Habbo Hotel – Australia’s growth story

Habbo Hotel is arguably the largest virtual world in existence, with well over 100 million registered avatars (as of June 2008) and ongoing growth. There’s an Australian Habbo portal and in the past fortnight Habbo developer Sulake announced the launch of their in-world currency, the ‘pixel’. Habbo already has a credit system where real-world money can be exchanged for a range of virtual items. The ‘pixel’ addition is more of an achievement-driven option – logging in regularly, paying to join the Habbo Club and staying online longer all give the user ‘pixels’, which can be used to ‘rent’ special effects for virtual rooms or avatars:

New effects include hover-boards that let Habbos glide around the virtual world, a ‘frozen’ avatar that turns a Habbo into a moving block of ice, or bubble machines that blow bubbles into virtual rooms. The pixel economy will be constantly developed based on user feedback.

habbo_australia

I took the opportunity to quiz Sulake’s Regional Director Asia Pacific, Jeff Brookes, on the currency announcement and Habbo Australia’s popularity to date:

Lowell: Can you summarise the Australian demographics for Habbo to date? Of the 3.6 million characters, how many unique users are there?

Jeff Brookes: Habbo Australia receives 25,690,252 page impressions per month and, as you know, has 3.6 million registered Habbo-characters. It has 278,509 unique browsers per month and users spend on average 1.00.02 hours per user session on Habbo, which is over twice as much as any other teen website, according to November 2008 figures from Hitwise.

Lowell: What are your primary objectives with the new currency? Are there any plans to allow users to cash out their credits for real world currencies?

Jeff Brookes: The primary objective with the new Pixels currency is to reward Habbo users for their loyalty. We feel that it is important to reward our devoted users, encourage them to spend more time within the Habbo world and provide them with innovative ways for them to enjoy their experiences within Habbo. Pixels are earned by Habbo users in various ways, such as: signing into Habbo once a day, earning more pixels the longer users stay online in Habbo, completing certain achievements, working as a Guide, and giving respect to other users. With Pixels, users can rent certain items for a specific amount of time, have cool effects for their Habbo character, and have discounts on a wide variety of ‘furni’ or virtual furniture that can be purchased with credits.

Habbo has no plans to allow users to convert Pixels to Habbo credits or any real world currencies.

Lowell:. Habbo arguably has one of the largest virtual world userbases – how does one ensure continued growth in an environment of escalating competition?

Jeff Brookes: We maintain and increase our growth by listening to what the users want . We ask Habbo’s to provide us with feedback on new campaigns, games, rooms, furni etc. We feel that it is important to be innovative and always put our users first.

What’s unique about Habbo is that it is specifically designed for teenagers – the layout, content and activities on offer are continually changed and updated. Habbo is updated every month to enhance the user’s experience. We do this so that our users can be constantly entertained and as with all teenagers, this is an important feature.

Keeping users excited and coming back depends upon the fundamentals, which for Habbo are allowing them to choose and personalize a character, browse the virtual world, walk around and chat and express themselves. The new Pixel currency encourages Habbo users to personalise their avatars and their virtual space further.

Habbo Hotel has certainly made in-roads into the Australian market. Achievement systems are common in gaming worlds in particular although rewarding people for spending more time has its downsides. Having spent a number of hours in the past year in Habbo, I can see its appeal. It also reinforces the potential success of Metaplace with its content creation features.

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