The IAP Inspector

How does Glu Mobile's hit game Design Home monetise?

IAPs from the players' perspective

How does Glu Mobile's hit game Design Home monetise?

Welcome back to the In-App Purchase Inspector - our regular look at free-to-play games from the consumer's perspective.

In each instalment, we consider the incentives or pressure applied to make in-app purchases, their perceived value, the expansion offered by IAPs and the overall value of the experience.

The end goal is to see whether the game makes a good enough case for us to part with our cash, or whether players are content - or engaged enough - to 'freeload'.

This time we're taking a look at interior design simulator Design Home, owned by Glu Mobile since its November 2016 acquisition of Crowdstar, which has been been netting some hefty revenues for its parent company.

Feel at home

Whether or not Design Home can really be called a game is up for debate.

In it, you compete with other players to fill a room with complementing items of furniture. Each space is different and demands its own approach, from city-view apartments to rural cottages.

For an added challenge, some come with the demand that you use a certain number of items of a specific style or brand. It's all about the choice of furniture, though, with its positioning always fixed.

Each assignment is open only for a short period of time, and players' designs are pitted against each other as their fellow designers become critics, voting for their favourites.

Amassing a furniture collection that bridges various styles is essential to succeed.

Its core demographic may have little overlap with the likes of Clash Royale, but Design Home is at its core a PvP experience.

Down payment

Like any free-to-play PvP game, the incentive to spend in Design Home is based on the idea that it will increase your likelihood of winning.

And with Design Home's bustling storefront of virtual items, all from real-world brands, it's clear that those who are willing to spend on additional in-game currency will be more able to amass a furniture collection that bridges various styles - essential for succeeding across multiple challenges.

Cash and Diamonds are the two currencies used to buy furniture, and the game starts the player off with a healthy amount of both: 18,000 Cash and 8,000 Diamonds.

In traditional F2P parlance, you'd call Diamonds the hard currency. Indeed, they can be bought using real money, in bundles ranging from $1.99 for 3,000 to $99.99 for 187,500.

However, the hard and soft currency dynamic suggests an imbalance in value, which here there is not. The conversion rate is exactly one to one, with players able to easily convert, say, 5,000 Diamonds into 5,000 Cash.

Entrance to each challenge requires Keys, which can be bought using Diamonds.

And with different items priced in different currencies, the best course of action for a player is to keep a balanced amount of both cash and diamonds.

Pace yourself

There's also an energy system in Design Home, which offers another monetisation strand. Entrance to each challenge costs a certain number of Keys, which can be bought using Diamonds - 250 Diamonds for 50 Keys, or 1,250 for 250 - when depleted.

But the real purpose of this scarcity of Keys, and the reason that they don't regenerate over time like in many free-to-play games, is to encourage players to keep voting on the designs of others and maintain that cyclical input of designing and judging upon which the game relies.

Five votes gets you three Keys, so it does take some time to build up the 25 required to enter a challenge, but you also get 20 per day as a daily reward.

That daily reward also comes with 500 Diamonds, which is important given how easy it is to burn through currency in pursuit of the best items of furniture for a specific challenge.

The idea is that spending yields its own rewards, as it makes you more likely to produce a popular design that yields in-game currency rewards, but items can only be used a finite number of times before leaving your inventory.

The most interesting monetisation technique in Design Home is the inclusion of real brands.

This can mean that, particularly with challenges that require a set amount of specific items, currency can be an issue.

But with a base-level reward of 500 Cash for submitting a design, further rewards coming dependent on the results of voting and rewarded video ads providing a quick way to earn 25 Diamonds, it's rare to be actually priced out of continuing.


Perhaps the most interesting monetisation technique in Design Home, however, is the inclusion of real-world furniture brands.

It's unclear what exactly is the nature of the deals between these companies and Glu Mobile, but each in-game product features a link to its real-world counterpart on the designer's website.

This repositions Design Home as a shop window for these brands, an opportunity for them to get their products in front of players and inspire an upgrade from digital to physical - from which Glu Mobile almost certainly receives a percentage.

The authenticity of the experience Design Home is offering is key, then, on two counts: firstly so that there is perceived value in the virtual items, which in turn serves as a good advertisement for the physical ones upon which they are based.

Crowdstar has succeeded on both counts, and built it around a gently competitive metagame to keep players coming back and spending. It's not hard to see why its revenues paint such a rosy picture.

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.