Israeli indie mobile games studio, PlayArt Labs, has its eye on the educational gaming space, with a special focus on tapping into cultural learning. The studio launched an iPad game called Artistico earlier this year, which combines aesthetic interest in fine art with a pattern-matching game mechanic — allowing gamers to appreciate the lines, forms and colours of art masterpieces and learn a few factoids about the history of art as they piece together each of the works, and progress through the different art history periods of the game.
Artistico has garnered 10,000+ downloads since launching on the iPad in July, and has some 1,100 monthly active users who spend more than five minutes playing per session. PlayArt Labs is now expanding that reach, with the launch later today of an iPhone version — even as it shrinks the size of the masterpieces on display to fit the iPhone’s smaller pane (thereby reducing the game’s aesthetic enjoyment a tad).
How does the gameplay work exactly? Artistico showcases famous works of art from various periods in art history before breaking each painting or art work into pieces and wiping the canvas of colour — leaving only a basic sketch for the gamer to match puzzle-sized portions to by dragging them to their correct location.
The more discerning the gamer’s eye, the faster they can pattern match and the higher their score since they’re playing against the clock. It’s part game, part art appreciation exercise — especially on the larger screen form factor of the iPad — where the gamer gets time to enjoy each masterpiece, and focus in on small details as they piece it together.
That’s not to say it doesn’t work on the iPhone — it does, although the playing space can feel a little cramped, especially when pieces needing placement are dragged in to float over the canvas where they block out the lines beneath, making it harder to spot where to slot them.
Some screenshots from the Artistico iPhone app follow below:
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The game’s design has been created by a children’s book illustrator, which gives the app a narrative feeling — of being a journey through art history. It’s this educational tone that PlayArt Labs is hoping will help it stand out in the crowded mobile gaming space.
“For us, gaming is an outstanding tool to put art and culture into the hands of both casual gamers and art lovers. Our platform allows users to immerse themselves in art by learning about each art masterpiece through deep exploration into the paintings, history, and artists,” the startup says. “We believe that our genuine education-focused approach to experiencing art will both differentiate us from the rest of the pack, as well as open up a new category of cultural gaming.”
PlayArt Labs has also partnered with an online art community, called MutualArt, to cross-promote to an art-appreciating audience, and is also hoping to partner with art galleries and art museums to incorporate selected works into Artistico — again as another co-promotion opportunity.
In terms of business model, Artistico takes the freemium approach, with basic ‘Roots of Modern Art’ app free to download for iPhone and iPad 2 (iOS 6 and above), with eight paintings on board to play. Additional packages of paintings from other art periods can then be added as an in-app purchase, costing .99 cents per package, or all current and future ages for $2.99.
PlayArt Labs has also just closed a $100,000 private angel investors round (with backing from friends and family) — which it plans to put towards product development on this and future games, including launching an Android version of Artistico, as well as spending on marketing/partnerships.
Future game ideas it’s toying with include an orchestra conducting game, and a 3D iPad app where users can assemble a clock/watch from scratch and then purchase the real thing when complete, it tells TechCrunch.