(Sulake Corporation, 2000)
Habbo Hotel, a cartoonish online world aimed at teenagers, debuted in its native Finland in 2000. Habbo soon expanded into many other countries, reaching the United States in 2004. Originally authored in Macromedia Shockwave (a browser plug-in), Habbo was one of the world’s first Web-based virtual worlds–and one of the first Web worlds to be commercially successful.
Habbo became popular with teens because it gave users the ability to customize the appearance of their character, to decorate a virtual apartment, and to chat with friends.
With Habbo, Sulake hit on a winning financial formula: the company sold in-world credits for real-world money. Habbo’s teenage users then spent the credits on virtual sofas, chairs, and other furniture for their Hotel apartments. This financial model proved wildly successful, and dozens of similar online worlds sprang up in its wake.
In many ways, Habbo represented a philosophical shift from online worlds as cyber-utopias to purely commercial properties that focused on inducing users to provide endless micropayments for virtual goods.
Image: Benj Edwards