Female-led mobile gaming startup Robin Games funding raised around the idea of creating a new niche in the “lifestyle gaming” market. The idea, the company explained during its Public debut in 2020, was to create a fantasy gaming experience that was more refined and stylish – something more in line with the type of content you’d typically find in a lifestyle magazine or on an influencer’s Instagram profile. Today, the startup is launching its first title to tackle this concept with the launch of a mobile game, PLAYHOUSE, that combines both gaming and shopping into one experience.
Available for iOS and Android, PLAYHOUSE is a DIY design game that allows players to drag and drop furniture and decorations into spaces to create original looks for rooms using items such as wall art, sofas, chairs, tables, plants, etc. That alone doesn’t make the app unique—the interior design genre is a popular subgenre within the Simulation Games category in today’s app stores, where competitors like Playtika’s Redecor, SayGames’ Decor Life — Home Design Game, and Crowdstar’s Design Home: Dream Makeover can found in the Top Charts.
Instead, what sets PLAYHOUSE apart is both its technology and its partnerships.
The company allows users to drag and drop pieces into the space, but also move, rotate, resize, and even layer elements while styling the space in a much freer way than some other games allow. In addition, the company is working with real-life furniture brands to make in-game items available for real-life shopping.
At launch, PLAYHOUSE offers shoppable experiences that connect players with brands such as Arhaus, Article, 1stDibs, Chairish, One Kings Lane, ABC Carpet & Home, Jenni Kayne, Society6, Bloomscape, Room & Board and Lulu & Georgia, among others. In other words, the purpose of the game is not just to provide a creative outlet for art and interior design fans, but also to stimulate the discovery of new furniture and decor.
Robin Games says that at launch there are over 6,000 pieces of real furniture and decor from more than 100 home design brands in the app. Players can choose to purchase the actual items they use to create their designs by visiting the merchant’s website.
This concept is somewhat similar Pinterest’s new collage-making app Shuffles, which allows its players to create personalized art experiences using their own photos and Pinterest Pins. Although the Shuffles app is primarily used as a creative tool before posting to TikTok or Instagram, the items featured in the collages link to their Pin page on Pinterest – where they are also linked to the merchant’s website and can be purchased, similar to GAME HOUSE.
“One of the main reasons we wanted to make PLAYHOUSE and Lifestyle Games in general is that we see a gap in the market for really expressive, creative games,” Robin Games co-founder and CEO Jill Wilson told TechCrunch. “It’s unusual to think of a game focused on interior design as a fantasy game, but we do – it’s a different type of fantasy than what’s usually explored in games. Designing spaces with beautiful objects as if you were an interior designer is a true fantasy for many people, and our company is dedicated to providing players with that experience,” she added.
In addition, PLAYHOUSE users can submit their designs to be rated by other players, allowing them to earn tickets, coins and gems, as well as other decorations that help them level up. The company also partners with content creators, including design enthusiasts, artists, Airbnb hosts and others, to create limited-time “hosted projects” aimed at inspiring players’ own designs.
And it’s working with editorial publishing houses Condé Nast, Hearst (House Beautiful), Leaf Group (Hunker) and Design Milk, which will be active hosts creating design challenges and other inspirational content, the company says. House Beautiful, for example, will host a series of design challenges based on the articles it publishes on its website.
During its soft launch period, the team refined the game mechanics, gameplay controls, board experience, and in-game economy, which is free-to-play with in-app purchases. While you can progress without playing, players can choose to pay to unlock additional pieces with gems they buy instead of waiting to earn them in-game through achievements. Limited time bundles around a certain theme are also sometimes available for purchase – such as a bundle of special plants and plant-themed items that are only available in the bundle.
So far, over 1 million design challenges have been submitted with the most dedicated players participating in each project, published daily and sticking around for the long haul, Wilson says.
Following their $7M seed round, Robin Games closed a $14M Series A in 2020 and continued to develop PLAYHOUSE in the coming months. Although being led by women has given them an advantage in a game that is primarily designed for women, Wilson believes the team’s diversity will help it move forward.
“I enjoy making games that I would want to play myself, and I believe that surrounding myself with a diverse group of talented people who also want to play the game we make gives us the best chance for success,” explains Wilson. “At Robin Games, we have over 50% women on our board, management team and team as a whole – and the majority of all our team members are passionate about design. Putting creative decision-making in the hands of potential players is key to our authenticity and why we believe true design lovers will love what we’ve done. Although we expect our audience to be predominantly female, we’ve tried to make it as inclusive as possible and we hope everyone who loves design will enjoy it,” she says.
PLAYHOUSE is live today on iOS and Android as a free download.