players watch tons of ads, or encourage them to make in-app purchases.
Offerwall ads work similarly to rewarded video ads. An offerwall looks like a mini shop inside the game, listing the actions for the users to take part in.
In Design Home this included completing surveys, making in-app purchases, subscribing to different programs, etc. These actions can bring tons of diamonds — from 7k to 24k.
One of the key things with offerwalls is that they’re made to be compatible with the players’ interests. Here, they featured things like skinny coffee and a graphic novel that may be of interest to the game’s predominantly female player base.
Overall, both of these ad types found in the game are completely optional and unobtrusive.
User Retention in Design Home
Successful game monetization consists of many steps. One of the most important ones is retaining players.
On average, Design Home retains 29% of players on day 1, 10% on day 7, and 5% on day 30.
These numbers could be improved, but they are solid. They put the game into the category with the top 25% of strategy games (GameAnalytics). These games typically have similar day 1 retention, but even lower day 7 and day 30 retention.
To improve its retention numbers, Design Home uses proven retention strategies such as:
- Push notifications
- Daily login rewards
- Adding new content
- Social features
When I say events, I’m talking about the game’s Challenges. Therefore, you could say the whole game is event-based. And we all know events are a great retention tool.
Design Home Monetization Recap
Design Home managed to develop a smart monetization strategy that doesn’t feel aggressive or pay-to-play.
Yet, it successfully converts millions of players.
Here are the best monetization practices this game uses:
- Combining two monetization models (in-app purchases and in-app ads)
- Not using pop-ups to promote IAP offers
- Offering valuable and time-limited bundle deals
- Monetizing on player progression pace
- Monetizing on emotions
- Making in-app ads unobtrusive and optional
- Utilizing real-brand partnerships
Wrapping Up on Design Home Monetization
Hopefully, our Design Home monetization analysis made it clear what makes this game so profitable. If you’re a game developer, I’m sure you can apply some of these findings to your game as well.
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