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Habbo Hotel

Habbo owners bringing chat back, making big changes

MMO Industry, News Items, Habbo Hotel, Legal, Kids

Following a special report by UK's Channel 4 News on child predation and the lack of proper security in Habbo, all chat functionality in the game was taken down. Today, Habbo owner Sulake put out a statement that chat will be reintroduced, accompanied by better protection and moderation.

Community members were given an opportunity to voice their concerns, reactions, and thoughts about Habbo in an event called the Great Unmute. CEO Paul LaFontaine said that feedback from the Great Unmute will "inform and direct" his long-term plan for Habbo, and that when chat functionality comes back online, it will be a "Protected Democracy," where the speech, safety, and interest of legitimate users comes first and foremost.
Protected Democracy is a new concept that we are pioneering in a poorly regulated social gaming industry. It can only be realised through a mix of technology, moderation, education and engagement. This is a complex combination that cannot be achieved in a single step. That is why I will turn the Habbo site back on in phases, focusing on specific markets to test the new technology. Before then I will be carrying out live tests (beginning in Finland today), to ensure our new systems are delivering the improved safety levels we anticipate.

MMO Family: Virtual worlds for kids

Club Penguin, There, Habbo Hotel, Gaia Online, Barbie Girls, Kids, Moshi Monsters, MMO Family

MMO Family is your resource for leveling a gaming-specced family ... From tips on balancing gaming with family life to finding age-appropriate niches for every family member, MMO Family offers you advice on MMO gaming of the family, by the family and for the family.

Nestling somewhere in between MMOs and social networking, virtual worlds are a virtual sandlot for millions of kids worldwide. Think avatar-based chat and mini-games alongside other kids of the same age range and interests, and you'll catch the appeal of these kid-friendly destinations. While a gaming parent might consider virtual worlds mere training wheels for games still to come, kid-friendly virtual worlds seem to fit the attention spans, chatty nature and niche-y interests of kids to a T.

The sheer variety of worlds appealing to children makes it easy for kids to find a spot where they'll want to hang out. As of early 2009, kids could choose from 112 virtual worlds designed for children and teens, according to Engage Digital Media, with more than 80 new worlds under development. The numbers of kids who've found a virtual home in these worlds rivals even the fat figures of MMO big dog World of Warcraft. Research firm eMarketer estimates that in the United States alone, 8 million kids hung out in virtual worlds regularly during 2008; that number is projected to swell to more than 15 million by 2013.

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Habbo aims to erase hate in online communities

Culture, Events (In-Game), Habbo Hotel, Free-to-Play, Politics, Casual, Education, Virtual Worlds, Kids

Let's face it, being a teen is not easy. With the ever-growing mountain of potential pitfalls teens may face, the last thing they want to deal with is the hatred, discrimination and bigotry that seems to be plaguing our online environments. To help combat this problem, Habbo has joined forces with the Matthew Shepard Foundation in a project they call "Erase Hate".

Beginning July 7th, the Matthew Shepard Foundation staff will make appearances twice a week in Habbo's InfoBus to discuss those issues concerning young people in a safe environment. Main topics will include bullying, discrimination and any other forms of hate experienced on and offline. Not only will these teens be taught how to deal with these concerns, but they will learn how to encourage respect among peers. "It is a mission of the Foundation to support young people and provide them with the resources to lead healthy, productive, hate free lives," said Judy Shepard, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. "Our partnership with Habbo will allow us to have ongoing conversations with young people about what they can do in the fight to replace hate with understanding, compassion, and acceptance."

Habbo crests 100 million avatar milestone

Events (In-Game), News Items, Habbo Hotel, Virtual Worlds

One hundred million. 100 million. 100,000,000. No matter how you look at it, it's an extraordinarily large number. It's the number of colors most women are capable of seeing. It's the number of websites that existed in 2006. It's a song by the rapper Birdman. It's also, rather incidentally, the number of avatars created to date in the simple and spectacularly successful Habbo Hotel.

Naturally, that doesn't correlate to 100 million users (Habbo usually clocks in at about 8 million a month), but it's still a testament to the power of a simple virtual world aimed at an extremely active demographic. The lucky sap who created the actual 100 millionth avatar was awarded one of those fancy new Macbook Airs, as well as a slew of in-game goodies like a specially designed room, in-game currency, and rare items. Here's hoping they see 100 million more!

Virtual Greats to sell celebrity likenesses

Business Models, Culture, Economy, MMO Industry, News Items, Second Life, Habbo Hotel, Virtual Worlds, Gaia Online

And not just likenesses. Metaverse developer Millions of Us intends to market likenesses, hair-styles, catchphrases, dance moves, signature moves, clothing lines, furniture collections -- you name it -- based on well-known celebs all under the banner business name of Virtual Greats. These appearances and digital accessories would be sold in dozens of virtual worlds, though you'll probably see them in Gaia Online, Habbo and Second Life first.

Deals have already been done with Justin Timberlake, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Snoop Dogg, Paris Hilton, Raven Symone, Marvel (for The Incredible Hulk), and Tila Tequila, and more are in the works.

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Virtual worlds without interoperability are dead worlds, Swaminathan

MMO Industry, Second Life, Habbo Hotel, Virtual Worlds

Kishore Swaminathan, chief scientist for IT consulting firm Accenture is skeptical about the long-term success of non-game virtual worlds that lack interoperability. Swaminathan believes that interoperability of accounts, assets and a common currency are key to the success of virtual worlds.

Swaminathan draws parallels between closed virtual worlds like Habbo Hotel and Second Life with closed services such as Compuserve -- although seems to neglect that services such as Compuserve were established in a time where interoperability pre-existed.

Nevertheless, despite something of a heady rush of corporations towards closed worlds, Swaminathan sees them outgrowing those worlds very quickly, and looking towards more open and interoperable systems. 'I don't think, two years from now, there will be a Second Life...', he said.

[via Virtual Worlds News]

Webkinz, Habbo, Linden Lab make list of top 25 most valuable startups

Real-Life, Business Models, Economy, MMO Industry, Making money, Second Life, Habbo Hotel, Webkinz, Kids

The Silicon Alley Insider has the latest iteration of its "World's Most Valuable Digital Startups", a list of 25 privately-held companies with products or services on the Web. They say 'iterative', because they plan to continually update the list as market values change.

Companies of note on this list are Webkinz, the purveyors of virtual pets, valued at an estimated $2 billion dollars; Habbo, makers of Habbo Hotel, valued at $1.25 billion; and Linden Lab, the hosts of Second Life, valued at $1.1 billion dollars. If you're wondering about how they've come up with these valuation numbers, they explain their methodology, which essentially consists of four main components: implied valuations in recent financing, financial performance, market share and market size, and growth rate.

The Webkinz model is well-supported by now; it's essentially Beanie Babies in digital. Habbo Hotel is doing well enough to almost become a household name. Second Life gets the lion's share of public eyes on it by being the target of everyone's assumptions. Honestly, we're surprised that all three of these companies are still privately owned. Any bets on how much longer that will last?

Bad News Week: Shock! Horror! Crime wave!

Opinion, Second Life, Habbo Hotel, Virtual Worlds

In Bad News Week, we take an irregular peek at some of the most mixed up and counterfactual reporting that the mainstream media performs on virtual worlds and MMOs, and lay it out for your interest and entertainment. The UK Mirror's Jon Clements reports "Police probe Second Life over virtual crime wave" from which you might reasonably infer that there is a crime wave going on in Second Life, and that you're about to read about it.

Well, you'd essentially be wrong. Let's take a look and what the Mirror had to say.

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GDC08 Highlights: Freaky Creatures, Habbo and Love

Betas, Sci-Fi, Galleries, Screenshots, Business Models, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, Previews, PvP, Reviews, News Items, Habbo Hotel, Hands-On, Casual, Massively highlights, Virtual Worlds, Freaky Creatures, Love

Freaky Creatures

"This is like Pokémon, but far, far cooler."

Drive to toy store. Buy cool monster action figure. Discover flash drive buried in packaging. Use it to upload a digital version of your creature and then pit that bad boy in head-to-head combat against other players and their pet arsenal online. That, my friends, is Freaky Creatures. Don't pretend you're not drooling to learn more.

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The future of Disney Online: An interview with SVP Steve Parkis

Fantasy, MapleStory, Interviews, MMO Industry, New Titles, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Club Penguin, News Items, Toontown Online, Habbo Hotel, Free-to-Play, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Free Realms, Hello Kitty Online, FusionFall

Last week, Disney Online merged multiple online divisions into a single entity now called Disney Online Studios. I had a chance to talk to the Senior Vice President in charge of it all, Steve Parkis, about the vision for one of the world's most recognizable brands as it tackles the fast-rising casual online gameplay market.

Before now, Disney's online efforts spanned over many different areas: developing Flash based casual games; acquiring the online community, Club Penguin; and building the successful family-oriented MMORPGs ToonTown Online and Pirates of the Caribbean Online. Steve's mission is to bring all of those together to make Disney.com a dedicated casual games destination.

He believes that casual players are more than just Women 35+ and that there is a large, untapped market of players that Disney's brand can draw in. But how does he plan to do that?

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GDC08: Sulka Haro tells us how to Habbo

Business Models, Culture, MMO Industry, Habbo Hotel, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Events (Massively's Coverage)

Sulka Haro, lead designer on the wildly popular Habbo Hotel virtual world, yesterday gave the Worlds in Motion summit audience an in-depth half-hour rundown on the Habbo phenomenon. At its core, the Sulake company project is a meeting space for teens - a place to hang out and be someone else for a few hours. The fact that the company can boast millions and millions of unique users worldwide, though, speaks to something many have grasped for and few have succeeded at: a virtual world where people feel truly comfortable.

Haro offered up a peak behind the curtain, at the origins of Habbo as the four room 'Hotel Goldfish'. He discusses the successes they've had in markets abroad, their surprise at the game's adoption by teens, and the numerous ways they allow players to acquire in-game currency. He also notes that Habbo is a world-record setting title in at least one way: they've probably sold the most virtual reindeer poop ever in the history of man.

Read on for a dissertation on a poop-selling, smashing success story.

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Paramount and Habbo BFF

Business Models, Habbo Hotel

In-game advertising is something we've heard a lot about over the last couple of years. Game publishers and advertising companies have fostered close relationships based on the demographics they covet. Though some self-deluded "experts" on the topic like to argue that ads in games actually improve the gameplay experience, it's an extremely precarious rope to walk. The very second the advertising steps over invisible line of bad taste, the player base is liable to rebel.

It's difficult then to tell what to make of this new partnership between Paramount and Habbo, where Habbo players will be able to purchase in-game merchandise branded with new Paramount properties like The Spiderwick Chronicles, Beowulf, and Mean Girls. Now, obviously, the fact that Habbo is more of a social networking game aimed at teens changes the equation a little bit, but people have to actually pay for the privilege of shlocking their in-game advertisements around? I want to say it will never work, but young people always manage to surprise me, so I wouldn't put money on it.

[Via Tech Crunch]

New MMOSG: Sociotown

At a glance, Real-Life, Video, Game Mechanics, New Titles, Previews, Opinion, Second Life, Habbo Hotel, Virtual Worlds

A new MMOSG (that's Massively Multiplayer Online Social Game, which I don't recall seeing before, but sure, why not?) has sprung up, and it's called Sociotown. Now, not to knock something before it's even been released, but when I hear 'socio-' anything, I immediately think sociopath. And that's not the image you want to send across for a virtual world.

Regardless, from looking at the latest footage, there are a few things I need to comment on. Won't you follow along with me?

First of all, point-and-click movement is awkward. I've never liked it, despite the fun to be had in Diablo and Mythos, and prefer WASD movement. Second of all, the look of this world is similar to a lot of other similar social spaces, so no innovation there. Third, there is some interest in not being able to immediately see another person's name, forcing you to introduce yourself to him/her. Fourth, 'Socio dollars' is just more awkwardness -- why not SoBucks?

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Kzero forecasts virtual world growth through 2008

MMO Industry, Club Penguin, News Items, Second Life, Habbo Hotel, Virtual Worlds

UK-based virtual world consulting and research firm Kzero have put out a predictions for virtual worlds for 2008. Note, of course that this covers the 'Metaverse' class of virtual worlds, that is primarily non-game.

The chart they use is a wonderful piece of at-a-glance display, showing age-groups, time of establishment, current population, projected age-groups, and projected populations all in one straightforward (if large) chart.

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Taatu launches English beta

Betas, Real-Life, News Items, Habbo Hotel, Free-to-Play, Browser, Casual

Taatu, founded in Belgium in 2005, looks very much like Habbo Hotel. The similarities of visual styling and target age-group (tweens/teens: 10-19) is pretty much the first thing that everyone remarks on.

Previously available in Dutch and French, Flash-powered, free-to-play, browser-based, virtual world Taatu is now also in available in beta for English-speakers as well (all launched from a single web-page).

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